Meeting the Challenge
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By Mike Greife
Stanfield entered a smaller rally in Argentina in 2009 and enjoyed it. He entered his first Dakar rally in 2011. It was the challenge he had been seeking.
"There are several challenges to Dakar besides the physical and mental challenges of the ride," he said. "The first is the cost, the second is the logistics of getting all of your equipment there, and the third is the time commitment."
Equipment, which includes a fully-equipped support vehicle, a recreational vehicle for the support crew, and all of the tires, tools and equipment for maintenance of the motorcycle, has to be shipped by boat. Planning can take a full year.
The Dakar is 14 days of on- and off-road competition and normally covers a distance of 5,500 miles. The riders must finish each day by a specified time or they are disqualified. Each rider is provided with written directions that include compass headings, and use of a GPS is not allowed. Riders are allowed to take only what they can carry, and the only support allowed on the course is from other riders.
"The directions will tell you to go so far on a compass heading and turn left, for example, but they won't tell you about the obstacles that may be there. You have to go around those obstacles and still stay the course while keeping track of your time," Stanfield explained.
Stanfield rode in Dakar again in 2012, but he was unable to finish either race. In 2011 he injured his ankle, and in 2012 he was delayed when he stopped to help another rider. He did not ride in 2013, but managed the support crew, which assisted three riders in finishing the race.
The support team travels daily to the next night stop, setting up camp and preparing a tent for the support mechanics to work on the motorcycle once the rider arrives. Although she initially had her reservations about Dakar, Jennifer was a member of the support team in 2012 and 2013.
"The first year, I didn't go out with the team, and I was getting information in bits and pieces through television and email when he broke his ankle. There were terrible dust storms in 2012, and I left after 10 days. But Mike's always supported me in anything I've done, so I decided to go for it." In 2013, she returned to Dakar, but this time she assisted with the support team.
"Sometimes the riders aren't in until late, and mechanics may have to work through the night," she said. "The support team has to pack everything up the next morning, make it several hundred miles to the next stop and set everything up again. Over time, I met the other wives and the riders we were supporting, and it was a great experience."
The Stanfields consider themselves semi-retired, although they still take an active part in the business. They now have the freedom to travel and make time for the things they want to do. They will return to Dakar in 2014 with another support team that they are forming now.
"I guess I have the satisfaction of knowing that I made the effort to try it," Stanfield said. "Even though I didn't finish either time, I made it a lot further than most. The finish rate is about 50 percent. The contacts we've made with people around the world and the perseverance of those who make it to the finish is inspiring.