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Chiang Dao to Pai – 180km
Under the glare of the TV cameras and assembled media, the 2016 South East Asia BMW GS Trophy kicked off in style and with each kilometre travelled the sickening nerves dissipate, replaced by elation at the imminent adventure.
Unexpected rain meant a slight tweak to the planned route, but it gave the added benefit of giving us the chance to see and soak-up Thailand’s rich culture. From Buddhist temples to hill tribe villages, wandering elephants and lounging water buffalo – it was a fast track insight into the beautiful country.
But within two hours the first Special Test was upon us. These unique challenges define the event and ultimately decide the winner. Points are awarded to each team with first position receiving 20 points, second place 19 points, third position 18 and so on. And the first Special Test was a tough one. Named ‘The Broken Bridge’ each team had to manhandle two GSS up a collapsed concrete bridge before having to launch it off a one metre high drop, descend another step and then push it to the finish line.
Although on paper, Team UK lacked brute force, as a team we weren’t short of ideas, technique or belief. Working like a team that had been together for years, not minutes, we were measured in our approach and disciplined in our execution setting the fourth fastest time of 1m26s for both bikes ahead of the majority of big man power teams.
The second challenge was a threerider slow race with each rider timed over a set distance and their times combined – the team with the highest time was declared the winner.
Team UK finished once again rose to the challenge to finish fourth. That gave us a surprise placing of second overall, exceeding our early target to be running in the top ten.
Pai to Mae Hong Son – 170km
For day two, Team UK were paired with day one winners, Argentina. Riding with them added an extra level of intensity, but while the scorching temperatures and technical trials like single tracks on the way to the site of a crashed helicopter got to our hot- headed rivals, Team UK stayed calm to produce another solid display.
With three special tests that included a quiz, a three man enduro style race and a tough challenge where three bikes had to be pushed and then reversed in a straight line against the clock, Team UK held their own once again.
Identifying early that the GS Trophy was not about winning every stage and that consistency would be key, we focused on staying calm – a tactic that paid dividends and resulted in us retaining second place behind new leaders South Africa while early leaders Argentina slumped to seventh.
Our results and position in the overall standings only fuelled our belief. Our rivals had begun looking at us differently and when a veteran member of the BMW organisation whispered in our ear during dinner that his money was on us for overall victory – the pressure was on.
Mae Hong Son to Mae Sariang – 265km
With pressure comes expectation, and while Team UK had been the definition of discipline, day three was our day to wobble. Three more special tests meant that there were big points up for grabs. The first challenge was another random quiz where we secured a solid result. The second test was a braking test, the type of challenge the skilled UK team should have excelled at, but a small mistake dropped us down the order, losing valuable points. The third test was the result of a photo competition. Each team had to take a picture and then get as many votes as possible for it on the Gstrophy website. Team UK managed an impressive 592 votes, but fell well short of the winners Latin America who secured 2839 votes.
The disappointing day saw team UK drop down to joint fourth.
Mae Sariang to Mae Sariang
There was only one way Team UK were going to respond to their humbling day three performance – dig in. Having seen our place on the podium and arguably the chance of a win take a huge blow, it was time to rally. Something we proved to be particularly good at. Another three Special Tests made it the chance to score big and unlike the previous days the three tests were all bike, skill and team-work based – playing to the