BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2020 Oceania. Day 7. You shall not pass!

Mt. Aspiring, New Zealand. Day seven of the 2020 BMW
Motorrad International GS Trophy saw the GS riders head further south,
exchanging the high country of the Mackenzie Basin for the first
reaches of the Upper Otago, not an easy transition as mountains are
constant barriers to movement here in the South Island. The smallest
lines of weakness – passes and gorges – are typically the only way to
reach new territory and so it was the GS Trophy route negotiated four
mountain passes and plenty of water crossings before the riders were
allowed to reach the camp at Lake Wanaka, which in the early evening
sat in the shadow of the imposing Mount Aspiring (a world heritage site).

Such is the scenic drama of these high country regions they have been
made world famous by the filming here of the ‘Lord of the Rings’
movies; but the land here has a long and real history of its own and
men have mined these areas for years, whether it was the Maori
searching for green stone (jade) or the European pioneers drawn by the
gold rush of the late 19th century.

The GS riders had enjoyed gold of different nature in the truly
magnificent sunrise over Lake Wanaka before setting off for their
first test of the day, the Akrapovic Challenge, found just 30km along
the track to the Hakataramea Pass. This test required all three team
riders to ride a parcour that was part gravel floor part inclined bank
with tricky cambered turns that overturned a few. Against the clock,
the riders balanced attack with technique, and for the leading teams
of South Africa and France it was evident both were taking a measured
tactic of being fast but not erratic – a mistake at this point in the
competition could prove difficult to reverse.

After the test the riders continued up the pass on a flowing trail
that allowed long glances westward toward the Southern Alps where the
snowy peak of Mt. Cook (Aoraki by its Maori name) – at 3724m New
Zealand’s highest mountain – was lit by the orange and gold rays from
the morning sun.

Once over this pass the route veered westward into Danseys Pass, an
altogether more technical trail where the steep valley sides closed in
tight – as did flocks of the Merino sheep, which repeated blocked the
trail! At the head of the pass the riders could at last take their
break for lunch at the Danseys Pass Hotel – as remote an establishment
as you’ll ever find. Upon leaving the pass again the mountains were
thrilling the riders with their beauty as clouds tumbled like
waterfalls from the peaks.

When away from the mountains the route passed along the high country
where smaller hills slipped between the pastures and occasional crop
fields. Small towns drifted by, like Naseby and Wedderburn with their
history embedded in gold mining – you can still see the odd abandoned
miner’s hut rusting away – but today these communities rely mostly on
agriculture to sustain them.

In the afternoon the route took in one last high pass, up through
Thomson Gorge, and at the highest point the riders found their second
test of the day, ‘Gate clutch start’. Here the teams, starting from
the gate at the head of the pass, had to bump start a BMW F 850 GS in
the shortest possible distance. That’s start and stop, with the engine
still running after the crash braking. Here again some played safe
allowing themselves a good few metres to gain momentum before bump
starting the GS and hitting the brakes. Braver teams, like Russia,
successfully gambled on just two turns of a wheel before dropping the
clutch catching the engine and braking – all done in less than five metres.

Test complete it was a last run downhill to Lake Wanaka, although
this trail was peppered with water crossings and gates, so something
of a stop-start affair. Wanaka is set in a huge glacier-formed valley,
with fields dotted with giant rocks. The Pisa Hills stood to stop the
riders from heading too far south while ahead the Southern Alps were
again an imposing dark wall of rock that stood as barrier to the west coast.

The ride from Rotorua, across two islands, has been magnificent, at
times challenging but always inspiring. Now the GS Trophy riders have
just one more day to savour this most dramatic and beautiful of
countries. And for the few that are in contention for the GS Trophy
itself there’s still the nerve-wracking final grand-parcours which
will determine the new champions. One more day, but memories that will
last a lifetime. 


“Today was a really good day, we did a good job on test one. I
dropped my bike but I picked it up quickly so I think we did well.
But always it depends on how the other teams did. In the second
stage we completed the start and stop in eight metres, which was
good – but did the other teams do better? We have to wait to find
out. Our goal now is to stay in the top five, we’ve climbed from
17th to 4th in the points and are really happy to have done that, so
we hope to keep that position to the finish. I have to say, also,
that New Zealand is a beautiful, wonderful country. It’s so diverse,
so we have new experiences every day, and the GS Trophy has taken us
to places no tourist would go, it’s like a private tour by a local –
it’s been amazing.”