Int. GS Trophy is go, go, go.

The 2018 main event revs up in Mongolia.

Eighteen international teams of amateur BMW Motorrad GS riders were cheered off the starting line at the Chingisiin Khuree Yurts Camp near Ulaanbaatar today to start the adventure ride of a lifetime in Central Asia. Eight days from now, one of these teams will be crowned 2018 Int. GS Trophy champions but today was just the beginning.

On the move in Mongolia.

It was an early awakening for all the competitors, as the 05.30 am wake-up call saw the camp turn into a hive of activity, with yurts emptying, trucks loaded with kit, and breakfast wolfed down before rushing to their bikes for ‘Le Grand Depart’. Each team — accompanied by its journalist and allocated marshal — rode past the chequered flag and was waved off the starting line among loud cheers from all the other riders waiting for their turn. Finally, the wilds of Mongolia lay ahead and it was time to explore them.

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Today’s route took the competitors directly south away from the capital and into the Middle Gobi, and it was to every participant’s relief when they turned off the tarmac and had their initial taste of a sandy but fast off-road trail that let to the first special stage, some 260 kilometres away from the day’s starting point. Innocently titled ‘Trial Challenge’, the course was laid out among rock formations, with riders expected to negotiate their way through marked gates, slippery rocks and deep sand, while being blasted by a strong and sandy desert wind.

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Competing one-at-a-time, against the clock, with penalties awarded for putting feet down, dropping the bike on its side or straying outside the course markers, it was easy to see which of the riders had a trials motorcycling background, as slow and measured manoeuvres often resulted in the fastest times and least mistakes.

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"
I really enjoyed that — it was great to get the first special test out of the way. Now I’m ready for more.
"

Mark Dickinson, #221, Team South Africa

Onwards and downwards.

No sooner than the participants had finished their trials challenge than it was time to get back on their R 1200 GS Rallye bikes and head further south into the remote Mongolian countryside, where camels, goats, wild horses and sheep outnumber humans by a considerable margin. Some 180 kilometres further down the trail saw the teams arrive at the Tsagaan Cliffs, a deep, sun-baked canyon where it would have been great to rest and take in the breathtaking views — but no, this was the setting for the second special stage of the day, known as ‘Magic Cliffs’.

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Do you know the way to Tsagaan?

Do you know the way to Tsagaan?

This tricky exercise took place at the hottest part of the day and required all team members (including journalists) to leave their bikes behind and navigate their way into — and out of — the deep canyon, using a BMW Motorrad Navigator GPS unit to help locate a waypoint, on which were written the coordinates for the following waypoint. In total, four coordinates needed to be found to lead the team back to the starting point, as well as a series of letters, which would form a sentence (Make Life a Ride). Suffice to say that none of the teams found this exercise easy, but it was a fantastic spectacle for all those watching from the top of the canyon.

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After a long day in the saddle, the good news for the participants was that the Tsagaan Suvarga camp was just a stone’s throw from the canyon, so teams, journalists, marshals and media crews rolled into the camp tired but ultimately satisfied from an excellent first riding day.

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Pure thrill every day.

A full program: a lot of challenging special challenges on eight days of riding.

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Suitable motorcycles.