The Roof of Africa 2022

The Roof The Roof The Roof is on fire we don’t need no water…
because it hammered down out of the heavens as it always does. Lesotho has a saying according to Prime Minister Sam Matekane, “The rain brings The Roof” or is it “The Roof brings the rain”?

This year was the 52nd running of The Roof of Africa and in my 52 years on this planet this was the first one I actually got to attend and what an amazing experience it was. I have been to Lesotho before and really love the country, the natural beauty of the Mountain Kingdom and the super friendly and fiercely patriotic citizens. Unlike most African cities that I have been to Maseru is a clean and safe place to be. This really hit home when a platoon of about 100 or so new Police, young, healthy and fit cadets came jogging down the road in a neat disciplined formation, keeping perfect time and all signing beautifully in response to their drill instructor calling the commands. Everybody stood back and applauded and cheered them on with chests puffed out in pride for the new recruits…

Everywhere we went in Maseru buildings might not have been all new, modern and shiny, but they were reasonably well maintained, clean and for the most part well managed. They do not have a huge amount of mini bus taxis, but they do have a lot of little hatch backs, mostly blue with a big yellow stripes down the side and mostly Honda Fit’s, (Jazz’s here in SA), which do take a bit of time to get into rhythm with, but once you get used to how the traffic works you get along well enough – just leave your ZA driving aggression at the border.

The traffic lights actually work… even in the rain and there is no ‘load shedding’ either, streets have name boards, sign boards, man hole covers and the like haven’t been pilfered for scrap metal. Head out of the metropolis into the countryside and things do change quite a bit, rural villages are very traditional and life seems quite brutal, especially in the winter, however people are walking along chatting to each other, kids are playing in the fields and life generally ticks along happily without all the western trappings. The bigger town dotted here and there are mostly built out of the local sandstone that is plentiful in the area and quite reminiscent of old colonial architecture with a lot of informal sidewalk vendors selling everything from flame grilled meat sticks, various fruits and soft drinks.

Arriving on Wednesday afternoon at the Avani Hotel and Casino Lesotho was like riding into a festival. Branded gazebo’s, vans and trailers were everywhere. Bikes riding up and down with various competitors and mechanics working out the last settings. Everybody smiling, hugs and handshakes all around as friends reconnect… “Everybody goes to the Roof” does seem to be true. Vendors selling everything from thirst quenching Maluti’s to boerie rolls, t-shirts, caps, in fact all sorts of Roof and Lesotho memorabilia. Wandering into the conference centre all the competitors and their support teams lining up to register, get their race numbers, passes and etc to enter restricted areas… more handshakes, hugs, “Howzit, how are you my bud, long time no see” ’s. Fans hunting autographs and selfies with the Roof Rock Stars and all to the sound track of revving dirt bikes and loud boom-chi, boom-chi, boom-chi music… such a lekker atmosphere. After a quick check in at the hotel and settling into our rooms it was off to the first press conference. Restaurants, coffee shops, dining halls, swimming pools, bars and a casino to boot all efficiently operated by professional and friendly staff… a good place to spend a few days.

2022 Roof of Africa

Day 1:

Thursday got off to an earlyish but leisurely start and a quick glance at the heavens we all made sure we packed our most effective rain wear and donned our most waterproof hiking boots, some went as far as to bring wellies along. The traditional Round the houses is back! I understand that it was replaced with a Supercross event, but popular pressure has it re-introduced. A manic street race through the streets of Maseru. The local populace love it, the SA Spectators line the streets to watch the action as the guys hurl their dirtbikes around. It’s a great way to start the weekends racing! Then it was off to Bushmans Pass for the time trials. Severe weather shortened play, (this was to be the theme for the rest of Roof 22), with the Gold and Silver riders tackling a special extreme track for NTOA EA THABA – The Mountain Battle perched precariously on the side of a valley with a sighting lap before putting in their hot laps to determine starting grid positions for the next day.

