Feature – Inside the Women’s GS Trophy Qualifier

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Adventure Travel is not inherently competitive. It’s an exploration, an experience, a journey of learning, discovery and enjoyment. However, BMW have created a competition, the GS Trophy, that combines travel, adventure, personal challenge and developed a hectic ten-day competition. 2016 will see the first women in the finals as part of the women’s only team. They recently ran the qualifier for the event with ten finalists chosen from across the globe.

British based Canadian Jenny Huntley was one of those competitors. A GS riding, off road loving person, Jenny tackled the Women’s Qualifier in South Africa with the goal of scoring her place on the team headed to Thailand next year.

This is a raw account of the emotional journey through fear, frustration, self-doubt, elation and adrenaline as she pushes for her goal of being in the team headed to Thailand for the 2016 finals.


1.
“Dear Jennifer; we are very happy to inform you that you have been chosen to be one of 10 finalists invited to the GS Trophy qualifying event in South Africa.”

I’ve seldom mentioned at work that I ride bikes off-road. Now I can’t stop talking about it. It’s uplifting to think that someone else thinks you are good enough.

 

2.
It’s early days, we have a couple of months until the event, but I study the other girl’s videos online. I convince myself I have it in the bag. I know the final is mine for the taking and can see myself on the plane to Thailand already!

 

I have the desire to be the best in the world but I need to make sure the washing up is done first…

 

3.
It’s now only six weeks till the competition.

I make a plan to use my free time to ride, train, do circuits at the gym on Monday’s, go running daily and eat a good diet. That should do it. Eight miles a day running to and from work is not that far, I know, but it’s good for me. Up to this point I have never run bar trying to catch the ice cream van.

 

4.
Things don’t start well; I bought everything I need to start running and I’m looking semi-pro but only run four miles and hurt my ankle.

 

5.
I know I need to do more riding so book a weekend’s training with Off Road Skills school in the UK to spend some time on a 1200 GS. It’s the best two days riding I’ve had and feeling like I am going to blow the competition away.

 

6.
Time to fly to South Africa.

In the last 6 weeks I had two days riding, one circuit training class and ran 4 miles. I will have to rely on my reserve of talent. I’m full of worry now.

 

7.
Arriving in South Africa brings a culture shock. Homeless and disabled people are waiting at every set of traffic lights. There are three on every junction.

They want money.

They want food.

They want anything you’ll give.

Somehow they seem more homeless than I have seen before.

 

I have the biggest tank-slapper of my life. I don’t know how I stayed on but I did and now I am unnerved.

 

8.
The next morning we sit for breakfast.

I feel like I know all the girls already. I’ve watched their videos repeatedly, obsessively. It’s a great start, everyone is incredibly warming.

I don’t know what I was expecting but it makes me feel better to find they’re human, kind and welcoming.

We’re taken by bus to Drakensville Resort to see the South African GS Trophy Qualifier. Some 800 people are entered. I hold back the tears as they applaud us as we take our seats. I feel famous.

 

9.
It feels so special being handed a helmet and bike with your name on. Everything is entirely new. I have never had freebies. It’s uplifting. I feel like a factory rider.

 

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10.
I make some adjustments to my bike because everyone else is.

I’m unsure of myself and what I should be doing, so I adjust my handlebar position.

I’m not sure if they even moved.

Having no Enduro mode on the R 1200 GS came as a bit of a shock. I’ve only ever ridden the 1200 in this mode.

It’s an off-road competition and now I feel as though the bike is completely different from the one I rode in Wales. They tell us the only real difference is throttle response. My confidence has taken a battering.

 

11.
We ride down to the Country Trax Enduro Park. Vast rolling grass lands sprawl out before us. I begin to settle into the bike until we reach gravel.

On the first track I have the biggest tank-slapper of my life.  I don’t know how I stayed on.

The near crash rips my nerves to shreds.

It gets worse. There is no-one behind me now and there should be. A few of us stop and turn around to check the situation. One of the journalists has crashed badly. He is patched up and able to continue riding. The whole experience has rattled the entire group.

 

12.
Country Trax is the most beautiful place. The big rolling landscape, the forestry, it is all new. I’m in awe.

It’s a strange feeling to be at the actual event. I’m unbelievably happy but feeling sick with nerves.

The first competitive task is putting up our tents. I practiced this. I decide on the day to do it differently. It takes longer then it should have.

