Last weekend, March 14-16, the Latin America Regional Qualification for the 2014 International GS Trophy took place in Colombia. With riders representing Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru, there was emotion, adrenaline, endurance, skills and a whole lot of fun packed into the two days of friendly competition.
Pre-qualifying tournaments in each country had already produced a shortlist of 15 of the best ‘national’ riders to go forward to this regional competition that would then determine the final three lucky participants who will represent Latin America at the 2014 International GS Trophy in Canada in September.
The venue for the Regional Qualifier was the Llano Grande Club Campestre, located in Rio Negro just 25 miles (40 km) from the city of Medellin, Colombia. Nestled among hills and homesteads, the high-end sports resort was the ideal place to host the adventure, as there are many miles of trails to explore, with plenty of water crossings, and even enduro, motocross and technical tracks to enjoy.
The Colombian MINI Air crew picked up the riders upon arrival at the airport. When they arrived at the resort, sponsored full camping kits were handed to each competitor, who was then instructed to set up camp by the ski lagoon. It was then time to officially open the event, with two days of competition to look forward to in the spectacular scenic surroundings of Rio Negro, where the riders would have to overcome several special tests to show their team spirit, organizational and leadership skills.
On the Saturday, participants were tested on their ability to work together and find their way through a complicated and challenging navigation trial. The required technical riding, coordination and team organization skills necessary to get through the 37 miles (60km) of the road book, started to bring out the best in the strongest competitors.
Tired, but enthused by the first activity of the day, the riders then faced an enduro course that ended with an almost vertical drop of 65 feet (20 meters), leading them to the motocross track to prove their ability on the bikes. The falling rain played its part in the competition, making every test slippery, harder, yet lots of fun – at least for those watching!
On the Saturday afternoon, the technical and teamwork tests took place at the resort. Starting with the technical test at the horse racing track. Keeping with the theme of having fun on the bikes, the next challenge of the day was a penalty tournament, where kicking a football and scoring a goal would give extra points to each rider.
The day came to an end with a rafting competition, where participants had to take a GS bike across water on board a bamboo raft, although there was a special trick in store. The raft had a keel in the opposite direction to the bike, making it almost impossible to advance, much to the amusement of the spectators, if not the competitors!
At night, the crew and riders enjoyed a special dinner by the bonfire, where former GS Trophy contestant Alberto Caceres shared his experience of the prestigious international competition and offered advice to the potential winners, all of whom were hoping that it would be them who would be celebrating victory the next day…
On the Sunday, it was up to individual riders to show their ability in a variety of complex tests, with 10 trials that required bike control skills. At this point, the riders were visibly exhausted, but the potential prize on offer was motivation enough to keep spirits high, and keep them going just that little bit longer.
In the end, the regional qualifying competition drew to a close and the three winners were announced late on the Sunday afternoon. Having the honor of representing Latin America in the forthcoming International GS Trophy finals will be Andrés Camilo Patiño from Colombia, Alejandro Gómez from Costa Rica and Esteban Ferrer from Colombia.
Although there could only be three winners chosen to go forward to the finals, all participants and spectators that made the journey to Colombia to enjoy the regional qualifier had a great time and shared in the unique atmosphere of community and camaraderie present whenever GS riders get together. The pleasure of competing in a variety of team exercises, adventures and challenges over the course of the weekend was without a doubt an unforgettable experience for not only the contestants, but also for those spectators who came to support their friends and family.