Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rally To Test Physical, Mental Endurance

News - Osawatomie

Sixteen days, 5,500 miles, two souped-up off-road bikes and one mechanic.

For Scott Spears, the new year will start off unlike any other he has experienced.

In only five days, the Osawatomie man will board a plane bound for South America —  his first trip outside of the United States ­— to take part in the Dakar Rally, an off-road race of mammoth proportions. From Jan. 1-16, Spears will serve as the lifeblood of a three-person team, joining Luis  Belaustegui, a foreign-language literature professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Mike Stanfield, owner of Freedom Cycles and Advantage Powersports to take on a field of more than 400 contenders in one of the biggest rally races in the world.

It was only three months ago that Spears was even approached about the opportunity. With only a few weeks to transform the skeleton of a 2008 KTM 530 EXKR motocross dirt bike into a rally-ready machine, he dove into a series of long days and late nights to accomplish a task that he said typically takes place over the course of a year.

“I would get home from the shop just to go back and do it again,” Spears said.

From air filters and shock absorbers to fenders, tires and navigation equipment, there wasn’t a piece on the frame left untouched; everything was upgraded. A specialized GPS system was installed, as well as additional compartments for water and tool storage. In this sport, nothing is left to chance.

“Safety is paramount in this race, when you’re talking about thousands of miles in the middle of nowhere,” Spears said. “You go through every nut and bolt on the bike. You don’t take anything for granted, because if you do, that’s when things break; that’s when people get hurt.”

In addition to the EXKR, the crew will be racing a 2010 150 SX, a two-stroke dirt bike built by team sponsor KTM and shipped directly to Argentina; the bike, which will be ridden by Belaustegui, is one of the smallest bikes in the rally and if it successfully finishes will be a global first.

“It’s been attempted by a four-stroke, but to the best of our knowledge, it’s never been completed by a two-stroke,” Spears said.

Also up for a record-setting opportunity is Stanfield, who at 64 Donna could set the record for oldest racer if he successfully finishes the rally.

The Dakar Rally will wind throughout Chile and Argentina on a course taking riders from the dunes of the Atacama Desert to the peaks of the Andes mountain range. Only seven in the massive field of competitors are Americans; only three of them are competing in the motorcycle division.

“This is a world stage,” Spears said.

Even with 20 years of experience under his belt, Spears expects the rally to simultaneously be the biggest and most challenging experience of his career.

Though he will be tasked with ensuring that the bikes keep running, his goal will be the same for Belaustegui and Stanfield. He will be on hand to make certain that they have everything they need to keep going through each leg.

“This is a race against time and the elements, your physical and mental condition,” Spears said.

For more information on the rally, including live streaming coverage once the race starts, go online to More information is also available at Spears’ personal blog, which catalogs his journey and preparation and is expected to be updated from South America, can be found at

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