FOR THE GS TROPHY
t’s 7.30am, but I’ve been up since 4. My tent is packed away and its time to try and force down some breakfast much to the disgust of my nerve-filled, nausea-overwhelmed body. This is day one of the South East Asia BMW GS Trophy and what I don’t know yet is just how epic the next week of my life is going to be….
Ahead lie seven consecutive days of competition. They will include over 750 miles of hard, technical off-road riding onboard a 238kg BMW R1200GS. I’ll be riding eight to 12 hours a day and within that there will be 18 Special Tests all of which will take place deep in the jungle of Northern Thailand where the temperature will spike at 37.5° Celsius. I’ll be sleeping in a tent and grabbing no more than five to six hours kip a night and just in case I’m not feeling the pressure I’m part of the four-man team representing the UK and we’re up against 18 other determined and highly motivated teams from around the globe including South Africa, Germany, Argentina, China, Japan, Russia and the USA to name a few.
My nerves aren’t being helped by what I see when I scan my eyes around the assembly area looking at the other competitors. The Argentinian team look full factory, a combination of youth and experience each with their beautiful custom-painted Argentinian flag helmets. Team Mexico has some hotshot 18-year-old plus a rider that resembles a bull, capable of picking a GS up by himself if needed. Then there are the
IRussians, big, young, strong and serious. The Germans look purposeful and organised to the extreme with the South Africans fit and confident.
I then make the mistake of speaking to the one of the riders from the Italian team - Francesco. Like me he’s the embedded journalist in his team, but unlike me – he raced Dakar this year! He goes on to tell me about his team, how they are all competing in the National championship in either Motocross or Enduro. I turn to look at the UK team and it doesn’t help my nerves. Made up of James Berrill, Oliver Twigg and Gordon Blackley and me - put bluntly we look decidedly average. There are no factory paintjobs on our helmets, no teen superstar and no serious muscle. In fact looking around at all the other teams we’re physically the smallest and that includes the international women’s only team!
But if there is one thing I’ve learned from a life in motorcycling – you should never, ever judge a book by its cover! I know these UK boys can ride, Simon Pavey (seven-time Dakar finisher) and his team told me so after they beat the other 300 Brits in a two-day selection process to get the chance to represent the UK at this event.
And while I might be having a crisis in confidence, my new team-mates look genuinely unfazed, standing proud with a combination of hunger and belief burning deep in their eyes. They’ve earned the right to be here and they’re not about to let the opportunity slip through their fingers.