FOR THE GS TRO­PHY

Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Michael Guy MCN SPORTS EDI­TOR

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.

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