The Iron and Bronze class riders were chucked in the proverbial deep end properly. Their loop was eventually shortened to about 18ish km’s but from the reactions from some of the riders it was still pure torture. The final big climb about 2 kays from the finish at Bushman’s was hugely rutted from water erosion, strewn with rocks and once the rain set in it turned into a soggy mud bog finishing at about a forty five degree climb at the end which almost nobody made it up without the assistance of the local Basotho lads. A couple of interviews down the bottom found a bunch of first timers, some deep into their forties and even fifties pleading us to tell them that the worst was behind them and then nearly bursting into tears when we told them what still lay ahead. To add insult to injury it started hailing hard and while the competitors had to endure that, we dashed over and through the six hundred and ninety million climbs and valleys on foot covering our ears with our hands to protect them from the hail.

Word of advice/warning to the uninitiated in Lesotho:
That point of interest that looks like a short walk over a few little low kopjes just Effing isn’t!! There are at least eighty five Mount Everest’s in between that you have to traverse… in the hail and rain and knee deep in mud. To be sure it is only about four or five deep valleys and steep climbs that turn that short walk in the countryside into quite the expedition…

Did I mention the hail, rain and mud? What a big jol, despite the sore ears, wet butt, (not even my high end riding rain suit could keep me dry), and been chilled to the bone it was huge fun and the stuff you talk about for years to come…

Day 2:

Flooded rivers, washed away bridges and precarious muddy slopes saw a revised and shortened route for the day which had all the media and spectators scurrying around the roads and mountains of Lesotho chasing the race and trying to get to the best vantage points ahead of the fastest riders. Many marshals were consulted, many mad dashes along the tarred mountain passes followed by many a U-turn and hanging out windows watching maniacs on dirt bikes skip across the mountains like 2T powered mountain goats flat out dicing each other and eventually arriving at spectacular view points to watch and record these machines before dashing off to the next spectator point, USP/DSP along the tar, trying to get there ahead of these maniacs. Then it was off to the finish lines to watch Wade Young show the way as World Champ Letti and local hero Travis Teasdale bar bashing to cross the line first… Damn this is exciting racing!

Final Day:

The final day was almost a bit of an anti-climax, we all prepared ourselves for a long, cold and wet day on the side of the mountain only to have Wade Young and co. pop across the finish line just on 10am with a fair amount of the faster competitors making it in within the next ninety minutes or so just before the heavens opened up and convincing race direction to declare the entire course a ‘Help Zone’. This is significant because competitors can get penalised or even disqualified in certain competitive sections or ‘No help zones’ if they accept help from a bystander, just goes to prove how rough it was out there for those that hadn’t made it back before the rain and hail hit. It is not for nothing that The Roof of Africa is called “The Mother of Hard Enduro”, coming into being fifty three or four odd years ago with only two misses. This was the fifty second running of the Roof… a record to be so proud of. And it is not for ‘Sissie’s’ or ‘Bang-gatte’, you have to be made of the ‘Right Stuff’ to compete in ‘The Roof’… So, what’s your excuse?

Some Results:

Issued by Listen Up on behalf of Live Lesotho:
As the overnight leader in the Gold Class, defending champion Wade Young, (Sherco Factory Racing powered by Motul), led from the ‘off’ today to cross the line in first place and notch up his seventh Roof victory. This was no procession, however, as he was pushed hard the whole way by Mani Lettenbichler (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Travis Teasdale (ASP Rope Mclarens Racing), who finished second and third respectively.

In Wade’s own words, he went out ‘hot’ and tried to ride as smoothly as possible, maintaining his intensity and minimising mistakes so that the riders in pursuit would have to push hard, and take more chances on the unforgiving terrain. By halfway, just after Soldiers Way, he had pulled a 4:30 minute lead but Mani clawed some of that back to just over 2:24 minutes by the finish.

Mani was happy with his result, being only his 2nd Roof, and while he pushed hard in the morning to stay with Wade, he conceded that navigation was a challenge for European riders like him who are not used to the Roof’s race format of pure GPS routes with limited marking. ‘With so many bushes and so many different paths to choose from, reading the terrain around you becomes so important and I’ve definitely learnt a lot for next time.”
This year’s Roof of Africa podium featured not only the 7-time winner of the Mother of Hard Enduro, but the 2022 FIM Hard Enduro World Champion and 2022 SA Extreme Enduro Champion. With seven Roof wins under his belt, Wade is now just two wins away from equalling the all-time record held by Alfie Cox, whose last victory came in 2001.

