In November 2017 23 women from around the world travelled to South Africa to compete for what would be six places in the International Female Teams that will attend the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy in Mongolia in June 2018. This is the story of their four-day quest. Here: Day One.
Monday 13 November, 2017
Country Trax, Amersfoort, South Africa
The BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Female Team Qualifying 2017 begins
The second BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Female Team Qualifier is underway. More than twice the size of the first (which took place in 2015), some 23 women representing 13 countries have come to the Country Trax Amersfoort enduro park (three hours north of Johannesburg) to compete over the next four days for the few select places in the International Female Team – the team that will attend the sixth BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy in Mongolia in June 2018! The participants have already competed in national qualifying events, with the top two women from each event being seeded through to this final.
But before the competition got underway, the participants this morning first travelled over 300km from Johannesburg, stopping at the Koenskop Primary School in Amersfoort where they were given a rousing reception by the the pupils who performed a series of traditional African tribal dances, before the GS Trophy participants in turn presented the 267 children with a vast supply of stationery and books for their schooling. The interaction was part of a charitable relationship between BMW, Country Trax and the local education authority, under the identity www.stationery4africa.com
Carry on camping
Shortly after that visit the participants arrived at Country Trax where they were greeted, among others, by two of the 2016 GS Trophy International Female Team, Amy Harburg and Morag Campbell who are now BMW GS Ambassadors. The meet and greet was short, though, for in the great tradition of the GS Trophy, the participants were immediately plunged into the first challenge. As with the 2015 qualifier, the first task was to erect their tents (their accommodation for the duration of the competition) and get changed into their riding gear – all against the clock. This competition was led convincingly by the Australian duo of Andrea Box and Julia McGuire.
Andrea Box: “I can’t say we practiced for this, but camping is a big part of Australian culture, so between family camping holidays and events like the GS Safari we get well practiced in pitching tents. It’s simply something we know well. It’s great to get off to a good start!”
A trio of tests
Following the camping challenge the participants quickly selected their bikes – a range of R 1200 GSs and R 1200 GS Rallye models and readied themselves for a trio of tests. The first required the participant to balance the bike – sidestand up – and walk around it twice, only touching it (keeping it balanced) with one hand. No other body part touching the bike. The second test involved running up a grass hill 25 metres (in full riding kit) the running back down, picking up their GS that was laying on its side, then riding it up the hill and stopping within a ‘stop box’. Both those tests were against the clock. The final test was a blindfold exercise, where the rider rides blindfolded up the grass hill stopping where she thinks is closest to the target stop point. Here the marking favoured those participants who stopped the closest to the target.
Thunder from above
With 23 participants to mark, these tests were being conducted in a rotation of three groups. However, a huge thunderstorm had rolled over the veldt and was battering the participants from the very start. Bravely they continued for the first rotation despite the high winds, sweeping rain and lightning strikes. Only then the storm then took on an even nastier demeanour that was positively dangerous and so the second and third rotations had to be abandoned, to be run in the morning.
Best performance before the storm stopped play, was an impressive balancing act by 22-year-old Ai Mizutani from Japan, who despite her diminutive stature was able to confidently and rapidly circumnavigate her balancing GS with consummate style and speed.
Ai Mitzutani: “It was the first time I’ve done a test like this. I was surprised myself I managed it so well. It’s finished a very enjoyable day for me; as much as I’m enjoying the competition I’m loving meeting all the other women, it’s a very special and appealing thing coming here and making friends with women riders from all over the world.”
The thunderstorm and rains continued into the night, but are expected to have passed through by the morning, where the first day’s test will be concluded before the full program of day two challenges begins. All that action and the rolling results will follow in tomorrow’s report.