BMW GS Trophy: Africa Day 7

2010 GS Trophy: Day 7

On the final day of the BMW GS Trophy the participants emerged from their tents to a perfect day. The sun was shining, warming the African air, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

A tacit sentimentality permeated the atmosphere, this being the final official day of the Trophy. People seemed aware that the fun was coming to an end. That said, everyone was focused on the morning’s activities, which contained the final special challenge of the event; the trials course.

The previous night at dinner, after emptying a number of bottles of wine, which put everyone in a mood for laughter, the organizers concocted an after dinner challenge; a rice eating contest. The rules were simple enough, each team had to empty a bowl of rice with only one set of chopsticks between them.

Needless to say the Japanese pretty much stomped the field with a cultural advantage in the art of using chopsticks. They power chopped their way to an easy victory. As for the rest of us the competition quickly deteriorated into a laugh fest, heightened by the fact that a person can only laugh so much with a mouth full of rice before expunging the contents.

Plenty of cheating went unpunished by the refs, with clumps of rice being clandestinely shoveled onto the floor, the marshals too plagued with hysterics to enforce any degree of order. It didn’t really matter however, as the event wasn’t official.

We were back to business this morning. The competitors gathered to walk the Country Trax trials course; a demanding series of difficult tasks that included tight turns, various terrain and obstacles, tricks, etc.

The difficulty was added to by virtue of the riders having to use a GS 1200. After riding all week on an F 800 GS, the 1200 was a slightly different beast, given that no one was allowed any adjustment time.

This was the type of test most of the riders were keen on; straight ahead display of riding ability. It was one man at a time on the course, allowing teammates to walk along offering encouragement and advice.

This was another prime example of the GS Trophy’s environment of friendly competition, as the other countries would momentarily set aside their individual interests to lend support with a lot of applause and whistles of congrats. The rooting came not only to reward success but equally-and perhaps more poignantly-to encourage whenever a rider landed themselves on the ground.

This is the true spirit of the Trophy; camaraderie among riders, despite nationality.
By the end of the trials challenge the teams were quietly tallying the points and taking educated guesses at where they stood. However, everyone would have to wait until after the day’s trek back to the Touratech center in Johannesburg and the evening’s dinner and presentation to learn who had officially won the GS Trophy.

The GS Trophy entourage then departed Country Trax and headed toward Joburg. The landscape was gradually transformed from country to city as we transitioned from dirt roads, to potholed pavement, and finally onto the major roads that landed us back at the starting point. Seven days. A lifetime of experiences and memories and a slate of new-found friends.

As each team came into the Touratech complex they received the checkered flag, officially signaling the end. The bikes, our personalized Touratech F 800 GS machines were parked and the engines shut off. I think everyone felt a twang of sentimentality as they slid off their mechanical companions for the last time.

With everyone showered and shaved, with garden hoses taking the collected African dust and grime off riding gear, we repaired to the big tent for dinner. The tables became a gradually intoxicated din of recollections, funny tales, bragging, and the ever-present barrage of "what ifs?"

In the end, it was the English who prevailed in the 2010 GS Trophy by the narrowest of margins; a single point. The South Africans, finishing second, were certainly mulling over how they might have faired had any one of the week’s challenges simply gone a little differently. And trailing just two points behind them, the Nordic team was probably doing the same. The Americans came back strong from a few mishaps early in the week to finish a respectable fifth.

All in all however, there were only a lot of smiles and congratulatory handshakes all around. The English, who referred to themselves as two farmers and a plasterer, stood as examples of what the GS Trophy is all about; an opportunity for hobbyist off-roaders to get treated with a degree of celebrity and be granted a once in a lifetime experience to be part of an international competition.

Although technically an amateur event, the Trophy is presented as a top-tier competition on par with the best-run professional events anywhere. The Trophy provides a platform for regular people to feel like a true pro, to escape from their normal routines and enjoy some genuine camaraderie with an international slate of talented, passionate riders.

As the evening drew to a close I noticed that in contrast to the first night, when the teams tended to sit together, tonight the dining tables were a deep mix of nationalities as riders from all over the globe traded seats to visit with members of opposing teams, all engaged in sincere attempts at a common language. Business cards and e-mail addresses were exchanged into the wee hours.

The next morning dawned with a portion of the tent village gone. Some of the riders and journalists had been booked on early morning flights and were already gone, disappearing, unnoticed, pre-dawn.

For the rest of us with evening flights the day became a lazy clean-up, drying out our wet, smelly clothes (accumulated over the week) in the hot African sun. As the competitors were relaxing with a sense of accomplishment the journalists were all mulling over how we were going to try and capture the essence of the event for our various outlets.

The aim, ultimately, was spreading the word and doing the event justice, hoping to put readers in the rider’s seat for a little vicarious living through the competitors of the 2010 GS Trophy. Who knows, maybe even inspire riders with a passion for adventure riding to seek out the next round of the BMW Challenge in their country and go for a spot on their nation’s team in 2012 GS Trophy.

2010 GS Trophy Final Positions
1. United Kingdom 152
2. South Africa 151
3. Nordic 149
4. Canada 124
5. USA 107
6. Alps 105
7. Spain 101
8. Germany 95
9. Italy 86
10. Japan 54

I would like to personally thank BMW and Touratech for giving me the experience of a lifetime. Look for the forthcoming feature and build list for the Touratech GS Trophy F 800 GS.

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 1

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 2

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 3

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 4

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 5

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 6

2010 BMW GS Trophy: Day 7

In this series about the 2010 BMW GS Trophy, follow Ultimate MotorCycling writer Jeff Buchanan day-by-day as he takes on Africa aboard the venerable F 800 GS motorcycle. Each of the 10 countries competing had an embedded journalist and Buchanan was invited by BMW North America to ride with the U.S. enduro team.