“The Maloti Mountain weather presented us with some serious logistical challenges this year – even more so than usual,” commented Charan Moore, Roof Race Director and Founder of Live Lesotho. “We’re therefore especially proud that we were able to deliver another classic edition of the Roof, and that we could provide a rewarding challenge for everyone from the world’s top Enduro riders to the weekend warriors in the Iron Class,” he added.

Once again, it was the riders in the Silver Class who had the longest day in the saddle, and this is where perhaps the greatest upset happened. Overnight leader Austin Stuart (Orange County KTM) saw his 25-minute lead whittled away due to technical difficulties, leaving the way open for a trio of young Durban riders to occupy the podium.

Luke Walker, (Motorex Alfie Cox KTM), and 16-year-old prodigy Thomas Scales, (Ride KTM Durban), both passed Walker’s teammate Daniel Schröder, with Walker’s winning time being 9h32:27 across the three days of the Roof.

The battle for the Bronze Class honours was hard-fought to the end, with Tate Ströh ultimately emerging victorious on one of just four Yamahas in the finishing field of 200 bikes. His winning margin was just over 22 minutes from Stiaan Potgieter, (KTM), and Stefan Tolmay, (also KTM), in third.

Meanwhile, riders in the Iron Class completed the full route for Day 2 with the winner being Tom Classen (KTM) who led from start to finish. He was joined on the podium by Pieter Kritzinger in second and Jack Brotherton in third, both also on KTM bikes.
To see the full results of the 2022 Roof of Africa official website:

Here’s some words from guys who raced..

Junior World Champion Matthew Green shares his thought on this year’s event:

Day 1:  It was so great to come home after such a long stretch abroad. but we ended that with a high after winning Sea 2 Sky. I came into Roof with a lot of confidence. I was on a new team – F61 and the guys from Fast took me in and made sure that they gave me everything I needed. The best of everything. Thanks guys. The week prior to Roof was spent on setup. I brought some parts across and we got it all together. Joel did a great job and the Darren Gray looked after me during the race. I was happy with the setup, it always takes time to get used to a new bike and setup. By the time Roof arrived, we were ready, with small teaks and changes in Lesotho before the race. Time trial was good – a bit of a mess up with the timing, but I put in an Ok time. Think it was sixth…. That night it started pouring. I woke up at 2 am and lay there thinking “Here we go.” I knew we were ready but it was going to be a big ask.

Day 2:  Friday morning, it was warm, Dawns crack… breakfast, hit the road to the start. It was soaking. We got the news that the route had been cut shorter by 50kms, 101 KMs were waiting. About 20 of us got stuck at that first river crossing, I think i was one of the first guys to try and cross. My bike washed down the river completely… and I thought the race was over – it was literally floating off down the river. I had visions of losing the thing. Anyway – eventually we got it out and undrowned the bike. By that stage about 15 guys had got through and headed on. I spent the rest of the day playing catch up. I fought my way back to fifth and finished the day with Will Slater. But I was happy.
It was quite a character building day for me because I was so far off. I had to navigate alone and play catch up, I never had the chance to ride with anyone. I pushed hard, a short day with no real hard climbs, but it is what it is and i was satisfied.

Day 3:  Was all about maintaining position. I rode with a great group of guys, Michael, Will, Brett, we all rode together until the first hard section and it was actually a really nice start to the day. It was about having fun. On the hard pass, I pushed hard, hit some big lines  and managed to pull ahead, eventually finishing fourth for this year’s Roof. It was a great Roof, our team really gelled – and you ask anyone – our pits were the most festive! All my mates were around, so that made it proper fun, especially after racing alone in Europe for the year. Big thanks to the team all of them. And to my Mom and Dad, its so cool to race as a family again, we had a real fun time in Lesotho – I’m so looking forward to next year.

