After four days of traveling predominantly west and south on its seven-day loop of Thailand’s Golden Triangle region, the 2016 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy headed in an easterly direction for the first time today. A grueling 170-mile (270-km), nine-hour ride from Mae Sariang to Khun Tan in scorching temperatures, interspersed with the usual series of special stages, kept participants in the hunt for precious points.
After two days bivouaced at Mae Sariang, it was back to life on the road today with the riders striking camp early, enjoying a hot breakfast, filling their hydration systems to the brim with water (and mineral additives) and then grabbing a lunch bag to stow in their tail packs. With a long day’s ride ahead, it was vital to put some miles behind them while the sun was still low in the sky.
Making progress was the order of the day if the finish was to be reached before sundown – and it was close. Early trails were slow, technical single-track through a proverbial jungle, with precipitous descents and tricky climbs.
As with every day, the riders were exploring remote regions, repeatedly passing traditional stilt-house villages, every ride-through creating a mayhem of scattering dogs, chickens, ducks, pigs – and even buffalo. Later the trail became more open but hard-pack clay with washouts, rocks and dusted with loose stone made the riding both exacting and tiring. Hour after hour this continued, through remote valleys and along the ridges of 5,000-foot (1500-m) high mountains with only the special tests to break the never-ending effort.
After four hours of riding and just 50 miles (85km) traveled, the competitors arrived at the first Special of the day. ‘Big Buffalo’ was a relay exercise where each team rider needed to ride fast and then make a sharp turn (to avoid the buffalo of course!) before returning to the start line to tag their teammate. When the times were added up, Team South Africa were clear winners and showed the rest of the competitors exactly how to avoid a painful encounter with the famous Thai water buffalo.
Another 60 miles (100km) of scenic but tough riding led to the next test situated at the entrance to the Obluang National Park. This was a navigation test where the teams were given a GPS unit and a waypoint. If entered into the GPS correctly, this led to another waypoint. Each waypoint was rewarded by a letter and the next waypoint destination. When the teams had located all the waypoints and collected all the letters, they could then join them together to form the word to give to the marshal – proof they’d correctly found all waypoints – and the clock could then be stopped.
The teams who had practiced navigation exercises in advance were quick to complete this Special, while some of the others could be seen scratching their heads and searching the undergrowth for vital clues. Fitness played a part, too, because running around a steep, wooded valley in full riding gear in temperatures in the high 90s (30s C) certainly took its toll. Not so for Team UK, who were the quickest in this information gathering exercise.
After again filling their hydration packs, the riders set off as they still had another 60 miles (100km) to go until arriving at the bivouac. The sun had descended behind the mountains as the leading group of riders rolled up to camp, while the later arrivals needed their flashlights in order to pitch their tents.
Perhaps the most eagerly-awaited announcement at dinner was the result of the second photo competition, where precious points were ‘up for grabs’ depending on how successfully the teams had engaged with their communities following the GS Trophy from back home. A massive 41,561 votes were cast in the short window of opportunity, with newcomers Team China winning the second competition with an impressive 7,603 fans rating their picture as the favorite. All photos and votes can be viewed at www.gstrophy.com.
Of course, the points of the day were also announced and showing studied consistency, it was South Africa who still led the way over Germany and the UK. Just 27 points separate the top five, so the 2016 GS Trophy is still very much there for the taking. With two days of competition remaining, the teams that keep a cool head under pressure have a real chance to take the title back home with them.
Results BMW Motorrad Int. GS Trophy 2016 Day Five:
1 South Africa 214 pts.
2 Germany 200 pts.
3 UK 194 pts.
4 Latin America 190 pts.
5 China 187 pts.
6 CEEU 178 pts.
7 Brazil 177 pts.
8 USA 163 pts.
9 Mexico 147 pts.
10 Argentina 144 pts.
11 France 141 pts.
12 Russia 138 pts.
13 Italy 133 pts.
14 Canada 126 pts.
15 South Korea 120 pts.
16 South East Asia 101 pts.
17 Japan 94 pts.
18 International Female Team 89 pts.
19 Alps 83 pts.