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World Downhill Champ Takes Up Hard Enduro Challenge11th DEC 2008

Africa

South Africa's Greg Minnaar, the 2008 World Downhill Mountain Bike Champion, decided after he had successfully completed his campaign for the World Championship that he needed another challenge to keep his adrenalin flowing in the build up to the end of year "silly season", so he opted to take up the challenge of entering and completing the arduous Roof of Africa Rally, Africa's toughest off road motorcycle race.

Greg Minnaar

Classified as a "hard enduro" and mentioned in the same hollowed breath as the Ertzberg Rodeo in Austria, Romaniacs in Romania, Last Man Standing in the USA, and Hell's Gate in the U.K., the Roof of Africa has been hosted by the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, a land locked independent Kingdom positioned in the central east of South Africa, for the last forty one years. Originally started as a car rally, it did not take long for motorcycles to be included in the annual dash across the Maluti Mountains, which offer massive altitudes (over 3500 metres above sea level in some places), fantastic vistas, unpredictable weather patterns that often provide four seasons in a day, and of course more rocks, goat tracks and extreme rocky mountain passes than one can possibly imagine.
Today, the Roof of Africa is a dedicated motorcycle only rally, putting riders and machine up against some of the most strenuous and arduous riding over a distance of some 500km's, to be ridden over three days, with riders spending up to 13 hours in the saddle a day. The slow average overall speed is a very real indication of how tough the riding actually is.

Greg Minnaar

Minnaar, having a prior to mountain biking history of racing motocross with some success, but having never taken on a off road motorcycle endurance challenge, decided to take on the toughest yet in his first attempt at this genre of extreme sports. But then again, you would expect nothing different from a competitor f this ilk.

Greg Minnaar

With the generous help of Mr Price's RED , long term sponsor AlpineStars, and Yamaha Distributors SA, who provided Minnaar with a race prepped Yamaha WR 250 four stroke off road racer, Minnaar crossed the Lesotho border at Maseru on Wednesday 26th October 2008 with some trepidation as to what he had taken on but with little doubt as to his abilities to dig deep and take on the toughest that the organisers had to throw at them.

Greg Minnaar

Minnaar completed Thursday's racing section, which consisted of a "Round the Houses" sprint race on the streets of Maseru, raced for spectator value, but also to determine starting positions for the 98km time trial which followed shortly after, which in turn determined starting positions for Friday's 200km racing section, in a very respectable 4th in class and in 18th overall. The time trial, traditionally a reasonably fast ride in the lowlands of Lesotho, was to put competitors into a spin, as the organisers had decided that this year it would be a fair representation of what riders could expect on Friday and Saturday's racing sections in the mountains. As a consequence, riders embarked on one of the toughest 98km rides that they had ever ridden, with some competitors taking up to 6 hours to complete the race, and coming in to the finish line after dark.

Said Minnaar after successfully completing the first days racing section:" That was far more extreme than I expected and I'm feeling exhausted after a mere 98 kms!!! If this is anything to go by, then tomorrow is going to sort the men from the boys, that's for sure! But I'm ready to take up the challenge bring it on!!"

Greg Minnaar

Friday and Saturdays racing sections had riders riding what has now been touted as the toughest Roof of Africa ever. New and previously unridden passes with names like, The Keyhole, Donkey Pass, Pressure Cooker, Lucky's and Horsesh*t Pass, completely upped the ante in terms of what Lesotho has to offer dirt bikers, and many good riders were caught out by the installed time bar because of the time it took them to ride these new sections.
Overall winner, New Zealander Chris Birch who recently finished third in the ultra tough Romaniacs in Austria, said after taking the winners flag in a total riding time of 15 hours,xx minutes for 500km's, that this was by far the toughest event he had ever competed in, but raved on about just how awesome the riding was and how fantastic the scenery is in Lesotho so much so that he conceded that he had to stop his bike a number of times just to take in the breathtaking vistas.

Greg Minnaar

Of the 287 riders that started the event only 89 finished, and Minnaar, showing the true grit and dogged determination of a champion, crossed the finish line after racing his Yamaha for 21 hours and 34 minutes in 19th position overall and in 5th in the 200cc class (for 200c two stroke and 250cc four stroke machines), beating many seasoned off road racers in the process.

Greg Minnaar

"I am absolutely exhausted but exctatic at being able to finish the Roof. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I never thought that a motorbike could even go up some of the things that the organisers made us ride, let alone race up there!!! I am very pleased that I can satisfy my sponsors by bringing it home. I would like to pay particular thanks to Yamaha for providing me with such an awesome bike, RED , Alpinestars and Oakley for all there help and support for the "Roof". I would like to also congratulate every competitor that finished the race. There is no doubt even taking up the challenge of racing the Roof requires commitment and fortitude, and finishing it is just mind blowing what a great feeling of accomplishment." A muddied and exhausted Minnaar had to say at the finish line.

Will the World Downhill Mountain Bike Champ be back for next years event? Only time will tell.

Greg Minnaar

Greg Minnaar

Greg Minnaar

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