Brothers captivate Roof crowd

2011-11-30 13:25

Quintin van Jaarsveld, The Witness

South African siblings Jade and Blake Gutzeit produced one of the greatest moments in the 44-year history of the Roof of Africa when this year’s race concluded in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho last Saturday.

The drama-filled third and final day saw Jade (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha Fever X), who won the gruelling extreme enduro race in 2003, finish third after a thrilling battle against defending champion Chris Birch (Comsol Alfie Cox Racing KTM).

Gutzeit occupied second place behind eventual winner Graham Jarvis (Flite Extreme Husaberg) with the chequered flag in sight before a mistake on an incline relegated the reigning South African off-road champion into third place.

“I’m happy with third. I would’ve preferred to pip Chris at the line ... I was prepared for it and waiting for it, but when the opportunity came I messed it up. Overall, though, it was a great race,” Gutzeit, who finished as the top-placed South African rider for the fourth consecutive year, told The Witness.

The scene that captured the heart of the partisan crowd would play out some three hours after Jade had crossed the line when an exhausted 16-year-old Blake (Fever X Yamaha), covered in sweat and dirt, was willed over the line by his older brother, who proudly waved the chequered flag before the brothers embraced.

“It brought tears to grown men’s eyes,” said Jade afterwards. “There must be six or seven thousand people here and all of them screamed and shouted and went mal.
“I’ve never experienced a crowd like this at the Roof before. It’s by far the biggest crowd ever and it’s incredible to see all the South African supporters.

“It’s really cool that I can be here for my brother at his first Roof and him finishing and being the youngest rider in the race and to finish gold, it’s really good for him and I’m really proud of him.”

Young Blake, who won the 125cc Class in the South African Junior National Off-Road Championship earlier this season, was in seventh heaven after having completed his maiden Roof of Africa in 20th place.

“To be honest it’s like a dream come true. I can't believe it ... At first my brother told me I must just do silver, but when he saw the amount of effort I was putting in he said I must go for gold and I was feeling strong so I went for it,” said the teenager.

“The Roof is much harder than any race I’ve ever done before. I did one national enduro this year and realised how difficult the Roof must be so I prepared well for it, but I could never have done it without my brother and his support and guidance.”

Jade, in turn, praised his brother’s resolve. “I helped him out a little bit but he also has a lot of fighting spirit and he’s helped himself a lot. He wanted to prove to everybody that he could do it and I’m very happy for him.”

The 34-year-old veteran said it was one of the most memorable races of his storied career. “With the amount of people and the atmosphere, racing with my brother, having my wife and mother and friends here and getting a good result against top competition in a tough race definitely make it one of the most special races I’ve ever had,” he said. 

Jade added that the participation of Jarvis, widely regarded as the world’s best extreme rider and winner of four of the five World Extreme Enduro events this year, lifted the intensity of this year’s Roof of Africa.

“With Jarvis racing it elevated the race this year to a world championship level and that’s great for racing.”

Blake concluded, “One of my ultimate goals is to follow in my brother’s footsteps and win the Roof someday. This result is a major confidence-booster but I’m not going to develop a big head - I’m going to make sure I stay grounded and focused.”

The Witness