The GS Trophy headed east today, all the way over the Mozambique border to the Indian Ocean, making for a grueling 300 km (186 mile) ride over nine hours in temperatures as high as 34ºC (93ºF). With the final 30 km (19 miles) of the course comprising a very technical deep sand track special test, it was a day that tested the rider’s endurance, as well as riding skills. At the end of it all the Nordic team stood on top to take the day’s win. Team UK played consistently to extend their lead in the overall standings, but behind them the competition has closed up significantly with second to fourth place separated by just two points.
The day started with a wake-up call to the camped riders at 5:30 a.m. — although most were already awake and making their preparations. It was a short ride from the Mlilwane Game Reserve to the first special test, where the riders were challenged to tow a dead-engine bike up a meadow, then over a river crossing and up a hill, a total distance of about three kilometers (almost two miles). Here the Nordic team was incredibly dynamic, if not to say rapid, beating off their nearest competitor by half a minute.
The long ride to the finish through beautiful countryside saw the competitors riding increasingly tough tracks until they reached the second special test, the 30 km (19 mile) deep sand stage that led to the day’s destination, a small oceanfront village known as Ponta do Ouro. The teams entered the test in pairs (eight riders) and it was a requirement of the test that each team helped the other where needed, for if any member of either team failed to complete the stage then that would compromise the points for both teams. All teams completed the test successfully.
“In the towing — the guys were really flying; I had a hard time to keep up with them (the third rider followed the towing pair). The start was slow but they kept going up the gears. It was quite crazy to see what was happening; they were sliding everywhere but they just went all out, they did a great job,” said Jussi Ali-Lekkala of Team Nordic. “The riding today was really nice and in the sand I think I learned something. I had three fall-downs and after that I learned it. To arrive here at the ocean was amazing, something we enjoyed together as a team.”
Leading after the third day of riding, Kevin Hammond of Team UK said, “We had a good test in the towing. We went first and put the line in that the others followed, we hit a big rock on the hill and this bent the brake lever on the towed bike, jamming the rear brake on so we were skidding up the hill. We were using our trials skills again, feeling for the grip. We absolutely loved the sand special test, we could have gone back and done that all over again. Seeing the Indian Ocean when we arrived was fantastic, that incredible blue water together with the first cold beer of the day, it was fantastic. And to top it all today was my 50th birthday. It doesn’t get any better – easily the best day yet.”
Special Test Results
Towing a bike: 1st Team Nordic, 2nd Team Alps, 3rd Team UK
Sand: 15 points per team (all finished)
Team South Africa were true gentlemen
The South African team were paired with the Japanese for the sand test. With the Japanese having no experience of riding deep sand it was then a tough job of chaperoning their fellow competitors to the end of the day. Even by the Japanese riders’ own estimation they crashed a lot. “The deep sand was very hard, I have to say many times a heartfelt thank you to the South African riders, we could not have arrived here without their help. They were true gentlemen, ” said Shigechika Aikawa.
Team Alps: on the up at last
Team Alps has struggled to make an impression on the competition until today, in the towing test, when they took second fastest time. “It was a nice surprise for us to get second in the special test, we knew we were fast but this is still a nice result for us. I drove with Christophe (Muri) behind. I rode with safety in mind but he still said I towed him like a ski-lift! Now we are in eighth place in the rankings, but I think we need more riding challenges — that’s my specialty,” said Bernhard Schmidtmayr.
We’re struggling to be a team, admits Italy
Team Italy is languishing in ninth place in the standings despite some incredible displays of riding skill. Every team that has shared a day’s ride with the Italian squad have come away impressed, admiring their speed and skill. But why hasn’t this translated into special stage success? Marco Selvetti (Team Italy’s journalist) said, “It is true, we are super fast — when we are not in the special tests! Unfortunately we are having problems as a team. Today in the towing Marco (De Muri) didn’t have a good feeling, he wasn’t happy about being towed and in the river crossing he crashed hard. He hit his helmet and he said he didn’t want to go again. We had a very difficult 10 minutes talking together, but at the end we understood we are a group, not several single persons, and we understood the importance of that. We understood that we can still have nice event, we can have fun, look at the landscapes and enjoy the tests – we are still in the competition to the end of the event. So our afternoon today was beautiful, we had a lot of fun in the sand, every rider stays safe and when we arrive at the finish they have a big smile. This, I think, is the most important thing.”
Overall standings after Stage 3:
1. UK, 73pts
2. Germany, 61
2. Nordic, 61
4. South Africa, 60
5. Canada, 59
6. Spain, 53
7. USA, 46
8. Alps, 44
9. Italy, 39
10. Japan, 27