 

I can’t eat, I’m full already. I imagine it full of butterflies. “OK girls, follow me.” If I hear those words again, I’ll puke.

 

13.
For the first riding challenge the bike doesn’t feel right in my hands. We have to wrap a rope around a tree whilst riding in the standing position. The rope is in our right hand so you can’t use any throttle.

I can’t get the bike to move without the throttle. This makes wrapping the rope around the tree very difficult. I have to sit down to complete the task. I have started to ride like a novice and begin to see a pattern in my riding for the event.

 

14.
A night time challenge of Hay Bale Maze.

My heart is racing. I am feeling wholly sick. Is this race nerves? I have never experienced this before. I am normally content riding and ambivalent to where I finish.

As has become pattern, I don’t think it through and steam into the challenge.

The event was great fun however and spreads a smile across my face despite my nerves. I loved every second of it.

 

I’m sure that the gravity in South Africa is exponentially stronger.

 

15.
It’s breakfast. I can’t eat, my belly is full already. I imagine it full of butterflies.

“OK girls, follow me.” If I hear those words again, I’ll puke. Every new section we arrive at I’m convinced will be my chance to shine. I do this difficulty of riding all the time. The terrain has to be easier than riding at home in Wales.

 

16.
I am almost hyperventilating. I’m stiff and my posture is all wrong. What is going on? I am better than this but can’t seem to pull it together.

I drop the bike.

I’m sure that the gravity in South Africa is exponentially stronger. I’ve picked these bikes up hundreds of times and now I’m struggling. It feels like minutes have passed. I‘m in the middle of the section. All eyes are bearing down and it feels as though the powers that be are opposed to me.

 

17.
I keep smiling. That is what I do best.

Inside I am getting weak and uncertain of the outcome.

The girls are genuine. It helps to push me on. I am so touched that they cheer each other on. Despite the competition, the desire to win, there is genuine good feeling toward each other.

When we finish each night the jokes flow endlessly. I feel I am in great company.

 

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18.
I wish I had taken this more seriously and stuck to the training plan.

I decide internally I need to begin putting myself first.

How do you change something so fundamental about yourself? I have the desire to be the best in the world but need to make sure the washing up is done first…

 

It’s the last day and two sections until the finish. Sand. Fuck Sand. I have never ridden sand but here goes, I have a plan.

 

19.
I am so impressed by the other girls; they all keep persisting with pure determination. These are really tough girls with true resolve and even when mistakes are made they brush the dust off and try again. I’ve made some real friends and can’t help but cheer them on.

 

20.
It’s the last day.  We’ve just two sections until the finish.

Sand. Fuck Sand. I’ve never ridden sand. I mentally formulate a plan. I’ll ride to the corner, jump off, run it around and jump back on.

WHY?! Why not just ride it around? Why do what you know you shouldn’t? Why am I making it hard for myself?

 

21.
I am now battling for 3rd place with Morag from South Africa.

I don’t know how it will turn out. I am sure she did the sand better than me but could not see her. The next section is the last of the event.

 

22.
I watch her ride.

“Okay, I’ve got this.”

My turn comes. Once more I decide to do something I’ve never done before and drop the bike. I get through the section with mistakes but still think I have a chance to be top three.

 

23.
The results are read out.

I truly don’t know how it’s going to go.

A combination of hope, fear and butterflies inhabit my stomach. I feel utter disbelief. I finished 6th on the last day. This puts me 4th overall.

I’m emotionally plundered. This is more disappointment than I have ever felt.

I am so frustrated by myself. I truly wanted this yet still didn’t put the time in to make it certain.

I shed my first tear of the whole event saying goodbye to everyone.

Thanks to all the girls, the BMW staff and Tom. What an engrossing, incredible experience! Congratulations to Morag, Amy and Stephanie. You’ll do us proud.

 

‘Till next time GS Trophy.

 

For more information on the GS Trophy Click Here.

To Follow the full GS Trophy, like their Facebook page by Clicking Here.

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To watch the video of the women GS Trophy, click the play button below. We’d recommend you watch in full HD.

 

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Crafted By

Llewellyn Sullivan-Pavey

Photographer, Videographer, Writer, Motorcycle Racer, Dakar Rally Finisher and BRAKE Magazine's big dog, Llewelyn really likes to do things involving motorcycles. He also likes bicycles, coffee, pop punk and making horrendous puns.

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