James Berrill 39
clear strengths of Team UK.
The opening test was a combination of riding and observation with the three riders having to work their way down a rock-filled river while looking for printouts of words positioned strategically along the river bank.
Special Test two was a case of manhandling a GS over a 4ft high log Ð a feet we achieved in just 16 seconds!
And Special Test three was a slowspeed obstacle course which required full-lock turns, but with only one hand on the handlebar at any one time while picking up bottles and putting them down again. This particular test was played out at the end of the day at base camp under the pressure cooker atmosphere of every other team watching. But clearly pressure was a major motivator for Team UK who won the day scoring the most points overall in the three challenges. Special test 1
Chae Son to Chiang Dao 170km
Starting the final day in third – two points behind Germany in second, 19 points behind South Africa in first and 16 points ahead of China in fourth – it was all to play for.
A rare mistake in the first trials section Special Test saw Team UK slump to 14th and put their chance of a podium in jeopardy. The final Special Test of the GS Trophy was a long technical stage incorporating parts of a motocross track. It was a combination of fast enduro type riding, trials and technical skills with points deducted for dabs or crashes. And to raise the stakes even higher it was worth double points with a potential 40 points up for grabs.
Team UK shrugged off their earlier disappointment with an accomplished performance, setting the second quickest time in arguably the most crucial Special Test of the entire event. The result meant that while they couldn’t do enough to overhaul South Africa for overall victory they reeled in Germany finishing joint second place in the overall standings of the 2016 Gstrophy. This was a week of riding and competition that I will never forget. Riding deep in the Thai rainforest we took our GSS to places I didn’t think possible.
As the embedded journalist in the Team UK I was only able to compete in selected Special Tests – invariably not the riding challenges. While I found this hugely disappointing, it was necessary because it was unfair for teams to have their respective attempts made or broken by the performance and riding ability of their journalist. As a result my role within the team transcended my journalistic responsibilities and to the amusement of my team-mates I was appointed team manager – a role I was genuinely honoured to accept.
The UK Team of James, Oliver and Gordon should all be incredibly proud of their achievements. They approached the whole event in a very British way. Calm and methodical with the ability to pull the pin and take risks when necessary. They probably didn’t have the fastest riders and they certainly didn’t have the strongest, but as a team they excelled in many of the riding and physical challenges. And the fact that all our riding abilities and skill sets were similar turned out to be one of our biggest assets as we remained a tight-knit team regardless at what was thrown at us. Not forgetting our ability to mercilessly take the piss out of each other and retain our sense of humour when it all went wrong – a key strength that the Brits do so well.
And while the competition between countries was intense, there was also an overwhelming sense of community and team spirit on every level of the event. The fact that each and every competitor won the right to be there through a tough selection process is hugely significant as it changes the ethos of the challenge in a positive way. Life-long friends were made and permanent memories ingrained. The GS trophy really is a very special event.