The 6th edition of the Lesotho Sky is done and dusted. What started in 2011 with a handful of passionate mountain bikers grew into one of Africa’s most spectacular and toughest stage races. The 392km of mostly single tracks, big mountain passes and gnarly downhills took riders on a detour journey from the Machaleneng valley in Ramabanta through Malealea and Roma all the way to the majestic Maletsunyane Falls at Semonkong.
By Fourie Rossouw
Photos: Wayne Reiche
The race attracted riders from all corners, with 11 official nations represented. Due to limited resources of the local communities, the numbers are capped at 100 riders, ranging from pro teams to weekend warriors.
The race was won by the German – South African duo Daniel Gathof and Renay Groustra. It was, for both riders, their first ever UCI mountain bike stage race win.
“I did not know what to expect and it turned out to be one of the toughest races I have ever done. The altitude made it especially hard.” – Renay Groustra
“It was six really hard days, but every metre was worth it. It’s an amazing race.” – Daniel Gathof
The overall second place belonged to Team Vodacom Lesotho. Local Lesotho hero and Olympian Phetetso Monese paired up with cross-country specialist Stuart Marais. They struggled to find a rhythm at the start of the race, which gave Gathof and Groustra a substantial lead from early on. As the week progressed and the routes changed from marathon style to a more cross-country character, both Monese and Marais’s skills came to life. They finished the race with a stage win at the mesmerisingly beautiful finish line, right at the edge of the Maletsunyane Gorge.
Reflecting on how their race improved over the six days, Marais had the following to say: “These last couple of days Phetetso has been giving it stick. We’ve been able to have a really fantastic time and I loved every second of it.”
A local legend at the Lesotho Sky, Cherie Redecker, rode with OMX Pro teammate Mariske Strauss. The pair took first place in the elite ladies category with ease. They were smiling from the start of day one all through to the podium.
“Our bikes handled the Lesotho rocks really well. It is such a stunning event. I can recommend it to anyone, it’s a definite bucket-list race.” – Mariske Strauss.
The heart of the race, however, does not lie at the front of the bunch. Even for the pro teams, the race had a different feel to other races. Over the years, the organisers have been able to incorporate the African values of Ubuntu into the event, while keeping it competitive and very challenging, making this race a mountain biker’s rite of passage, or rather, a ride of passage.
With the event being sold out this year and due to the high demand, the organisers of the race are already looking at ways to expand the experience of the race. Entries for 2017 will open in the weeks to come.