Roof Legend “Wild Will” Gillit was washed out on day 1 of the race. He shares his thoughts:

Everyone was trying to get across – and my bike was the only one that never left. In one of the very deep crossings, another bike crossed my path and even though I was on a rope, it did not end well. But that’s racing! I did not kill the engine, lost my footing and she drowned – water into the airbox and the cylinder head cracked. One of those things. I have had 15 years of good Gold luck at The Roof, so I can’t complain. I am however immensely proud of all the guys who I trained that finished – especially Average Guy. The Roof organisers did a fantastic job this year, changing things up as the weather came into play. See you out there next year.

You might have met “Average Guy”, Guy Johnston who we interviewed along with “Wild Will” Gillit just before Roof? We promised to catch up with him afterwards.

Here’s his take on The Roof Of Africa:

Mallaz Media:
OK Guy, Bronze Roof of Africa 2022 under the belt, let’s hear it.

Average Guy:
Hi there, guys. So, it was definitely an amazing experience, to be able to say that we finished was even more special. I’m just grateful to be able to do something like this, and finish and have the medal. Just super stoked. It was a tough week. We had a lot of rain, huge thunderstorms in the evenings. I remember lying in bed, just kind of thinking, wow, tomorrow is going to be interesting with all this rain that we’ve had. But we put the time and effort into training, and the training in Hilton has definitely helped hugely. We just went out and had a jol. There were some difficult places, some easy places, but we just had fun.

Mallaz Media:
So, you arrive at sign in, what’s going through your head? What are you thinking? How are the people? Talk us through the whole experience?

Average Guy:
I have watched every single YouTube clip of Roof of Africa you can watch, and it was weird. We arrived at Avani hotel at ten in the morning and it was cool. You got to see all the okes, some of the pro guys in the pits and stuff like that, and we went and did some documentation. It was just really effortless. The guys there, Charan and them, had really done an amazing job. Everything was just smooth running. Went and got your SIM card. Went and got your stuff. Did the scrutinizing. Luckily, we got there early, so we didn’t have to wait around too much. But the nerves weren’t there yet. I don’t know why. Just kind of calm and cool and got everything done and then we went back to accommodation and parked off and then went back to the briefing in the evening. It was just really cool to be a part of what I had basically been watching and prepping for, so it was an amazing experience, there were no nerves, it was just cool to be there.

Mallaz Media:
So, as a first-time rider, you rode with Adrian Barnard. Do you recommend riding with a partner the first time? Do you think you could have done it by yourself?

Average Guy:
Well, you kind of always have that fear of riding on your own in case you get stuck somewhere or you get lost or whatever. I do recommend always riding with somebody. It’s just the safest thing to do. But next year, maybe what we’ll do is we’ll tackle it on our own. We kind of understand what’s to be done. And the nice thing is the majority of it is marked. And there’s so many people in that bronze division, over 230 guys.

There’s always somebody behind you. There’s always somebody in front of you. The guys are pretty friendly, willing to give a hand, the locals are all there with their tow ropes and willing to help. So big thanks to Adrian, without him, I don’t think I would have been able to be as calm as I was, knowing that I have him there to have my back. So shot bru. But next year I think I’m definitely going to go and tackle it on my own. Riding, you’re kind of in that zone, you don’t even know who’s around you to be honest. I don’t even pay attention. Sorry to my mates. You in that zone, you don’t even know the guys are there. You see people, but you don’t even know who they are. Even though they might be your seconder, they might be your best mate. Even when we got to Bushman’s Neck and we tackled that mountain, you know, all the guys were there and you’re kind of like listening to them, but also not really listening to them. You’re just trying to get the job done. So, your mental state is on another level. I was battling with a bit of pain on day one with my back. I just blocked that out. Day two, my knee was like, three times the size of my other knee. I didn’t even know until I got off the back and realized how sore my knee was. You kind of don’t even know. Your mind is just going, and you in that zone, in it to win it, there to finish, you can’t explain it.

Mallaz Media:
The last little corner on the last day. Talk us through that.

Average Guy:
We realized that this is the end. And I had Abri and all the guys there telling me which way to go. Adrian went up the right way, and I see it was a bit of an off camber, difficult, I probably would have battled and fallen down the bank. But Abri told me to take the inside line. And it’s just so slippery, so muddy. But the bike basically does all the work. And we managed to get up there.

