Aussies continue International GS Trophy Central Asia adventure
Australia ends Day 5 of the 2018 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy in Mongolia in 11th position, following another exceptional day of exploring Mongolia, including more technical challenges.
Here’s an update on Days Three through Five.
Day three’s stage was effectively a liaison, with no special tests. With a generous time allowance the competitors were instructed to make the most of the scenery as they rode. Most notably the GS riders appreciated the breathtaking Dungeene Canyon where the riders rode along the gravel river bed for 20km between rock cliffs 100m high and sometimes only 5m apart! And then the biggest surprise – finding the river frozen for one section (making for a tricky crossing!).
After this the course took a short climb up onto the Yucca Plateau, again a surprise, for within minutes the riders had transitioned from a deep gorge to a high plain. A refuel in the village of Bayandalai again reminded the riders that this was Mongolia, a sparsely populated remote country, as they queued for the one pump operated by the one elderly Mongolian lady outside the one rendered building on the edge of the village, most of the other buildings being yurts (also known as gers), save for a school building. All roads here being unpaved.
The 100 km from here to the finish at Camp Gobi Erdene was – as ever – entirely different. Instead of a high plateau the riders found themselves weaving along a vast flood plain between two mountain ridges – and such geology meant rock was mixed with the sand, adding yet more technicality to the ride. And finally to the west of the trail rose sand dunes – beautifully lit, too, in the late afternoon sun. And what a stunning end to the day, the GS riders pitching their Marmot tents at the gateway to the sands of the Gobi Desert.
On the morning of Day Four, the calm after the storm arrived, with Camp Gobi Erdene was battered by high winds. This tested the tent erecting expertise of the GS riders and a few found they needed urgent help to save their camping equipment!
All was tough preparation for a long day ahead, as today the GS Trophy was back to its best with a 283km course to negotiate, all off road and much of it in sand – this being part of the Gobi Desert region.
Shane Booth, Australian Team Journalist at the International GS Trophy in Mongolia had this to share about the Australian teams progress on Day Four:
“The International GS Trophy Special Stages continues to test the Aussies in Mongolia. On Day 4, we were faced with a 270km route of relatively easy riding sprinkled with a couple of short, deep sand sections. The Aussie Team nailed this section – no doubt due to their experience covering the sand on Australian adventure rides such as BMW Safari. The first Special Test of the day was a towing challenge, which proved to be tough for Shane, Mick and Simon. The surface was soft and sandy. Two turns in, Shane, who was towing Mick, lost the front in some bull dust and tipped over, resulting in disqualification.
“This was a tough break for the boys as they had put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into practicing for this particular challenge. It took a little time to recover from the disappointment but in true Aussie style, they rode into the camp with high morale. Special Test Two was a timed team challenge, where the goal was simple. Competitors have to race to set up and pull down their one-man Marmont tent. The boys nailed this challenge! Keeping tidy and making no mistakes meant we were the first out of the three teams in our heat.
“The day concluded with a quiet night in camp and a break from the harsh desert wind we’ve been experiencing so far. Everyone is well rested as we head out on today’s stage – a 300km ride across the awesome Mongolian landscape. Bring it on!”
A day of two halves, Day 5 of the 2018 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy in Mongolia saw GS riders continue their journey with a 100km ride across more of the semi-arid Mongolian Steppe.
In the afternoon the riders entered into a new world, a mountain landscape where sheep, cattle and horses grazed on green pastures and the fragrance of alpine flowers scented the air – an intoxicating mix after the sparse nature of the desert.
The morning certainly was an endurance test as first the riders took on special test 12, ‘Ongi River’ – a classic multiple river crossing. The challenge here wasn’t the water, which was shallow, but the shingle banks that were deep! Best run of the day came from Team Ausamerica, the second female team, not on account of their speed but for applying exceptional teamwork.
The 100km ride down Telegraph Road was not as romantic as the song (by Dire Straits) suggests, as the riders had to settle in for a long haul, with many sections of the gravel tracks rippled by trucks. At the end came a 35 km section of trail that weaved between grassy tussocks where again dust clouds and loose sand meant the riders needed to stay alert.
The hard yards of the morning were repaid in kind when the GS riders reached the mountains and green valleys of the Khangai Nuruu National Park, where clay mixed with the sand (instead of rock) making for gentle trails that climbed and descended one valley after another. The riders were spellbound by the vibrance after the emptiness of the desert. A truly magical ride.
A second special test late in the day, called ‘Orhon View’, saw the riders challenged to a trials ride around some giant stones on a high peak (with spectacular views). A great test in the most incredible location.
When the GS riders finally reached camp, some as late as 7pm (having started at 7 am!) they had just a short time before facing another special test, the ‘Metzeler Challenge’, that saw them tackle a tyre change against the clock. And after that, the final task of the day – a rush to submit their photos for the day’s Photo Competition. In all an exhausting, yet enervating day.
BMW International GS Trophy 2018 Central Asia – Day Five
1 South Africa 195
2 Latin America 139
3 Korea 131
4 USA 130
4 France 130
6 Mexico 114
7 Argentina 106
7 Russia 106
9 UK 103
10 Germany 98
11 Australia 80
12 Canada 76
13 China 75
14 Southeast Asia 74
15 Japan 65
16 Eurafrica (female team) 43
16 India 43
18 Ausamerica (female team) 40