Kiwi Chris Birch and KTM win the 2009 Roof of Africa

2009-12-01 04:50
"This was the hardest race I've ever done in my life.", that's how KTM legend and two time Roof of Africa winner Darryl Curtis summarised this year's race.

Man and machine against the mountain passes of Lesotho of which some of them have never been ridden before. Never-ending hours in the saddle, heat and dehydration - that's what this year's "Mother of Hard Enduro" was all about, taking the local and international riders to their limits and beyond.

The event started off on Thursday, 26th November with the traditional "Round the Houses", a 3 lap race per class in the city centre of Maseru that competitors had complete on the tar. Race one (125 and 200 class combined) was won by young Brother LG KTM rider Ruan Roberts who as a result had to go out on the Time Trial route as the first rider of the day. KTM rider Chris Birch from New Zealand who rode under the Brother LG KTM South Africa flag this year took the Round the Houses win in the Open Class on his KTM 300 XC-W. Thursday's time trial was dominated by South Afican BMW rider Jade Gutzeit who set the best time, followed by Brother LG KTM rider Chris Birch and his teammate Darryl Curtis.

Friday's route was harder than anyone had ever expected. The most difficult rocky terrain to ride with hardly any rest between the stages even brought the fittest and experienced riders to their limits. Some had to pull out of the race due to dehydration and many did not see the finish line on Friday night, a few of them even had to stay on the route over night. Chris Birch who was leading the race put almost ten hours on his saddle, followed by 6 other top riders that saw the finish line at the Ramabanta DSP before the rest of the field got time-barred. The last piece of 52 km to Roma was cancelled completely when the organisers started realising that this years' route was impossible to complete in full within the given time. As a result, also Saturday's route was shortened after a jury decision.

On Saturday morning the organisers didn't get a marshal out to the first course change in time, so Birch starting first ended up doing some extra exercise early in the morning when he did the first forty kilometres of day one before a marshal stopped him and put him right. He had to ride back to the start at Roma, re-fuelled the bike and started all over again.

Birch was riding flat out and made up time, finishing the 2009 Roof of Africa with a new record lead of 2 hours and 13 minutes over second Rory Mead (NZ, Yamaha). The first South African to see the chequered flag was Jade Gutzeit (BMW) followed by Brother LG KTM rider Darryl Curtis who finished 4th Overall. Top contender Andreas Lettenbichler (Germany, BMW) was forced to retire 10 km before the finish line due to technical problems.

An exhausted Chris Birch after the event: "I knew I was riding at the top of my game and was honestly giving everything I had but it was a huge surprise to open such a gap. I'm absolutely stoked to have won the Roof of Africa for the second time. I'm bruised, bent and exhausted but am still really happy. I owe a huge thanks to the KTM South Africa team and their sponsors Brother, LG and Red Bull and as always my wife Monica the best (and loudest) supporter South Africa has ever seen."

1 Chris Birch KTM New Zealand 19:07:08
2 Rory Mead Yamaha New Zealand 21:20:53
3 Jade Gutzeit BMW South Africa 21:21:05
4 Darryl Curtis KTM South Africa 21:40:53

Source: KTM-Sportmotorcycle AG

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