We spun out a bit and then obviously there was the finish. And I waited for Adrian, and basically, we finished. The feeling I was feeling, I don’t know. I can’t explain it. Just overwhelmed. Kind of like just super stoked to finish, but then also just kind of not sure that we even finished. Didn’t even know. It was so weird. Your adrenalin is pumping so much as well that its kind of only kicked in, I think when we got back home, and you sat down and had a shower and realized we just finished our first Roof of Africa. So, yeah, it’s just humbling. I closed my eyes and just prayed to God and just thanked him for getting us through and it’s just a really amazing feeling to have put all the time and effort and sacrifice into doing something and we completed what we needed to do, so thank you. It was amazing.

Mallaz Media:
So, if we go back to all the preparation. How much of a difference do you think training with Will Gillit and doing the events made on the day?

Average Guy:
Ya no! That made a huge difference. You know training with Will in Hilton, like I mentioned, is amazing. I recommend it to anybody. We’ve spent a lot of time in the Hilton hills and rocks and to be honest, going through those sections were actually pleasant, where if we had just done basic training down in the valley or something, we might have had a bit of a problem. And also training with Will, he knows what to expect at Roof of Africa, so it was good. But also, being part of all the other hard endure events. Senqu was also a great one because Senqu was a difficult race, and that definitely got our surroundings sorted with being in Lesotho. The Iron Horse events, those are always just amazing. And Abri and Grant and his team, they always put on a spectacle. It’s always going to be an amazing event. There’s going to be sections that are going to be hard, there’s going to be some sections that are easy. And then also you’re going to spend 7 hours in the mountains. At the Thekwani, that was a really good training session of full-on rain, and that’s what we had at Roof, so we were prepared. So, you know, you’ve got to put the time in, and you’ve got to train. I possibly could have trained a little bit harder. But on the day, I couldn’t have ridden any better. A few little silly mistakes. I’ve only been riding a year, let’s say two, so the mistakes that I made were understandable. So, the goal is now to just basically fix those kinds of things and come back stronger next year.

Mallaz Media:
So, with hind sight, you’ve done the race, you’ve done all the training. What are you going to say to a first timer?

Average Guy:
Just go out and have fun. Put the prep in. Do the time. I kind of made sure that our nutrition was on top, we ate correctly, we got in a bit of training. Definitely just put that extra effort in, but make sure you fit enough to go out there and have fun. So, on day two, towards the end, we came down this huge pass called Welcome. Once we got out of there, it was an absolute jol. Myself and Adrian, we couldn’t fault anything and we had so much fun because we were fit. If you’re not fit, you’re going to suck. You’re going to toil; you’re going to have a problem. So just go out and have fun, keep the wheels moving and also just enjoy the surroundings. It’s the most amazing riding you can ever have and it’s a huge experience. Something that I can honestly see myself doing in the years to come as one of the best events I’ve been to.

Mallaz Media:
So that’s where we’re going with the next question. 2023. What are we doing? Silver? Or are you doing bronze again?

Average Guy:
So, you kind of say, I just want to get one Roof and that’s it, but I think it’s like tattoos. You say you’re only going to get one and then before you know it, your whole body is covered. But the bug has bitten and the experience and what it’s all about is just so amazing, so nice, and so cool to be there, the surroundings, the hype. So, 2023, if all goes to plan, I’ll definitely be there. I will not be riding silver or gold or anything like that. I think for me, I’m 37 years old, I’ve been riding for two years. I’m comfortable where I am. I don’t need to go out and prove anything to anybody. I just want to go out and have fun. And I think the bronze division is the perfect division for you to go out and have a good jol, come back, not be too sore and get that medal. So, I’ll be doing bronze as long as I’m riding, just because it’s fun, there’s no pressure. The silver, I think the level gets a lot harder, if you know what I mean. The bronze is me!

From Roof Organiser Charan Moore:

Roof 2022 – what a ride! 6th gear pinned and you’ll make it, or so they say. Thank you to everyone that made the event possible – Crew, competitors, spectators and sponsors.

The Mother of Hard Enduro

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