The sixteen-year-old Travis Teasdale has competed in many forms of dirt bike racing in his short career – from motocross to the Junior Off-road Championship and enduro races, but it will be the first time the newly-crowned Junior National Champion will tackle the ‘Roof of Africa’ that takes place from 14 to 16 November in Lesotho. This extreme enduro race is renown as one of the toughest and most gruelling motorcycle events in the world and is the ultimate enduro motorcycle race for many riders – young and old.
Racing for Team Brother Broadlink KTM, the Grace College scholar from Pietermaritzburg has dreamed about competing in the ‘Roof of Africa’ from an early age, but he had to wait until after his sixteenth birthday in July for his dream to materialise. This year, after clinching his second Junior National Off-road Championship title (he won the 125cc Class Championship title last year and the Open Class Championship this year) and winning the E2 (200cc) Class at the final round of the Liquorland SA National Enduro Motorcycle Championship at Matatiele where he finished third overall, he will at last walk into the Lesotho Sun Hotel on Wednesday (13 November) to complete the documentation process for him to be able to be on the start line for the 46th ‘Roof of Africa’ in Lesotho.
About 600 motorcycle riders have entered for this three-day race – only 400 entries were accepted – that consists of various mountain passes and routes where no motorcycle competitor has ventured before. Teasdale will be one of 120 entrants from all over the globe who will tackle the race in the Gold Class where riders have to complete the full race distance.
Last year was the last time he had to stand next to the track and watch the riders racing in the streets of Maseru during the traditional ‘Around the Houses’ racing section. This year he will put his KTM in the ninth row of the second heat on Thursday (14 November) to complete the street race in front of hundreds of screaming spectators and supporters.
After the exhilarating street race, the youngster will travel with his crew to Bushman’s Pass to the north-east of Roma where all the racing action for the next three days will take place. He will then have to start the time-trial before 14h00 and the race organisers estimate that competitors will need about an hour to complete the 36 kilometre section that will start and finish at Bushman’s Pass.
The time-trial results will determine the starting order for Friday’s race with the results of Friday’s 136km racing section determining the starting order and times for Saturday’s 130 kilometre stretch that will include about 12 mountain passes. Last year riders averaged about eight hours in the saddle on both Friday and Saturday and they can expect an even tougher route while the possibility of rain is not excluded. Racing will commence at 06h00 on both days with the Start/Finish at Bushman’s Pass.
Back in Time: Twelve years ago, when Teadale was just four years old, his father (Jeff) entered him in his first motocross race with his PW50 at the Cato Ridge track just outside Pietermaritzburg. This is where the racing legend, Alfie Cox, resides and that same year (2001) Cox won the Roof of Africa for a record ninth time.
Teasdale has not looked back since his first race and just over a decade later he is ready to tackle this famous race. Months of training, dedication and hard work will be tested to the limit and his goal is to produce the best possible result.
On Thursday morning before most people had breakfast, Teasdale will feel the butterflies when the engines of more than 400 bikes are being revved on the start line of the ‘Around the Houses’ street race and while he will aim to deliver a perfect show – and possibly win some of the prize money up for grabs – his parents will fondly think back to his early MX days when he put out the wrong leg when going around a ‘berm’… He will not have any of those thoughts going around the corners and will aim to complete this mad tar race successfully before taking on the time-trial at his first ‘Roof’ attempt.
The quiet youngster will not only aim to finish this ‘mother of hard enduro’ race, but he will hope to prove himself against some of the world’s best extreme enduro riders including the 2011 race winner from the UK, Graham Jarvis, as well as former triple winner from New Zealand, Chris Birch. He will also compete against his good friend and rival from Paddock in KwaZulu-Natal, Wade Young, who has made history last year when he became the youngest winner of this event at the age of sixteen.
The ‘Roof of Africa’ is about the rider and his machine versus nature and some of the most feared mountain passes where even the goats and donkeys tread with care, but Teasdale is prepared and ready for the challenge.