Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa – The fight for the GS Trophy intensified today as Team UK momentarily faltered while their five nearest competitors all scored strongly. Now just six points separate the top-four teams with just two day’s competition remaining.
The day was a relatively short one, with a distance of just 160km, but with much of this being in sand it was nonetheless another gruelling one, and testament to this were several additions to the injury list.
The start was slightly delayed this morning due to heavy overnight rains that battered the GS Trophy competitors all camped on the Indian Ocean beachfront in their one man tents, as supplied by Touratech. The tents withstood the rains magnificently, but the continued rain meant striking camp was a wet affair – very much adding to the endurance elements of the competition.
The rain also flooded the tracks that were to be used for the day’s second special test, so today’s results were determined by one riding test – the ‘elephant turn’ – and the outcome of the first photo competition.
The elephant turn test required a relay of the three riders in each team riding 25 metres then making a very tight U-turn (as you would if suddenly confronted by a charging bull elephant) and returning the 25 metres. An additional level of difficulty came by conducting the test in deep sand. Team Spain won, followed by Team South Africa and Team Nordic. Team UK meanwhile lost nearly 15 seconds as they struggled to make the turns, dropping them to eighth in the test.
The photo competition was won by Team Nordic, who submitted a dynamic image of Per Wallin jumping his F 800 GS almost clean over his team-mate Jussi Ali-Lekkala during the first day of the GS trophy.
Sadly this morning Team Japan’s Yoshio Nakai was forced to retire from the competition as a consequence of injuring ligaments in his right foot in yesterday’s sand track test. His team-mate Shigechika Aikawa failed to finish today’s course after falling and injuring his right foot. Aikawa is hoping to rejoin the competition tomorrow pending medical advice.
ST7: Elephant Turn: 1, Team Spain; 2, Team South Africa; 3, Team Nordic
Photo competition: 1, Team Nordic; 2, Team Canada; 3, Team South Africa
Team UK and Team Nordic spa in the sand
The two lead title contenders were paired to ride together today and as was expected the teams were keen to explore each other’s capabilities, as Team UK’s journalist Warren Pole (who rides with the team) recalls: For a short day it’s felt like a long one for me. Team UK and Team Nordic have been a fierce some combination out there today in the sand and there was no chance of me staying anywhere near them, especially after spending most of my first two hours underneath rather than on my bike. When I did catch up with them spirits were high, although the elephant turn didn’t go entirely to plan for us, it was much trickier than it looked.
Team USA: the score doesn’t reflect the riding
That Team USA should currently be in seventh place doesn’t accord with their true impact on this edition of the GS Trophy. This is a team with considerable bike skills, and through no small amount of good humour and good company, Bill Dragoo, Iain Glynn and Shannon Markle have proved themselves on every level to be three of the finest ambassador’s for their country. Yet after success on Day Two in the navigation test (2nd) they’ve struggled to find the top-three results their abilities would indicate are possible.
Team USA’s Bill Dragoo explains: We’re having fun, really the score doesn’t reflect our riding, our feelings or anything. It’s simply that little mistakes really mount up, they add up to big time differences in the overall standings, but we’ve had no injuries and no significant falls, just taken a few little biffs and we’re going as fast or as slow as we want to.
And we’re loving the experience. I could do this for the rest of my life, I just sent my wife a text saying I’d like to just keep on going. Sure there are things about home that I’m looking forward to, but frankly right now I’m in no hurry for that, this is what I like to do. I prepared myself physically to do this so I don’t even have any aches, I’m just ‘let’s go’!
Team Canada: crash kings!
The other North American team in the GS Trophy have also been impressing – that is impressing themselves into the African soil. Despite never having met prior to coming to South Africa, the Canadians have bonded well as a team and have shown they have the firepower to overwhelm all comers in the special tests – including themselves! This morning there was uncertainty in whether the team would start after all four (that’s their journalist included) suffered hard spills in yesterday’s competition. Yet after medical attentions this morning they pushed on for a top-three result today to stay in contention for the GS Trophy.
Pat Horan: Brian (Kiely) crashed yesterday at 100km/h on the paved section, fortunately he did not seriously hurt himself but his riding today was indicative of his injuries. Dominique (Lemaire) had a crash in the sand yesterday and so is suffering the consequences of a shoulder dislocation. The excellent medical facility and personnel here did a great job in strapping him up. Then myself, I had a pretty much accident free day but had my boot dragged off the peg in the deep sand and tweaked my knee – that was absolute pain there for a few minutes – then I had a fluke fall over to bruise my ribs up. To some degree there was a little bit of gentlemen’s sport going on there yesterday, but I think one of the things that were driven home in the much carnage was that if any one of us were to fail then it’ll completely obliterate the teams’ result.