Quintin van Jaarsveld
Scott Bouverie is savouring the sweet emotion reserved for only the world’s true elite extreme enduro riders – the ecstasy of stepping on to the Motul Roof of Africa podium.
The Harding rider turned in a sublime effort in the menacing Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, staying focused and riding a near-flawless race over three demanding days and 425km to position a South African on the podium.
Bouverie blasted through the finish on his Brother Leader Tread KTM in third place after a combined total of 16 hours 21 minutes 56 seconds in the saddle, just over seven minutes behind Briton great Graham Jarvis (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna), who edged Spanish star Alfredo Gómez (KTM Factory Racing) by nine seconds to retain the title.
The void left by the injured Wade Young, the two-time winner and South Africa’s standard bearer in recent years, served as an opportunity for another South African rider to step up and fly the flag.
Bouverie, who’s been in sensational form all year, proved to be that rider, with a fifth in Thursday’s time trial leaving him well poised for the first full race day on Friday.
He didn’t put a wheel wrong and after a long, hard day, Bouverie had moved up to third place. He’d opened up a gap on his countrymen but had lost time on pacesetters Jarvis and Gómez on one of the last passes of the day.
An assured final-day performance saw him replicate his 2013 heroics of a third-place finish.
“It’s awesome to stand on a podium with the world’s best,” Bouverie told eHowzit.
“It was a difficult day yesterday, so I managed to get away a bit at the end. I lost time to Alfredo and Graham on one of the last passes.
“I’m happy with how it went today, though; we managed to close in on Graham and Alfredo, so it feels good.”
Making his return to the podium even more memorable is the fact that he was forced out of the 2014 edition of the Mother of Hard Enduro after suffering a knee injury during the time trial and missed last year’s race altogether, again through injury.
That hardship, coupled with the evolution of extreme enduro and stellar field of Gold Class competitors this year, he said, lead to an even greater sense of achievement than he felt when he secured his maiden Roof podium three years ago.
“That makes it even better, because I know I still have the pace to run up front and it’s good racing with everyone again.
“It’s great to have the main international riders at the event. Both times I’ve been on the podium have been alongside international riders. I feel I’ve come a long way since 2013 and the sport has gone to a new level, so it’s more rewarding to podium now.”
Bouverie didn’t add his voice to the chorus of criticism from a large part of the wider field of competitors regarding the changes to the race this year, those who condemned the bottleneck they felt detracted from the race.
“Day one was possibly a bit long, but the difficulty was perfect, so it was possible for riders not to bunch up. Day two I think was maybe a bit fast but had the perfect amount of riding time.
“The heat made this year tough as well as day one with such a big distance and a new pass that was full of silver riders to get through.
“I had a smooth run and played it safe when I had to. It’s such a long race that you have to be smart and focused all day.”
The 23-year-old has had more than his fair share of injuries, but his rich vein of form in 2016 shows that he’s a threat to the biggest names in the business when he’s 100%.
Winning the first ever Alfie Cox Invitational in Umzumbe, finishing a career-best fifth in the Red Bull Romaniacs in Romania and earning his maiden Red Bull Sea to Sky podium in Turkey are a testament to his exceptional talent.
That he was able to finish his breakout year on such a high in Lesotho was just reward for the determination and mental toughness he’s shown to bounce back from injury setbacks time and time again.