Rookie Roof rider beats Birch

2011-11-29 11:22

The hottest extreme endurance rider of the moment, Graham Jarvis, knocked three-times Roof of Africa winner Chris Birch off his perch in Lesotho on the weekend.

It was Briton Jarvis' first time up on the Roof, the 44th running of the event, but he still beat Birch to the top step of the podium. South African Jade Gutzeit was third, losing the three-day battle with Birch justa few hundred metres from the flag.

Jarvis adds the Roof of Africa victory to his 2011 list which includes wins from four (of the five) world extreme endure races. Despite the win, Jarvis admitted that racing for more than seven hours each day made his Roof experience in the top Gold Class quite tough. Riders covered about 200km a day of treacherous mountain passes on Friday and Saturday.

Jarvis, Birch and Gutzeit stuck together for most of the race but the UK trials specialist showed his skill on the more technical rocky climbs and took the lead halfway through Saturday. He eventually beat Birch by 22min10.


Gutzeit seemed certain of second place but lost it approaching the Gold Class finish at the top of Bushman’s Pass. The top South African finisher spent valuable minutes recovering his bike and eventually finished almost eight minutes behind the New Zealander.

Marc Torlage, 22, was happy to finish fourth after starting from pole on Friday. He battled with his bike and lost 25 minutes on Friday but kept his fourth place. He and Brian Capper had the huge crowd on their feet with a spectacular 50m sprint to the finish line; Torlage was better by less than a bike length. Capper eventually finished the three days of racing in seventh place.

Roof of Africa veteran Darryl Curtis was fifth and admitted that he raced “with more care” as he cannot risk any injuries before he tackles the Dakar Rally in January, 2012, in South America. Curtis won the dice with multiple UK enduro champion Ben Hemingway, racing for the first time with his brother Dan. Only three seconds separated them after more than 16 hours in the saddle.

Like most riders, Altus de Wet also survived some small falls and finished eighth overall, just over two minutes ahead of German rider Andreas Lettenbichler who battled niggling issues with his bike.


Mitchell Nield, the New Zealand Under 200cc enduro champion, also competed for the first time and was ecstatic with 10th in the Gold Class. His compatriot Michael Skinner was in the top 10 in 2010 but 13th this year; another New Zealander, Karl Power, was 15th in his first attempt and Philip Cheater, who crashed last year, finished 29th.

Also in the top 20 were South Africans Riaan van Niekerk (11th), Wynand Badenhorst (12th) and Bradley van Aswegen (19th).
Fifty-three riders completed the full race distance in the Gold Class.

The Silver Class was won by Wynand Kleynhans, followed by Rian Ackermann and Peter Jung – there were 65 finishers in this class over a somewhat shorter, but still tough, route.

Adrian Werner won the Bronze Class ahead of Faan van Deventer and Dricky Morkel.

Toni Jardine became the first (and, at 19, the youngest, female) to complete the Roof of Africa, albeit in the Bronze Class. She completed the racing section for the Silver Class on Friday and combined with Saturday’s route, Jardine completed a total race distance of about 280km of tough riding in the mountains.