TOUGHEST DAY YET BRINGS THE BIGGEST SMILES AT #GSTROPHY 2016
They say Thailand is the land of smiles and this was certainly evident today among all GS Trophy competitors, as they faced up to, and overcame their biggest riding challenges yet on a 157-kilometre sixth day that took in parts of the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail.
There was a palpable tension at breakfast this morning, as chief marshal Tomm Wolf's words were still ringing in the ears of the riders, who had been warned to expect a seriously tough, but ultimately rewarding day, where teamwork, support and intelligent riding would win the day.
It was an early departure from the bivouac at Khun Tan this morning, and with the points totals so close, there was much that could be gained – or lost – during this important penultimate day of competition.
The first Special came some 27 kilometres down the trail. And what a special! In essence a 10-kilometre single track section; in reality a two-hour slog over the roughest terrain seen yet, ridden in 37º heat and high humidity. The riders faced a never-ending succession of steep, unforgiving rock-strewn paths, trails that would be tricky enough on a small enduro bike, so a real test on a mighty BMW GS adventure bike. The top riders dazzled with their brave and often successful attacks on the climbs, but were typically forced to park their BMW GS bikes and run back down the slippery slopes to help their less fortunate team-mates – the difference between success a failure being the smallest unseen tree root, or loose rock. The themes here were camaraderie and team spirit, and only by getting all your mates to the top of the hill could points be awarded. At the top, a fair reward of a welcome rest and recovery on the shady banks of a mountain lake.
The joy expressed by the riders on reaching the top of the trail was one of the defining moments of the 2016 GS Trophy, but the competitors still had plenty of riding ahead of them, so it was 'onwards and upwards' for the next 15 kilometres, with yet another super-committing hill climb claiming yet more 'victims', until the teams arrived at the second Special – a Trophy favourite that is the towing exercise that, as ever, is harder than it looks. The task facing the teams sounded simple: use one GS to tow another up a mountain track, turn around an obstacle and come back down again, without stalling the engine, stopping or falling.
After this exhausting challenge in the searing heat, the next 100 'clicks' took the riders through a mountainous jungle region with incredible views from the endless switchbacks that demanded high levels of concentration from all. On arrival at the bivouac in picturesque Wassana Raja, there was no time for rest and relaxation, because yet another Special awaited them. 'Pit Stop' sounded simple enough and in the usual circumstances, a colour-coded triple wheel change seems fairly straightforward, but combined with the mental tiredness that comes from almost a week of intensive riding, and mistakes can easily be made, especially when the clock is running. Keeping a cool head under pressure were Team UK, whose wheel changes were the slickest by far.
The overall points were eagerly awaited this evening, and rightly so. Accompanied by a background chorus of cicadas and croaking frogs, BMW Motorrad's marshal and member of the jury Christian Pingitzer revealed the latest standings. It was unchanged in the top three, with Team South Africa, Team Germany and Team UK remaining the strongest contenders for GS Trophy honours tomorrow evening. Twenty-four hours from now, the final result will be clear.
Results BMW Motorrad Int. GS Trophy 2016 Day Six
1 South Africa - 242
2 Germany - 225
3 UK - 223
4 China - 207
5 Latin America - 205
6 CEEU - 199
7 Brazil - 188
8 USA - 187
9 France - 167
10 Argentina - 162
11 Mexico - 159
12 Italy - 156
13 Russia - 154
14 Canada - 148
15 South Korea - 137
16 South East Asia - 128
17 Japan - 108
18 International Female Team - 102
18 Alps - 102