by JohnNicholas on 12/01/2009
After yesterday’s soul destroying 10-hour session of extreme enduro riding, today followed suit seeing the front running competitors having another almost ten-hour day on a shortened route starting at 06:00 this morning, with the first man home at 15:40. “This is by far the toughest race I have ever done,” commented New Zealand’s Rory Mead, who finished second overall in his maiden race on a 250cc Yamaha, behind his countrymen and defending champion Chris Birch.
Birch, riding a 300cc KTM, almost had drama this morning. He was the first rider on the route; at a Tjunction he went the wrong way. To rectify the problem, once he realised he was in the wrong, he drove out of the stage, returned to the start at Roma and re-started the race after discussing the problem with the organizers. He then took off like a man possessed, and managed to outride the entire field on corrected time, making it a New Zealand one-two for the 2009 Baboons Lesotho Sun Roof of Africa. Having won the race by 45 minutes last year, Birch returned with the knowledge that he was under pressure to defend his title, but was confident that he was well prepared to do so. However, he managed to outride second placed Mead by a massive 2 hours and 14 minutes, placing him way up in a class of his own in the 43 year old history of the Roof of Africa.
Andreas Lettenbichler (Germany) rode exceptionally well and left many people in awe with his astounding skill and the way he mastered mountain passes where others really struggled. He had serious drama and was very disappointed in his maiden event, when he was forced to stop in the last 25 km as a result of technical problem, whilst leading the race on the road, ahead of his team-mate Jade Gutzeit (South
Africa), who ended up in third place overall on corrected time with the big G450X BMW only 12 seconds behind Mead.
Today’s stage was also shortened by the organizers after the finish of yesterday’s stage had to be moved from Roma to Ramabanta, excluding the final 55 km, the organizers issued a notice last night implementing the new arrangement. Indicating just how exceptionally difficult the race really was, only 23 competitors of the 102 starters, doing the full event, finished the race, with a number of riders spending Friday night out in the mountains, accommodated by the local communities in their villages. “These people are fantastic. They gave us food, place to sleep, and really took care of us, although we really struggled to communicate, but I quite enjoyed it out there,” said one of the competitors when he arrived back at Ramabanta this morning.
Only 4 riders made it to the finish in the Seniors, Masters and Silver Classes of the 117 competitors who entered to race 75% of the route. Chris Birch commented after the finish: “It was really tough, I am not as tired as yesterday, but I worked hard today. All I could do when I re-started was to focus and ride my absolute best, but I am very happy to take the trophy home this year.”
2009 Babboons Lesotho Sun Roof of Africa
1. Chris Birch (KTM) New Zealand
2. Rory Mead (Yam) New Zealand
3. Jade Gutzeit (BMW) South Africa
4. Darryl Curtis (KTM) South Africa
5. Calvin Wright (KTM) South Africa (1st Senior)
6. Kenneth Gilbert (Yam) South Africa
7. Shannon Frost (Yam) South Africa
8. William Gillitt (Yam) South Africa
9. Mike Morris (KTM) South Africa
10. Marc Torlage (Yam) South Africa
Photos by – Hubert Stanka