To mark the 51st running of this iconic extreme enduro event, the Motul Roof of Africa saw the introduction of an all-new opening format.
The Round the Houses curtain-raiser on Thursday was transformed from the traditional dash through the streets of the capital city into two laps of a custom-designed prologue at Maseru Mall.
The combination of challenging technical sections and rapid traverses got competitors into the extreme enduro vibe immediately, and gave the leading riders a chance to demonstrate their skills to an enthusiastic local crowd.
With the Roof of Africa renowned for bringing rain to Lesotho, the dark clouds were no surprise – but they couldn’t dampen the spirits of the spectators, who were also entertained by a thrilling display of daring freestyle riding.
Reigning champion Wade Young (Sherco Factory Racing) topped the Gold Class at Round the Houses, closely followed by Travis Teasdale (Beta) and – following a strong return to form – Scott Bouverie (Brother Leader Tread KTM) in third.
Excitement mounted as the riders then set off for St Anthony’s School near Roma for the 48km time trial. This would see competitors tackle terrain that has not featured in the event for a decade.
With thunder and lightning on the horizon, tactics and timing became a key consideration for the main contenders. Would it be better to go early, and race against the rain as well as the clock – or hang back and let the route develop?
In the Gold Class, the fascinating duel between Young and Teasdale continued. After almost an hour and a half in the mountains, Teasdale’s combined time for the day of 1h32’15” edged out the multiple Roof of Africa winner by just 87 seconds.
With the chasing pack of seven riders led by Bouverie and clustered around the 1h40’ mark, Friday’s 142km Day One promises to be an unmissable contest.
The Silver and Bronze Classes also provided a nail-biting spectacle. In the Silver Class, RBS Yamaha’s Kayde Mante held off Warren Barwell and Paul Grobler (both KTM). Meanwhile, the Bronze Class results are still to be finalised with at least 20 riders still out on the course at the time of going to press.
The new format Round the Houses more than lived up to the pre-event hype, and with more rain forecast, the 2018 Mother of Hard Enduro is well on the way to becoming another classic event.