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GS Trophy 2020: DAY EIGHT!

Posted By Louise C Powers #212117, Tuesday, February 18, 2020

It’s a wrap!

Day Eight was the final day of the 2020 GS Trophy Oceania. Morning came and riders were exhausted. Seven days of riding, the previous three incredibly difficult and long, were making it harder to be up and ready to go before sunrise. The last day was short, with only 265 kilometers to ride.

International Female Team II and Team Japan hit the road together, and though there would not be a Special Stage until later in the day, the first surprise of the day came when the marshal stopped his teams and informed them they would be riding without their engines on.

The road into Arrowtown soon turned into a hiking trail, the Trophy riders having special permission to ride the technical, narrow "road." The only restriction was it would have to be done silently, with no engine noise at all. For the next couple of kilometers down into town, riders cut their engines and more than 100 F 850 GSes quietly coasted downhill. It was an odd feeling at first, but eventually there was something serene, almost zen-like, about dozens of bikes negotiating around ruts and rocks, single-file down the trail, in complete silence.

At the bottom of the trail, a traffic jam ensued as riders appoached the first river crossing of the day. The river was about 15 meters (50 feet) or so across, and not terribly deep, but it was rocky-bottomed with a fast current. It proved to be a difficult crossing for some riders, but IFT II had no problems. That was just the first of 27 water crossings for the day.

Just outside of Arrowtown, heading towards Queenstown, riders entered a valley on a road with large signs stating "four-wheel drive only." The next beautiful stretch of road criss-crossed rivers flowing down from the mountains on each side of the valley. In turns it was beautiful two-track, with large loose gravel, embedded rock, baby-head rollers, sand, mud and water. Jeeps, Land Rovers and FJ Cruisers were out in force, making the whole place seem like the Colorado high country during summer.

Once through the most difficult of the river crossings on that road, riders came to their first Special Stage of the day. It was a two-up jerry can challenge. One team member rode while a second rode pillion while carrying 10-liter (2.6 gallons) jerry cans filled with water. Beginning close to the road at the start gate, the rider had to negotiate a grassy road that turned into a single track loop at the far end. Once all the way around the loop, the pillion rider handed one jerry can to the third team member while taking the other. Those two team members had to run across the river, then alongside it until they made it back to the start gate, where the rider and bike met them.

The goal was to have all three team members, two jerry cans, and one motorcycle back at the gate to stop the time. A dropped bike was a DNF, but that was no problem for Lisa Taylor (USA), who was the pilot, with Andrea Box (AUS) as pillion carrying the cans. Andrea handed off one can to Klara Finkele (IRL), who slipped down the bank into the river. Andrea was right behind her as Lisa took off on the bike. The two women ran for the end, but it was a long, hard slog. As soon as Lisa got the bike back to the start, she jumped off and ran to take the can from Klara. IFT II was not the fastest, but they completed the course and came out ahead of several other teams.

Directly out of the Special Stage area was another water crossing followed by a long, steep, loose rocky hill. More riding through the valley, more water crossings and wet boots, more spectacular views, and a few more sheep rounded out the afternoon. Riders came into Queenstown and immediately headed up a ski hill for the second Special Stage of the day - the final Special Stage of the competition. They saw cones laid out and a hill climb. This would be a technical riding challenge, and one that was worth double points.

The special would have a LeMans start, with each rider in turn running to their bike, starting it and taking off through gates, negotiating up a hill followed by a wall climb, weaving through a tight slalom, then bombing back to the finish box, where they high-fived the next rider to get them started.

Time penalties were given for dabs, dropped bikes, missed cones, etc. and the fastest time won. Team journalists were allowed to be on the course to pick up bikes or help on the hill and wall. BMW MOA member Lisa Taylor had an almost perfect run until she dropped the bike on the final cone of the tight slalom. Andrea and Klara each got stuck at the top of the wall climb and got some assistance.

After completing their run, the team stayed to watch a few other teams before riding back down the mountain into town to say good-bye to their bikes. The bikes stayed at a warehouse, where they will be cleaned up, repaired if necessary and sent out on the Follow The Trail tours happening over the next two months.

Teams were shuttled back up the ski hill, where they would camp for the night and have closing ceremonies looking out over Queenstown. Riders showered, food and drink were served, and the scoring and closing ceremonies began. International Female Team II knew they would be finishing at the bottom, but that didn’t matter a bit. They had already won just by qualifying to be there, representing their countries and competing alongside riders from all over the world.

Each rider was given their windscreen with their number on as a memento of the event. Team South Africa was the big winner again, making it three GS Trophies for SA. Everyone involved cheered and applauded the winners, then proceeded to hug, give out gifts, ask to have T-shirts and helmets signed and enjoy each other’s company. A live band played well into the early morning hours as the incredible adventure came to an end.

The next morning would see most participants leaving in groups, saying goodbye but knowing they had new friends to last forever. Flights out of Queenstown gave a perfect bird’s-eye view of the beautiful country newly discovered by so many. As people make their way home, having accomplished something pretty great, they all had one question on their minds: Where will the 2022 International GS Trophy competition be?

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