MASERU – Lesotho’s seasoned rider, Timello Tšolo, is competing in the ongoing Roof of Africa Rally even though his injuries from a recent automobile accident are still not fully healed.
The rider sustained neck and spinal cord injuries when his vehicle lost control and overturned in September.
The injuries temporarily halted his preparations, which began last year. This year’s edition of the Roof of Africa Rally went underway yesterday with round-the-house sessions and time trials, both in the capital city, Maseru.
The real race commences today until tomorrow in some parts of the rural areas of Maseru. Owing to the injuries, which are still fresh, Tšolo is competing in the bronze category and not in the silver class as usual.
“When I had the car accident in September, I had already been preparing for months for the race,” said Tšolo in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday this week.
“I still feel a little discomfort on the spinal cord and neck, but as a rider, I cannot just give up.” Tšolo further said: “In fact, I have been given the green light to compete by my doctors, but they advised me not to participate in the silver class anymore; hence, I will be riding in the bronze category.”
The Roof of Africa Rally is divided into four categories: gold, silver, bronze, and iron. “My usual class is silver, but now I have to compete in the lower division. “I will push in bronze, but if I feel any pain, I won’t force myself. Even my doctors warned me not to force matters.”
The rider said he had lost hope of competing in the global event after the accident but was urged on by his doctors. “The doctors said I would be fine with time and advised me to keep stretching my ligaments, which I have been doing since October.”
The rider further said: “And to be honest, I am fine. Even my doctor told me that I am recovering quite well.” He admits that his preparations have been impressive under the circumstances.
Tšolo is competing in the race for the fourth time in his career. “This is my fourth race in the Roof. Last time in 2022, my motorcycle developed engine problems during the race, and we spent the whole day and night fixing it.
“I was penalised for that, and as a result, I had to start at the back with the last group, but I managed to race to the finish.” He was using an outdated 2014 motorcycle model when he got a breakdown at last year’s edition of the event. “Since I started in 2014, I have always used the same model of bike.”
But this time around, Tšolo is using the latest model. His best performance was in 2019, when he finished among the top 100. Moiphepi Bereng and Katleho Tlhaoli are some of the local riders competing in the event.
The two are making their maiden appearance this year. “This is going to be my first appearance in the race,” Bereng admits. “I cannot really say I have prepared the way I would have liked to, but my intention is to race to the finish.”
He further said: “It has always been my wish to compete in this race, and here I am.” He further said: “I am yet to fall or sustain injury. I don’t know how it feels when one falls off a bike.”
The novice rider says he is, however, content with his preparations. “I am happy with my preparation, and I hope to finish the race, at least among the top 50,” he said. Racing in the roof is Tlhaoli’s dream come true.
“I have always been a great fan of the race since my childhood, and I always wanted to compete in the event.” Although he does not come from a riding family, Tlhaoli gets adequate support from his family.
My family gives me great support because it understands that I love what I am doing.” Known as “The Mother of Hard Enduro,” the Roof of Africa Rally 2023 is the 54th rendition since its inception in 1967.