BMW GS Trophy Challenge 2021

Ocean BMW Falmouth entered a team into this year’s GS Trophy Challenge held at the BMW Off Road Skills (ORS) school in Wales 10-12 September 2021.

The team consisted of:

Milton Romanelli – BMW Motorrad sales

Ian Wilkinson

Toby Best

Ian Prout

Rob Tulley

The event is designed to test riders using the BMW R1250 GS over tasks of varying degrees of difficulty in order to find the best GS rider of the year, who will represent the UK at the world finals in Albania.

The event is split into 3 phases; 2 are road navigation where points are awarded for correctly answering question located at checkpoints, or a skills challenge may await the intrepid riders……who knows?!

The third phase is all off road in Walters Arena using the BMW ORS school bikes.

The team set off from their hotel to book in on the Friday evening to Walters Arena with a great deal of anticipation and expectation.The/ ride up to the area was awesome with some stunning roads and views in the twilight of a fine Welsh evening.On/ arrival with COVID rules still in place a queue was formed where everyone had to have an LFT prior to showing documents and confirming ownership of a BMW bike. Whilst waiting, team member Ian W reminisced with some old riding friends from Surrey and extracted a few more details about the competition this year.

Once all team members checked in, they headed back at the hotel and enjoyed a meal with a couple of Guinness’s then an early night for a refreshing start on day one.

The morning was clear with a chill in the air and yet again another stunning ride up. Although only our second ride together as a group we found our formations and rhythm straight away.A quick bacon sarny and brew on arrival and we were ready for the briefing.BMW/ ORS lead instructor and Dakar legend Simon Pavey gave the initial brief highlighting all the rules and regulations associated with managing an event of this nature.Briefed/ and prepared we left the central admin area to head for our start point.We/ had both road stages on the Saturday with Black Mountains Route in the morning and the Brecon Beacons Route in the afternoon….what better way to spend a Saturday?

Our start time arrived and Milton keen to get underway leading the group our of Walter’s onto the main road missed the first turn off for our route, good start…..was/ he testing us?!All navigation was via a route card no electronic devices were allowed so trip metres and clues lead us on our way.

The route took us through some fantastic roads and tracks though some green lanes and idyllic villages similar to Cornwall.The/ skills test checkpoint was an orienteering test within a wood, 15 mins was the time limit so ground navigation skills were paramount. We completed this task well within time gaining maximum points.Then/ onto the next checkpoint to identify the depth of a reservoir.

At one stage there was a choice to make….go on an ORS level 3 (hard technical route) track or follow the road route.As/ we (Toby, Ian, Rob & myself) were riding our own bikes did not wish to risk damage (unless Ocean BMW would cover costs of repairs, worth an ask for next year).Milton on a works machine followed the off-road route as this would attract more points.We/ all agreed for us to meet up at the finish as this was the final checkpoint before heading back to the arena for lunch and preparation for the next phase.

However, Toby wanted a cream tea and we found a fantastic little spot on the edge of the Black Mountain national park visitors centre. Ian P bought a brew and slice of cake each as we sat outside overlooking and taking in the fabulous views of Pen-y-Fan.

It is a very iconic profile and something that brought back many happy memories for me (those that know) you could see visitors walking over the top.

Black Mountains National Trust Visitors Centre
Pen-y-Fan view from Visitors Centre

Back at the admin area we all met up again and prepared for the afternoon phase – the Brecon Beacons.

It was another stunning ride through the Beacons, small villages flowing lanes and roads with good tarmac.We/ eventually ended up separating again as Milton set off for another L3 route.The/ road route took me onto some very familiar roads, heading past the church on the way to the ‘cattle grid’ on the range road to Dixies Corner.When/ riding past Dixies, I again had flash backs to years gone by, the number of times I stayed in this facility I can count on both hands and a foot.

The final stage of the route took us up a valley over an old Slate Quarry then back to Walters.The/ ride was fantastic everyone enjoying the view and company.

That was the end of Day 1, back in our hotel over another Guinness we all reflected on the day and laughed at some of the activities we were asked to complete and some of the errors we made as we prepared for the hardest stage, the ORS.

Unfortunately, Ian P had to drop out due to an old neck injury, however we had our back up in Rob who stepped into the team.

On arrival on the Sunday we headed off riding our own bikes over the various tracks in Walters Arena to our first stage.This/ task was to pick up a prone bike, start the engine, walk it around a route then ride back through a series of chicanes.A time limit was set of 40 seconds for 0 points then 1 point per 5 seconds over the 40, Milton scored 0.

We then headed off to stage 2 where 3 events waited for us – No Throttle, Balls & Trial.

No Throttle was to ride a circuit on clutch only again 0 points within the time and 1 point for every 5 seconds over.The/ aim was to get into 4th gear by the end for optimum speed and best chance of achieving 0 points.

Balls – a very technical stage 5 traffic cones laid out in a diamond formation with a tennis ball balanced on each.The/ rider had to navigate a route picking up the balls and depositing them in a bin (made up of 3 tyres), dropped balls added points.Our/ intrepid and erstwhile leader Milton completed the task in a record 22 seconds with all balls deposited…..getting/ carried away, almost his own!!!!

The Trial stage was the most technical, having to navigate up a of mound of loose gravel, down the other side, turn a very tight circle, ride up another mound, then come down and at an acute angle ride up a narrow gap only wide enough for the wheel to sit in a rut with boxer cylinders sitting in the narrowest of gaps crowning the hill with a very narrow angle turn at the bottom of a very steep and narrow decent with a sharp turn back to the start gate.The/ penalties were 1 point for foot down or 10 points for a stall or dropped bike.We/ all did ok in this event the 3 of us scoring the max but Milton scored a 0, he even managed to lock the back wheel turning the bike for the final turn home.This/ was met with cheers and applause.

Ian W attempting the Bike Push
Toby first time riding off road a very good effort on this trial stage.

The final stage was in the admin area with a circuit around a wooded area traversing a wall and over some moguls finishing in a box.This/ was timed of course but was very much fun.​

The circuit had to be completed twice to ensure max points were gained, the second runs were an improvement in some events but not in others.Now/ back for lunch and a wait for the results.

The ORS team lead by Liam Pavey (son to Simon also a Dakar finisher) described the events to follow, the dealer teams to compete first and then the individual top 10 placed riders to ride off.

The team event was the final stage route through the woods.Being/ a relay, we decided to have Rob lead us off, followed by Toby then myself with Milton our fastest rider last leg before all of us pushing the bike up the mogul’s hill to the finish line.

It was this run 2 of the team decided it was better to try to use the crash bar to manoeuvre the bike around the corners, although funny to watch it was very costly in time.However/, it was fun and meant as a crowd pleaser for the entertainment of all.We/ did finish in a respectable 6th place.Well/ done Ocean….we will train next year.

Now to the individual event, the top ten and yes, our man Milton was in 10th a great achievement.The/ individual stages were more difficult.

Stage 1 – Trail; this was over rocks and logs up a narrow route with a left turn at the top to the exit gate.Most/ struggled on this stage (not Milton!) and it looked difficult so well done to all.

Stage 2 – Balls; same as earlier however this was in two areas of uneven ground with ruts and other obstacles again due to the difficulty no-one completed this task.

Stage 3 – Woodland; another ride round the wooded circuit stopping in a box before the drop off.

Stage 4 – Momentum ride down the drop off up a hill to a sharp right turn down another steep decline round a sharp left angled turn up another hill turning sharp right and down to a stop line.

It is unfortunate Milton got his line wrong on the first accent complete missing his line had to put a foot down this was the end of Milton’s challenge as a clear round in this stage was needed to give him the best chance of competing for a top 5 finish.

The top 5 were then announced with Milton finishing in a very credible 10th out of 220 riders.

To sum up the weekend it was a great event and for all much needed. I met up with old friends and we all made new ones, Alex, Anthony and a special mention to Richard Lucas and Rakesh Patel from Essex and Walthamstow respectively who have kept in touch with Toby & myself agreeing to attend the ORS cse next year.

All the plaudits must go to Milton who not only brought us all together but pushed us to enter this event bringing 5 strangers together with one thing in common – biking and to be more specific BMW Motorrad.His/ skill on 2 wheels was evident as was his determination and bravery to succeed.We/ went down for a fun weekend, Milton went to win.We/ all made a pledge to train more for next year.

Thank you, Ocean Falmouth.

Rob on his first run on the moguls following his trip around the woodland stage.
Milton on his run, how he managed to get the bike from this position, over the log and round the sharp right turn to the gate was something to behold.

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