Not three, but six women.

The BMW Motorrad Int. GS Trophy Female Team Qualifier 2017.

The BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Female Team Qualifier 2017 has concluded with something of a surprise outcome. After four days of competition at the Country Trax Off Road Riding Academy near Amersfoort / South Africa not one but two female teams have qualified for the sixth BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy that will take place in Mongolia from 3 to 10 June 2018.

DAY 1 – MONDAY 13 NOVEMBER, 2017

23 participants, representing 13 countries, arrived at Country Trax where they were greeted, among others, by two members of the 2016 GS Trophy International Female Team: Amy Harburg and Morag Campbell, who are now both BMW Motorrad GS ambassadors. The meet and greet was short, as in the great tradition of the GS Trophy the participants were immediately plunged into the first challenge. As with the 2015 qualifier, the first task was to erect the tents (the participants’ accommodation for the duration of the competition) and get changed into riding gear – all against the clock. This competition was undisputedly headed by the Australian duo of Andrea Box and Julia Maguire.  

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Tests against the clock.

Tests against the clock.

Following the camping challenge the participants quickly selected their bikes – a range of R 1200 GS and R 1200 GS Rallye models – and readied themselves for a trio of tests. The first test required the participant to balance the bike sidestand up and walk around it twice, only touching it (keeping it balanced) with one hand. The second test involved running up and down a grass hill for 25 metres in full riding kit, then picking up a GS that was laying on its side, riding it up the hill and stopping within a ‘stop box’. Both tests were against the clock. The final test was a blindfold exercise, during which the participants had to ride blindfolded up the grass hill and stop wherever they thought themselves closest to the target stop point. Here the marking favoured those participants who had stopped closest to the target.  

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"
I can’t say we practiced for this, but camping is a big part of Australian culture, so between family camping holidays and events like the GS Safari we get well practiced in pitching tents. It’s simply something we know well. It’s great to get off to a good start!
"

Andrea Box (Australia)

High winds and sweeping rain.

With 23 participants to mark, these tests were being conducted in a rotation of three groups. However, a huge thunderstorm had rolled over the veldt and battered the participants from the very start. Bravely they continued for the first rotation despite the high winds, sweeping rain and lightning strikes. Only then the storm took on an even nastier demeanour that was positively dangerous and so the second and third rotations had to be abandoned, to be run in the morning.

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DAY 2 – TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER, 2017

The second day of the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Female Team Qualifier proved itself to be a long and tough one. The 23 participants were severely tested with a marathon run of challenges starting at 7am until 5pm. In addition, the competition became all the more exacting after the women were told over morning breakfast that there would be an elimination made at the end of the day. For the weakest nine participants this would be their last day in the competition. And for the 14 that stay the course, that course will get progressively tougher as tomorrow the judges seek to find the toughest of the tough to send to Mongolia in June 2018.

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It’s about control and coordination.

It’s about control and coordination.

The tests included a slalom course through deep sand, which saw the fittest and most technically practiced shine. The fastest competitors were using speed and technique – not to mention some bravery as the front wheel could dive into the deep sand and bring about an abrupt and sometimes painful stop. A series of log mazes also tested the participants’ throttle control and balance. ‘Log park’ called for trials riding technique and only the winners here stayed feet up. Meanwhile ‘Dirk Roetes’ Garden’ demanded sliding turns as the switchbacks were narrower than the turning circle of a GS. Finally, there was another bike-rider coordination challenge during which the participants had to guide their bikes in the figure of an eight while they stood beside it, supporting it with only one hand on the clutch-side handlebar.

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The cut: 23 become 14.

The cut: 23 become 14.

In the afternoon the participants left the parcours area for a tour of Country Trax’s 600 hectares. Along the way they encountered a steep hill climb challenge that had been planned by the enduro park’s creator, Jan du Toit, using a bulldozer. The trail ride turned out to be just a warm-up, as the competitors were surprised to find they would be split into two groups and take part in two time trials. Finally, the results of the two days’ competition were announced. Stefan Boshoff, one of the event’s marshals, empathised with the eliminated competitors. ‘It’s very hard to tell those competitors that they’ve not made the cut. It’s something you don’t want to do, but we must remember the reason we are here – to find the strongest competitors.’ After this announcement the immediate instruction to those 14 left was to get suited up again as they were sent in three groups to take on a nighttime navigational challenge, setting off at 10pm on a 25km off-road GPS-plotted route through the Country Trax farmlands.

