19 November 2012
Sixteen-year-old Wade Young became the youngest ever winner of the Roof of Africa, an extreme enduro regarded as one of the toughest challenges in the sport, outriding a field filled with world-class campaigners to capture the overall honours in Lesotho on Saturday.
Earlier in the year, nine-time Roof champion Alfie Cox had predicted a big future for Young. But he surely could not have expected such a display from the Fever Criterion Yamaha star so early in his career.
The Roof of Africa is a challenge for the best and toughest enduro riders only. It is raced in mountainous Lesotho, a tiny country within the borders of South Africa.
The field is made up mostly of South Africans, but also feaures some of the world’s leading enduro riders. This time around, they included defending champion Graham Jarvis and the Hemingway brothers, Tim and Dan.
The king of extreme enduro
Jarvis was the defending champion after winning first time out in The Roof in 2011. He is also recognised as the king of extreme enduro, but he finished third this time around – his worst result of 2012.
The Hemingway brothers were two of only seven finishers out of a field of 1 800 in the notorious Erzberg Rodeo in Austria earlier in the year.
Young admitted in an interview with Lunga Biyela of The Witness: “I never thought I’d beat Graham,” adding that he had watched videos of Jarvis in action to prepare for the race.
Improvement through the season
While he had impressed in the early going during the South African enduro season, Young had mostly finished outside the top three, although excelling the 200cc class. Yet, towards the end of the season, he came on strongly and shocked his more experienced opposition when he captured the Castrol Winterberg title.
Nonetheless, few could have predicted he would go on to Roof of Africa victory. Young, though, had a different idea. “Winning the race is an awesome feeling,” he said. “I set my goal, and that was to win. I pulled through, and that feels great.”
His margin of victory was 10 minutes, the same advantage he had begun the final day with over Jarvis after he had become the youngest winner of a stage on Friday. He had just missed out on that honour when he finished second on Thursday in the time trial.
‘Battling to comprehend what he has done’
Young’s father, Nigel, smiled and said he wished his son would put in as much work at school as he does on his motorbike, but he was extremely happy. “We’re battling to comprehend what he has done,” he told The Witness.
“He set out to win and we told him ‘calm down, bru, concentrate on a top five finish’. He’s gone out there and won!”
Brother Broadlink’s Altus de Wet, on a KTM, snatched second from Husaberg’s Jarvis when the British star lost his way on the final day.
Time trial winner
Darryl Curtis, his teammate, a Dakar Rally rider and a former two-time winner of The Roof, enjoyed a strong showing and took fourth place, just ahead of Proudly Bidvest Yamaha’s Marc Torlage, who had won the time trial on Thursday.
Rounding out the top 10 were Kenny Gilbert, Wynand Badenhorst, Louwrens Mahoney, Riaan van Niekerk and Chris Birch. Birch, a former three-time winner of the Roof of Africa, dropped down the order on Saturday after struggling with heat exhaustion.
While Young’s father jokingly voiced his concern about his son’s school work, Wade’s career path seems certain now that he has a Roof of Africa victory to his name. He plans to campaign in the Europe as a professional once he is old enough, and there will surely be teams lining up to sign him.
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