Husqvarna has a reason to celebrate after the 2017 MOTUL Roof of Africa. The ‘Mother of Hard Enduro’ came to a close in Lesotho on Saturday, and saw Sandra Gomez become the second woman to finish the Gold Class of the prestigious event in its 50-year history.
The Spanish lass added a fresh international flavour to the PEPSON PLASTICS HUSQVARNA RACING team. It was only her second time stepping onto the African continent, and debut Roof of Africa event.
Without fail, she would blaze her way back to the Bushmen’s Pass (the starting point of the race) each day with a contagious energy. Not only was she conquering the unrelenting landscape, but it was clear that she was having the time of her life doing it.
Gomez will head back to Spain wrapped up in African glory after ending the esteemed event in 30th place.
“A huge thank you to the Husqvarna crew that accommodated me here – we finished this together. I need to train harder with a GPS because I got lost sometimes,” said Gomez.
Commenting on the fact that local female rider, Kirsten Landman, was in the Gold mix, she added: “It was so good to have another female rider to compete with, it added a whole lot more stress that’s for sure! It made me ride better, but it also helps grow the sport because we’re much stronger together.”
Husqvarna also boasts a podium finish at the Roof of Africa this year. British rider Graham Jarvis was the third finisher in the race for mountain glory.
The enduro hero came into the event with his sights set on a hat trick Roof of Africa title. Renowned for his ability to take on the world’s toughest and most technical terrain, it was clear when he took his place on the start line that he was going to be the rider to beat.
The event opened with an unusual setting on Thursday. Instead of the blazing heat international riders had been warned about, they were greeted with icy winds and snow capped mountain peaks.
Jarvis welcomed the familiar conditions, and set off for the popular ‘Around the Houses’ and time trial event.
It is well known that speed is not the technical rider’s forte, so it was no surprise to see him arrive back at Bushmen’s Pass (the starting point of the race) in fourth place.
What he did not realise, however, was that he was in for two days of high-speed Lesotho trails and one of the fastest Roof of Africa events to date.
By the end of day two the South African pair of Wade Young (Sherco) and Travis Teasdale (KTM) had opened an eleven minute gap on the rider, which only widened on the third and final day of riding.
While it was clear that victory was out of Jarvis’ reach, the Roof of Africa podium certainly wasn’t. Riders had been warned that the final stage of the event would include two epic passes, and that the most treacherous terrain would be saved for last.
After almost 100km in the hard enduro saddle, Jarvis approached the final climb that stood between him and the finish line – the infamous ‘Soldiers Pass.’ Blake Gutzeit was only meters behind him, and an epic battle for the podium unfolded.
This was the technical climb that Jarvis had been waiting for, however, and he motored his over the brutal landscape to reach the 2420m summit first and ultimately claim the third spot on the podium.
“This was the fastest Roof I’ve ever had. I felt the pressure on the last pass and to fight Blake off and still make it to the podium is pretty good,” said Jarvis.
It was a bittersweet Roof of Africa for the PEPSON PLASTICS HUSQVARNA RACING squad. After the first day of riding, they were gutted when local rider Brett Swanepoel crashed and was forced to pull out of the race.
“We were heartbroken about it. Brett had better form than I’ve ever seen, and I know his racing pace was up there with Travis and Wade,” said Fred Fensham, manager of Husqvarna South Africa.
There was a young rider in the midst who would stand in the gap for his teammate. At just 16-years old, Matthew Green signed up for the Gold Class and was the only local rider left to represent the PEPSON PLASTICS HUSQVARNA RACING team.
The time trial did not go as well as Green had hoped, and he started off on the 106km route on the back-foot on Saturday. Displaying a true sense of grit, Green fought his way past over 10 gold riders to finish the prestigious event in 20th.
“This is a race I’ve always dreamed of doing, and it’s the start of even bigger things. Next year I’ll try Red Bull Romaniacs and Sea to Sky,” said Green.