Canada is the latest of many countries to select team riders to represent their nation at the upcoming BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy in November this year. Because Canada is so large and the geographical layout of the country makes it such a challenge for customers to travel thousands of miles east and west for such events, it was necessary to implement a unique Canadian GS trophy team selection process.
A GS Challenge in the West (the Rocky Mountain GS Challenge) was hosted last year, where one of the three team members was chosen. Then, a GS Challenge in the East (the Quebec GS Challenge) took place over the second weekend in June, where the second team member was chosen. The third and final team member will be decided on August 26 at the 2012 Rocky Mountain GS Challenge and Trophy Qualifier.
The 2012 Quebec GS Challenge and GS Trophy Qualifier marked the introduction of the new GS Challenge format in Canada. The event was hosted by Charles Gref, President of Montreal dealership, Moto Internationale, which is well known for its many off-road GS activities. Both off-road and on-road riders, however, were invited to take part in this latest event.
The three-day event started Friday evening with a ‘meet and greet’ and general briefing, followed by the introduction of some special guests who are very well known in the worldwide off-road and training community. Tomm Wolf, Simon Pavey and Joe Stather were on hand to guide the participants through the weekend.
The participants woke up to big blue skies on Saturday morning which set the tone for the day. More than 50 GS enthusiasts were split into four groups and were assigned certain tasks. Both on-road and off-road groups enjoyed the same route for the first part of the challenge and shared in several skills stations, including slalom tests, Tree Line Trekking, kayaking, blindfolded taste testing, river crossing with a water glass on a tray, and more. By lunchtime the two groups separated and the road group continued with some specific tasks, while the off-road group headed out to the forest trails.
The off-road group consisted of both Trophy qualifiers and enthusiasts who were there to enjoy the Challenge, but not to participate in Sunday’s final selection procedure. The trail sections included multiple stations which participants had to reach in order to get their road books stamped. Those who wanted to try to qualify for the Sunday Trophy event had to complete three ‘double diamond’ stages.
Both groups arrived back at the starting location and enjoyed a well deserved barbecue to celebrate the conclusion of the GS Challenge. Winners would be announced the following day at the end of the GS Trophy Qualifier.
Sunday dawned with the opportunity for just one skilled winner of the qualifier getting the chance to join the Canadian team at the 2012 GS Trophy in Argentina and Chile. From the previous day, 15 competitors had ‘made the cut’ for the qualifier. The road riding group, as well as many other spectators stayed on to cheer all the participants, who would compete on F800GS Trophy models provided by BMW Motorrad Canada.
The day’s test stations had been designed by the special guests Tomm, Simon, and Joe, who know more than most about what constitutes a difficult and demanding challenge! The selection criteria was not just about choosing a rider with strong riding skills; equally important would be good judgment, physical stamina and the ability to work together cohesively with his or her two other Canadian teammates.
The first test was a race on foot through the woods and over a river to capture a number and then return to the starting point to capture another number. The combination of the two decided how many points you would get, so it was all about pacing yourself. Inevitably, some of those who started too quickly soon found themselves falling back on the return portion.
The next test was a time trial around a grass track where the participants had to ride as quickly as possible around the track, however penalty points were awarded if either the front wheel or the rear wheel left the ground over the hills and jumps. This test of controlled riding at speed would trim the group of 15 down to the final eight riders.
The first test for the final group of eight was to walk the motorcycle through a tight track with a deep trench. The timed test was done in teams of two and would require both teamwork and judgment as riders had to work together and decide the best strategy to clear the obstacles.
Next up was the first ‘extreme’ riding test, which consisted of a difficult tight and twisty track that went through a river and up and down steep hills. Speed was not the issue here – it was all about control of the motorcycle, as the rider was penalized if he touched the track-edge ribbons or put his feet down.
This was followed by another physical endurance test, where riders had to carry a rucksack of tools and an Adventure touring case full of rocks over a river, through the woods and back across the river again – all against the clock. The final test in the woods was a trials style riding test, which was not timed but carefully watched by the judges for any signs of touching ribbons or putting feet down. This was all about balance and skill, with penalties given for any infractions.
The final test of the day was a traditional barrel race using motorcycles, which proved to be the most exciting for the spectators. It turned out to be a fast-paced event which truly tested the endurance of the riders right at the end of a full day of difficult and exhausting tests.
At the completion of the seven stages a clear winner emerged and it was Marc Andre Octeau who had earned himself the right to represent Canada at the International GS Trophy event later this year. Marc Andre now joins the winner of the 2011 Rocky Mountain GS Challenge – Darius Rylander – and they will make up two-thirds of the Canadian team.
All in all, it was an extremely successful and enjoyable event for everyone that participated or watched, according to Director of BMW Motorrad Canada, Norm Wells, who said, “This new GS Challenge format proved to be very exciting for both on- and off-road riders and brought the two groups closer together in experiencing the BMW Motorrad brand. Everyone left with big smiles and discussions about next’s year’s event are already taking place.
“Interestingly, our winner Marc Andre Octeau was also the winner of the 2010 GS Challenge to qualify for South Africa. However his wife was due to give birth at the time of the Trophy so he had to relinquish his position. There were tears of joy from both Marc Andre and his wife, as he knew what he had missed out on the first time around. She’s pregnant again but due in August this time so he’s been given the green light to go to South America!”
Mike Lewis provides this video of the event, narrated in French, on YouTube: