Kharkhorin, Mongolia - One day past the halfway point of the 2018 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy in Mongolia , the wildest and most inaccessible place the event has ever visited, Team South Africa has stretched its overall lead to 56 points.
After five days of sand, rocks, vast deserts, near-impossible special tests and insanely unpredictable weather (including snow on the ground with the ambient temperature at 32 degrees) the three South African riders - Chris Meyer (39) from George, Eugene Fourie (39) from Centurion and Mark Ian Dickinson (33) from Magalieskruin in Pretoria - are on 195 points to Team Latin America’s 139 and Team Korea’s 131.
Day 5 started with Special Test 12 - Ongi River, a classic multiple river crossing. The challenge here wasn’t the water, which was shallow, but the deep shingle banks! The best run of the day came from Team Ausamerica, the second female team, not because of their speed but thanks to exceptional teamwork.
Then came a 100km ride down Telegraph Road - not a romantic as the song by Dire Straits suggests, with many sections of the gravel track rippled by trucks and a 35 kilometre section at the end that between grassy tussocks where again dust clouds and loose sand meant the riders needed to stay alert.
But the hard yards paid off as the GS riders entered the mountains and green valleys of the Khangai Nuruu National Park, where clay mixed with the sand (instead of rock) made for gentle trails that climbed and descended one valley after another.
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) - and then, when the riders finally reached camp, some as late as 7 pm after having started at 7 am, they faced a third special test, the ‘Metzeler Challenge’, a tyre change against the clock.