Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
Some Victoria Falls residents and villagers from Dibutibu and Chisuma cheered on riders in the Autoworld Victoria Falls Enduro off-road race along narrow bush tracks at the weekend.
It was more like sport and picnic combined, as kids enjoyed swimming in Dibutibu River, while their parents the bikers.
About 100 riders from Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, 11 of them between the ages of six and 17 years, took part in the 9km juniors’ race, 33km fun ride and 42km pro.
Some used mountain bikes and others used motorbikes.
The riders occasionally stopped to refuel at the main arena near Gorges Lodge before disappearing into the bush, which was littered with deafening roars of revving engines.
Participants said the terrain qualifies the Enduro as an international race, as much as it offers an untapped tourism opportunity.
Botswana’s Ross Branch, who rides for Monster Energy Yamaha Team in Gaborone, won the pros race.
Zimbabwean brothers Ash and Cameron Thixton came a close second and third respectively, while Graeme Sharp, the first Zimbabwean to ride a motorbike in the 2020 Dakar Rally managed a fourth place finish.
“It was an amazing race and also to see the Thixtons perform like this. There is talent in Zimbabwe. The terrain is rough, especially coming from Botswana where it’s different, and that’s makes Vic Falls Enduro always amazing. I would like to thank the Zambezi Off Road Club,” said Branch.
Ash Thixton, who started competing in the Enduro at the age of 16, said endurance is key in the sport.
“To all aspiring riders or bikers, it’s all about what you put in. I have been participating in the Victoria Falls Enduro since 2015 and today Ross showed us the level we need to be. The first lap was awesome as I overtook him, but experience took its course. This is a learning curve, it’s good to learn from him and win the race again one day,” said Ash, a previous winner of the Vic Falls Enduro.
His brother Cameron said: “The Enduro is incredible and world class. The level of difficulty was so high and it shows us where we need to be and how fast we should be.”
Sharp said he had been unwell hence could not train for seven months, but commended the Enduro race for matching international standards.
“The Vic Falls Enduro has all sorts of terrain. It’s exciting and I’m impressed with my performance because I’ve been down and not riding for the past seven months because of health issues. Compared to the international scene, there is not much of a difference except that Zimbabwe has more of hobby riders while out there they are full time into the sport. We need these events to spread to Harare, Bulawayo and Matopos to help grow tourism. We also thank communities for support,” said Sharp.
Reuben Connolly, who was in charge of the junior Enduro, said the race means a lot to grassroots sport as it encourages youngsters to participate and complete in the race despite the difficulties. – @ncubeleon