Day Two of the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Female Team Qualifying 2017 and everything got very real – 17 hours of very real…
Tuesday 14 November, 2017
Country Trax, Amersfoort, South Africa
The BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Female Team Qualifying 2017
Day Two Review
The second day of the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Female Team Qualifier has proven to be a long and tough one. The 23 participants have been severely tested with a marathon run of challenges which started at 7am and ending at 5pm – with the prospect of more to come in the dark of the evening (weather permitting).
As well, the competition became all the more exacting today as the women were told over morning breakfast that there would be an elimination made at the end of the day. For the weakest nine participants this would be their last day in the competition. And for the 14 that stay the course, that course is only going to get progressively tougher as tomorrow the judges seek to find the toughest of the tough to send to Mongolia in June 2018. The road to BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy final will not be an easy one.
Life after the storm
The morning started briskly at 7am with the participants completing the final two challenges from yesterday’s order (which had been abandoned due to a storm). It was only after an hour and half of competition that the women were allowed to sit for breakfast.
After the shock of hearing the pending elimination, the balance of the morning would offer no letup as no fewer than six challenges were to be completed, and now under a blazing sun with high humidity. Certainly this competition isn’t just a skills test, but a test of endurance, too.
The six tests included a slalom course through deep sand, which saw the fittest and most technically practiced shine. The fastest competitors were using speed and technique – not to mention some bravery as the front wheel could dive into the deep sand and bring about an abrupt and sometimes painful stop.
A series of log mazes also tested the participants’ throttle control and balance. ‘Log park’ called for trials riding technique and only the winners here stayed feet up. Meanwhile ‘Dirk Roetes’ Garden’ demanded sliding turns as the switchbacks were narrower than the turning circle of a GS.
Finally there was another bike-rider coordination challenge as the participants had to guide their bikes through a figure of eight while stood beside it, supporting it with with only one hand on the clutch-side handlebar.
In the afternoon the participants left the parcours area for a tour of Country Trax’s 600 hectares. Along the way they encountered a steep hill climb challenge that had been created by the enduro park’s creator, Jan du Toit, using a bulldozer! The trail ride turned out to be just a warm-up, as the competitors were surprised to find they would be split into two groups and take part in two time trials.
With a Le Mans type start the competitors ran to their bikes, donned their helmet and gloves and set off for a long lap following a trail around the farm’s hillside. Overtaking was controlled, only being allowed on straights and on the right hand side after sounding a horn-warning to the participant in front. Observed dangerous riding would attract a penalty. With tight trails the speeds were restricted too.
Falls at the finish
In the first heat Linda Steyn led Ezelda van Jaarveld to a South African 1-2, but only after French rival Sonia Barbot, in the lead, slipped off just two corners from the finish. In the second heat Julia Maguire took the finish ahead of fellow Aussie Andrea Box for an Australian 1-2, but there again only after Andrea had slipped off, again within sight of the finish!
Linda Steyn described the excitement of such a challenge: ‘I managed to get away from the start first but Sonia was in my mirrors all the time. She got past near the end of the lap, but I saw she nearly fell in the next corner and in the one following she ran into mud and did fall, gifting me the win. The whole challenge felt like a calculated risk, you wanted to do well as at this point of the competition you need every point, but you had to ride carefully as this was a tricky course and while a slip off was unlikely to result in injury you don’t need to be picking up a GS alone on a remote corner! It was a lot of fun.’
France’s Sonia Barbot nonetheless had enjoyed a successful day, placing high in the day’s challenges overall: ‘I really enjoyed today, I’ve never done challenges like this before and it was really hard, but I learnt as I went and just did my best, and I did well so I’m very happy. I loved the time trial too, I really wanted to set a good time but after passing Linda I ran into mud and the bike skidded, I got it up and made fourth best time in my group so it wasn’t so bad!’
The Elimination Game
Finally, after dinner the results of the two days’ competition were announced to the participants. There was excitement for those who are going through to day three and disappointment for those that are not. The qualifying women were then tempering their excitement with empathy for their fellow less fortunate competitors. Having bonded so well over the last two days this is a band of sisters who are always looking out for each other.
Stefan Boshoff, the event’s marshall empathised with the eliminated competitors.
‘It’s very hard to tell those competitors that they’ve not made the cut, it’s something you don’t want to do, but we must remember the reason we are here – to find the strongest competitors. And as tomorrow we have to make the challenges tougher to be able to say with certainty who’s the best, then it’s safer to retire those that will struggle.’
And that final challenge tonight? That’s under wraps for now, and with the weather threatening thunderstorms tonight we’ll have to wait and see if this can go ahead.
Standings after day two:
Proceeding to day three:
1. Ezelda van Jaasveld (South Africa); 2. Julia Maguire (Australia); 3. Sonia Barbot (France); 4. Linda Steyn (South Africa); 5. Jocelin Snow (USA); 6. Bettina Nedel (USA); 7. Marion Linder (Germany); 8. Louise Hodgkinson (UK); 9. Stephanie Schinkel (Mexico); 10. Leticia Benitez (Mexico); 11. Jessica Leyne (France); 12. Gritt Ahrens (Germany); 13. Khai Zabidin (Malaysia); 14. Andrea Box (Australia).
15. Ai Mizutani (Japan); 16. Valerie Heroux (Canada); 17. Camila Mejia (Colombia); 18. Sun Renhui (China); 19. Wanwisa Phirom (Thailand); 20. Kirsty Hodges (UK); 21. Louise Mitchell (Canada); 22. Xiaomin Li (China); 23 Yoshida Miko (Japan).
Day Two Photo Gallery