Recap of Day 6.
Location: Kavaje, Albania
Weather: Sun, 35º
Course: 250km: Himare to Kavaje
Terrain types: Tarmac 100km, mountain trails 120km, sand 30km
Tests: SP1: BMW Motorrad ConnectedRide Com U1 Challenge,
SP2: INEOS Gladiator Challenge
Top three male teams:
1. South Africa, 2. UK, 3. Germany
Top three female teams:
1. South Africa 2. Germany, 3. Mexico
Kavaje, Albania. The BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2022 has returned to its base camp here on the coast of the Adriatic at Kavaje. It was a long ride back, 250km in total with only 100km on the road, and in sweltering 35º heat and high humidity it was certainly a case of riding the hard yards.
After a night on the beach at Himare, the GS riders were straight back onto the mountain trails this morning, riding the now familiar rocky mountain tracks, skittering around on the loose stone, avoiding the washouts, searching for the safe line up and down the slopes.
Half an hour into the ride they came to a small plateau where their first special test awaited: the BMW Motorrad ConnectedRide Com U1 Challenge. In this test, one rider is effectively blindfolded, by wearing blacked-out goggles, and is then guided by their teammate(s) around a course of cones by way of instructions through their BMW Motorrad ConnectedRide sets. The instructing teammates meanwhile have to keep riding, not putting their feet down, while they instruct. In all, a tricky test of teamwork and one that led to some crazy moments as well as some solid executions.
From here, the riders took to a mix of roads and trails to the lunch stop – and setting for the second special test. And what a location, high up in the hills, Amantia’s Stadium dates back to the third century BC. Created from carved rock slabs, this is a stadium where the ancient Greeks, and later Romans, enjoyed various forms of athletics. For the GS Trophy this was appropriately enough the setting for a form of tug of war – where GS Trophy teams had to run the length of the stadium then pull, with a rope, an INEOS Grenadier back to the start line! Weighing 3.5 tonnes this was tough enough a challenge for the male teams, even tougher for the females, yet amazingly managed by all. Herculean efforts, for sure.
From here began the long ride back to base camp. While now out of the Pindus mountains, there was still no shortage of hill country and ancient routes to ride, some rocky, some sandy and grassed, and some rock paved, again dating back to the Roman Empire and probably earlier. All of it made tougher as the temperature soared and the humidity stifled.
The GS riders had one last treat in store today. Shortly before reaching the base camp the route took them through the 42 sq.km Karavasta Lagoon, one of the largest saltwater lagoons on the Mediterranean. Contained by a long strip of sand, the lagoon – part of a larger national park – is unique in its ecology. On this occasion, the riders got to see the magnificent pelicans that inhabit the shallow waters, although flamingoes are also said to be found here. However, maybe of equal interest to the riders were the sand tracks that ran through the park, between the various lagoons and then into the adjoining pine forest. These offered an almost smooth off-road ride, especially where the pine needles carpeted the track, and were much welcomed after six days riding rocks!
So, finally, after 10 hours riding, and after 6pm in the evening, with the sun setting over the Adriatic, the riders reached base camp. Weary for sure, but content after a full day of experiences – and surprisingly still with energy enough for a spirited dinner and celebration of the day’s competition.
In the competition, things couldn’t be closer. Team South Africa are now in the lead of the male teams’ points standing – not joint lead, as yesterday – but only by a four-point advantage over Team UK. Teams Germany, China 2020 and USA are also still in with a chance of victory, and with double points on offer in the final special test tomorrow the win could go any way. Likewise in the female teams’ competition it’s very close between the top three. Team South Africa has for the first time taken the lead, but by just the solitary point over Team Germany, while Mexico are just 12 points adrift. So, a big day in the offing.
Tomorrow is the last day of the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2022 Southeast Europe. The riders will get to ride an 80km loop in the morning, sure to be a highlight given its technical nature – a real rider’s track. And then, in the afternoon, the final special test – the double points super trial that traditionally closes each GS Trophy. Only then will we know who this edition’s champions are.
Chi Fung Lai, Team China 2020: “Today was a long, long day. We really enjoyed the first test. We had practiced this before the event, just by closing our eyes, but up on the mountain doing it for real – I was the one wearing the blackout goggles – it was quite different, very confusing. But we enjoyed it, and we think we did well. In the second test we struggled to get the car moving as we are not that big, but once we got it moving it went well, so we’re hoping for a middle of the pack result there. The GS Trophy has been a great experience for us. We missed out on riding in New Zealand back in 2020, but this edition has been so enjoyable, and we’re told the riding has been much more technical, tougher. And we like that, it helps us improve as we like to challenge ourselves.”
Sara Sanchez, Female Team Latin America: “Today was long, but it’s always great to be riding with friends, with the great people from other countries. We were riding today with Team France and our marshal was Aloisio from Brazil – it was awesome! We had a very good rhythm to the ride. The toughest part of the day was pulling the Grenadier, but we think it went well for us. And it was so good, we pulled a three-tonne car – something we never thought we could do! This is what the GS Trophy is about.”
BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2022
Day 6 overall standings:
1. South Africa 179 points
2. United Kingdom 175
3. Germany 158
4. = China 2020 148
4. = USA 148
6. Thailand 127
7. South Korea 125
8. France 120
9. Netherlands 118
10. India 102
11. China 2022 100
12. Brazil 90
12. Mexico 90
14. Latin America 85
15. Japan 66
1. South Africa 237
2. Germany 236
3. Mexico 225
4. France 205
5. Latin America 194
6. Brazil 138