MASERU — The much-awaited Roof of Africa roars into life at Maseru Club this morning with an estimated 26 top international riders expected to take part in the competition.
The Roof of Africa, which was established 43 years ago, is arguably the most spectacular sporting event in Lesotho.
The 2011 Roof of Africa will start with the traditional Round the Houses at 9am followed by a short but technical time-trial from the Thaba-Bosiu area.
Tomorrow the race will begin at 6am from the Molangoane Lodge from where entrants in the Gold Class (full distance) will tackle a 200km route each day, according to a press release.
“The 2011 Roof of Africa will be characterised by the Battle of the Best when the world’s finest enduro riders will take each other and the Lesotho mountains on in this extreme enduro race,” said the statement.
UK rider, Graham Jarvis, who has won four of the five World Extreme Enduro events this year, is expected to participate in the race.
Jarvis is rated as the world’s best extreme rider at present. This will be his first Roof of Africa attempt.
“All eyes will be on the Jarvis versus Birch Battle as Chris Birch (Comsol Alfie Cox Racing KTM), three times winner of the Roof of Africa (2008, 2009 and 2010) will have his work cut out for him.
“I think Graham will probably be my biggest competition and think he will do very well,” Birch, who has temporarily relocated from New Zealand to South Africa this year, said.
“Jade has also stepped up his game big time this year while the Hemmingway boys from the UK should also prove tough not to mention ‘Letti’ (Andreas Lettenbichler),” Birch said.
“Letti has had bad luck in the past and if it runs smoothly for him, we’ll have to watch out.”
South Africa’s 2003 Roof of Africa winner, Jade Gutzeit (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha), was the best South African finisher in 2009 and 2010 when he finished second behind Birch.
After claiming the national off-road title recently for the second consecutive year and finishing runner-up behind Birch in the enduro championship, Gutzeit will have a score to settle in this year’s race.
Andreas Lettenbichler, from Germany, who will compete under the Montage Print banner on his 300cc Husqvarna, has competed twice and finished third last year after experiencing navigational problems and technical difficulties.
Both Gutzeit and Lettenbichler will aim for the Number One spot and so will the UK privateer Paul Bolton (Brother Broadlink KTM).
Bolton finished just off the podium last year (fourth) after competing in this event for the first time and was second behind Jarvis at The Tough One extreme enduro race earlier this year.
“This will be my second Roof of Africa and I need to get a better result than fourth,” Bolton said.
“But there is a lot more to it than just riding well. It’s anybody’s race,” he said.