PHOTOS: Vanessa Blankenagel, Markus Jahn & Amelie Mesecke
OFF THE RECORD…
The bach at Punakaiki Beach had been a winner, for a few hours a little haven of respite from the hectic rush of the Trophy. Every night when my head hit whatever pillow it was instant lights out and every morning at 5:00 it was all go again.
Day six was a long one, a big miles day. It was also a day of urgent catch-up after we’d decamped by a lake shore on a dirt road that turned out to be optional – only two teams chose to ride it, so we had a long wait for nothing, followed by a concerted push to catch up with the pack. We did stop briefly for a coffee at the Otira Gorge where I found a book on life in the gorge at the turn of the 20th century, with stunning photography. Only at $65 I couldn’t bring myself to indulge (I’m kicking myself now).
Otira Gorge was not a good place for photographer Amelie (aka Amy). Just after she took the image of the viaduct/bridge you see right she stepped back, tripped on a rock and ripped the tendons on her heel. Seriously painful – I thought I knew a bit about pain with my knee but Amy experienced real pain. The GS Trophy doc, Thomas, strapped her up – the tears were running down her face – and incredibly with the support of a plastic boot she carried on.
The high plains of Canterbury were stunning with giant rock formations so stunning they defied mid-day photography, only sunrise or sunset could set them in the light needed to show their relief. I like the plain, you see bits of it in the Lord of the Rings films but there’s a local artist by the name of Grahame Sydney who for years has captured this and the wider Otago region in stunning compositions (do look him up).
We stopped but briefly at the lunch point so as to make a mad dash to get to one of the key water crossings ahead of the riders. We made it just in time to see the lead group tackle it – both female teams riding together. They rode it handsomely. We wanted to shoot the far side of the river, too, but short of a swim it seemed unlikely we could get there, until the Dutch team of giants arrived and carried both Vanessa and myself over (see video)!
From there it was a short ride to the camp on the shore of Lake Tekapo where the setting and rising sun put on an incredible show (which we’ll share tomorrow).
JB’s BMW REPORT… Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.
If day five of the 2020 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy had been upscaled, then day six was simply super-sized. The GS riders crossed the South Island west to east, riding 440km over mountain passes and along the Canterbury Plain to reach Lake Tekapo, in the foothills of the Southern Alps, in the early evening. Along the way they encountered yet more mountain tracks, made multiple river crossings and, as Team Middle East were keen to point out, they’d been through that famous Kiwi experience: four seasons in one day.
The GS Trophy riders started the day as they always do, with a 5:30am call to breakfast ready for a 7am start. They then enjoyed a dawn ride along the west coast, heading south from Punakaiki Beach toward the port town of Greymouth. The one test of the day came early, just half an hour from the start. In ‘Rent-a-Ride’ the teams were challenged to ride a trials course twice, with two different riders recording as near as identical times as they could manage. With no timing devices permitted it came down to the third member of the team to pace the riders. At the same time, of course, they needed to ride the course immaculately with no footing or stops. And as part of the course was also submerged, it was a tricky enterprise start-to-finish.
Test finished, the GS riders passed through the Victorian gold rush town of Greymouth (which latterly became a port, and a farming and timber town, although these days tourism is an equal contributor to the economy). From here the GS riders turned inland, taking Arthurs Pass to cross the mountains and enter the Canterbury Plain, although first came the Canterbury High Country where dramatic limestone escarpments rose tall in testament to the significant seismic activity that regularly reshapes the South Island.
Gravel roads then brought the GS riders across the gentler Canterbury Plain where, for the first time on this cross-islands adventure, arable farming mixed with pastoral as sheep and cows grazed next to fields of wheat and barley – a gentle calm beauty after the drama of the mountains. After a late lunch in Geraldine, the GS riders then took to the hills again, riding through the sheep stations of the Mackenzie Country where they found technical riding in the rocky climbs and descents and challenge in the many water crossings, as rocks and loose stone unseated more than a few.
The day ended at Lake Tekapo, located almost plumb centre of the South Island. The lake is in fact a reservoir built in the 1970s – it takes its sparkling blue-green hue from the silica found in the glacial waters that feed it – and is part of an extensive hydro scheme that provides New Zealand with 85% of its total energy needs. Along with energy taken from geo-thermal sources, New Zealand is close to achieving a total renewable, sustainable energy supply.
With riders arriving in camp after 6pm it had been another 11 hour riding day. Although only one test was completed the riders were more than happy given the challenge of the day’s riding and the never-ending spectacular scenery.
Jorge Osorio, Team Middle East:
“What an amazing day! We start with a nice test, very technical. Then we rode up the mountain pass, we saw massive slopes with waterfalls and a huge viaduct – and shivered in the falling temperature! The views were like we’ve never seen before – beautiful. And then we came to this amazing off-road route where we crossed glacial rivers and were riding up really technical climbs, it was amazing. And through it all we got to experience what the Kiwi’s call ‘four seasons in one day’, we had the cold, the rain and now the sunshine. Incredible.”
Gleb Koltsov, Team Russia:
“I came here as the team journalist but after we lost one of riders due to visa issues I’ve become a participant too! And making me a participant is like an adventure – a real adventure – because I didn’t expect to be here in this situation; I didn’t prepare, I’d never ridden the BMW F 850 GS before. So now I’m doing every challenge, it’s a real challenge for me – and very exciting, if exhausting when I have to write my story every evening. Today, we’ve had a typical day for us – where we start the first test with a fail! But after that we relax and feel the emotions of the ride. Today was a great route. Our marshal, Jean-Luc took us on the toughest route, with big hills and so many river crossings, this has probably made it the best day of the trip so far. So thank you to Jean-Luc, it’s been amazing.”
Isabela Londono Rivas, Team Int. Female Team I:
“Today was incredible. Very long, 440km I think, with a spectacular route with gravel, rocks, hills, lots of river crossings and all the time the views were amazing. Today we rode together with the second international female team and being the first to leave in the morning we made it our joint mission to make it first to the camp at the end of the day. And we did this. So okay, it’s not a race – but we won!”
BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2020
Day Six overall standings:
1 South Africa 277
2 France 266
3 Italy 247
4 South Korea 233
5 Russia 212
6 Netherlands 208
7 Brazil 205
8 Australia 192
9 USA 190
10 Argentina 186
11 Middle East 186
12 Latin America 185
13 Nordic 168
14 Mexico 165
15 UK 164
16 Japan 151
17 India 141
18 Malaysia 141
19 Thailand 136
20 Int. Female Team I 108
21 North Africa 106
22 Int. Female Team II 58