Reaching for the Roof

Brendon Smith will be tackling one of Africa's most demanding MX enduro races next week.

The 48th Roof of Africa motocross enduro race kicks off in Lesotho on Thursday December 1.

The event is the concept of road engineer Bob Phillips, who invited the Sports Car Club of Johannesburg to organise a race over the worst road that he had ever built.

That classification was not a reflection of his workmanship but rather one of the terrain, and the challenge was accepted.

Extreme Endurance racing has grown exponentially worldwide and this event is widely regarded as the “mother of hard enduro”. Run every year since 1967 with the exception of 1998, when Lesotho was beset with civil unrest, the “Roof” has produced endurance greats such as nine-time winner, Alfie Cox. This year a young 18-year-old man with enduro racing in his blood, tackles this monster of a race with the confidence of a seasoned professional.

Kirstenhof-based Brendon Smith hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father Gary, and Cox, a close family friend.

To the outsider the Roof of Africa is “just another motorbike rally”, yet the stamina and fitness required to complete this course is exceptional, even more so when one is as young as Brendon. If the physical challenges are daunting, the mental fortitude required is the backbone to success.

“Riding gives me freedom, it takes away all stress in your life,” says Smith. “The Roof is one of the toughest enduro races in the world, I believe in my physical ability and always wanted to test my mental strength”.

The young warrior has never competed in the Roof of Africa before but through his life has ridden many of the passes which form a part of the race and aims to gain valuable experience in riding at altitude. Indeed the race is made up of some of the most treacherous roads and paths with nature adding further demands through weather changes and the atmospheric sparsity of the Lesotho mountains.

It appears that none of the obstacles on the course are as great as the necessary financial resources required to compete in the event. Travel and accommodation, together with the mechanical operating costs are exhorbitant and pose a threat to Smith’s effective participation in the event, yet he remains focused on the goal of being among the nearly 400 competitors at the start line on December 1.

Typically he focuses on his ability instead. “Fitness is key when it comes to extreme enduro” says Smith.

“If you have fitness then you just need the skills and you will be able to finish”, he said.

The race kicks of next Thursday with the “around the houses race” set over various short courses.

This is followed by a three hour time trial before the skills, endurance and fortitude of the riders are tested with two days of enduro racing with soaring temperatures, narrow paths and steep inclines to overcome.

At the end of that a young man would have achieved the first step in emulating his heroes, his father Gary “Sox” Smith and Alfie Cox, a South African enduro legend.