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DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER, 2017

This morning the action started with a rear wheel changing exercise conducted under partial cover as yet more rain and wind lashed the countryside. This exercise was followed by a slow-race across the lawns in front of the Country Trax complex. As the rain at last eased the action moved to two challenges set on the edge of the bush that borders the complex. The first test, ‘log grind’, challenged the participants to ride through two water-filled trenches, then straddle their GS across a long pole (lying on the ground) and ride its length. A test that would have been tough enough on a good day, but the clay base was saturated and offered all the grip of an ice sheet.

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Laps and turns without crashing.

Laps and turns without crashing.

The second challenge required the riders to hold with their throttle hand one end of an attached pole that would sweep in a circle and ride feet-up for two complete rotations. This challenge was succeeded by a favourite here in South Africa, the elephant turn. A 100 metre charge up to a 180º turn point followed by a race back to the finish. Thereafter, two laps of a course known as ‘the Star of David’ that was, much like everywhere, slicked up by the rain. Two laps without crashing and within a tight time limit was the challenge – only a handful made it.

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A hasty retreat, with and without dignity.

As usual, the action didn’t stop in the GS Trophy and the competitors then set off cross-country to reach two remote tests. One a figure of eight set over two opposing slopes, the other an emergency brake test. Given the conditions (more saturated clay) neither was at all easy, but you could identify the best of the best given some truly courageous rides. Immediately after these tests the event was again besieged by atrocious weather, and the retreat back to the Country Trax complex became a challenge in itself with slick steep hills and ice-like clay tracks. The participants made it through, not without some lurid slides and muddy dismounts, but the event’s support vehicles had a much tougher time, sliding out of control in all directions. After yet another long day of competition, there was a second rider-elimination with the 14 remaining participants being pared down to just the nine for the final day of the competition.  

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DAY 4 – THURSDAY 16 NOVEMBER, 2017

Two challenges, run back to back, started the day. First came a ride through a tightly packed maze of straw bales with a reverse-exit – meaning the participants had to stop their bikes and push them 25 metres backwards to the finish line. Subsequently, a team challenge followed; the nine participants were divided into teams of three and were charged to lift a GS up against an elevated fallen tree trunk. In the ensuing short break some time was allowed for breakfast, before the grand finale, a parcours challenge that included a see-saw, log grind, elephant turn and railway sleeper sections, took place.

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"
When they said there was going to be a second team I was just ‘waaaaaaaaah!
"

Linda Steyn (South Africa)

A change of thinking.

A change of thinking.

The qualifier concluded with a surprising outcome: There will not be three but six women travelling to the sixth International GS Trophy. Such has been the standard of riding at this event, the BMW Motorrad team decided to double up and take two international female teams to Mongolia.

The six who made their way through to Mongolia are: Ezelda van Jaarsveld (South Africa), Julia Maguire (Australia), Sonia Barbot (France), Jocelin Snow (USA), Linda Steyn (South Africa) and Bettina Nedel (USA). Svenia Ohlsen, Head of Brand Experience BMW Motorrad, summed up the event: “We’ve been really impressed by the high riding performances of the women and how they had the mental conditioning to deal under such pressure. It changed our thinking, and as we entered into the final day while we knew we couldn’t take everyone we wanted, to take just three as originally planned would be to miss a fantastic opportunity. So we were delighted to revise our plan and take the best six.”

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All other finalists that have been competing in the Int. GS Trophy Female Team Qualifier 2017 are Jessica Leyne (France), Marion Linder (Germany), Louise Hodgkinson (UK), Stephanie Schinkel (Mexico), Andrea Box (Australia), Leticia Benitez (Mexico), Gritt Ahrens (Germany), Khai Zabidin (Malaysia), Ai Mizutani (Japan), Valerie Heroux (Canada), Camila Mejia (Colombia), Sun Renhui (China), Wanwisa Phirom (Thailand), Kirsty Hodges (UK), Louise Mitchell (Canada), Xiaomin Li (China) and Yoshida Miko (Japan).

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The teams

Get to know the two female teams who successfully qualified to take part in the Int. GS Trophy 2018.

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