Thirty years after taking part in the Roof of Africa for the first time, Graham Maclachlan of Bloemfontein will take on the challenge in Lesotho for the 20th time.
Maclachlan, who is always keen for an adventure, has run the Comrades Marathon 10 times and completed the gruelling SkyRun twice. He first rode the Roof of Africa in 1988 when the route was longer, but a lot easier. Ten years later he earned his best ever finish by bagging third overall, and this behind the legends of the game, Alfie Cox and Errol Dalton.
These days the route is shorter but what it lacks for in distance is certainly made up for in its technical nature, which tests the mettle of the very best riders from across the world.
There are three classes a rider can compete in namely the gold, silver and bronze. The gold
is for the top 50 enduro riders in the world, while silver is for the top privateers, and the bronze is the less technical of the classes.
As former Springbok rider, Maclachlan certainly knows his way around a motorcycle, and for him, the Roof of Africa is the ultimate test of a personal mental strength.
“I am excited and I am quietly confident because I have been there before,” Maclachlan told Bloemfontein Courant.
“The Roof of Africa has a lot to do with your mind. You need to have the commitment and the confidence that you can do it. I tell the youngsters that you only get the confidence by doing it. You can’t just watch it, you have to do. It is the same with the Comrades, you never think that you can run 89 km, but once you start training and you do it, you realise that it not so bad.
“The Roof of Africa is also the same. On the way there for the first time you look at the mountains and think how are you going to get over them. But once you’ve been in there and have chatted to the guys who have done it, you realise that it really not that hard. But you have to have the confidence. The biggest this that has changed over the past 30 years is the technology. The motorcycles are different, the race is harder and the training is harder, but it has the same mountains, and they will never change.
“It basically comes down to all the competitors being fully committed to finishing the race. All the top boys want to win the race, but most of us just want to finish the race.”
When it comes down to his goal for the Roof of Africa, Maclachlan says, “I just want to beat my friends. My father taught me many years ago, don’t worry about the top riders, they don’t even know your name. You just race your friends.”
The 2018 Roof of Africa will take place from 5 to 9 December in Lesotho. – MORGAN PIEK