After a punishing five day Dakar-style desert challenge held near Primm, NV and in Dumont Dunes, two riders and an alternate have been chosen to represent the Red Bull KTM U.S. Dakar team. They are Kellon Walch, Chris Blais and Andy Grider (as the alternate) for the 2005 Dakar Rally. Scot Harden will serve double duty as the team manager and as the third rider on the roster for 2005.The six riders who accepted the challenge, Andy Grider, Casey McCoy, Chris Blais, Jonah Street, Kellon Walch and Kenny Bartram participated in a series of exhausting Rally-like simulations. The challenges included navigation exercises, a simulated 500 mile-long Rally stage, a series of competitions in the dunes culminating in a ninety minute Grand Prix of Dumont Dunes finale.”Someone was looking out for us and the riders this week,” said Joe Barker, the Red Bull KTM Dakar team co-manager. “Last week we were told temperatures near Death Valley had risen to 120 to 128 degrees. It was still hot out there, but the top temperature had only reached 103 degrees.”Scot Harden added, “These guys showed so much heart and determination. No one quit, no one whined, and a competition like this would break most riders. We put them through the ringer.”The riders were confronted by many challenges; sleep deprivation, heat, long distances and many unknowns that go along with Rally competitions. The event got started with classroom instruction from Jimmy Lewis on the fine art of road-book and GPS navigation. After a series of small navigation tests near Primm, NV, the riders embarked on a short 80 miles cross-country route to Dumont Dunes where they would bivouac the next three nights. The second day of the challenge began at 2:30am with a 105 mile transfer stage to the start of the first special test. Arriving before dawn the riders caught what sleep they could on the ground by their bikes. At approximately 7:30am the first rider left the line to begin what was the first of two very long and difficult 200 mile special test stages. Observing the riders throughout the day was the special panel of judges assembled to select the team. The judging panel included the legendary Malcolm Smith, Danny LaPorte, Jimmy Lewis, and Joe Barker. Harden participated alongside the riders to get a birds-eye view of how the competitors were doing. When all was said and done, Walch, Blais and Grider finished in the top 3. Grider was especially challenged during the day suffering six flat tires along the way, all of with he repaired along the trail. On the final day of competition, the riders submitted to a series of unique challenges in the Dumont Dunes. Highlights of the day included the High Point competition where the riders were forced to ride to the highest point in the dunes. Walch took this part of the competition to an amazing ride up the vertical face to the high point.The final event of the Rally was the Grand Prix of Dumont. Here the riders raced for ninety minutes on a Grand Prix style course. This was a test of speed, endurance and pure heart, and what a race it was! After jumping out to an early lead, Kellon Walch suffered a flat tire at the 30 minute mark. Blais and Grider continued to pound furious laps to slowly close on Walch. With two laps to go, the top 3 riders passed each other several times a circuit. With the finish line in site, the riders rounded the final turn in full lock slides heading for the finish line. Walch won by half a wheel length over Grider and Blais.At the conclusion of the competition the hard work for the judges began. Malcolm, Danny, Jimmy, Joe and Scot discussed the results of the competition into the early evening hours. At sunup the next day, Walch and Blais were selected to represent the 2005 team with Grider filling in for the alternate position.”First, I’d like to say thank you to the amazing, hard working crew that helped make this event happen. Without them, this would not have been possible. The Red Bull KTM U.S. Dakar team consists of Joe Barker; co-manager, Thomas McDonald and Bret Leef; our mechanics, and Doctor Jonathan Edwards; the team doctor,” said Scot Harden. “Secondly, I need to thank Malcolm, Danny, Jimmy and Joe for suffering through with the competitors for the last five days and more importantly for their wisdom and judgment in selecting the team. Lastly, I must say, I was quite impressed with the riders and the ability that they all possess. I wish that I could invite all the riders to Dakar because they all have so much talent, enthusiasm, and strong character. However, there could only be three riders that can go to Dakar. For the first year it will be Chris Blais, and Kellon Walch, and myself. In addition, all of us including Andy Grider are looking forward to competing in the upcoming Baja 1000.”Congratulations Gentlemen. We look forward to seeing you on the podium in Dakar. The next event for the riders will be the Nevada Rally Experience.The Red Bull KTM Dakar U.S. Rider Rally Challenge was filmed for a two hour special that will air on OLN later this fall. An announcement will be made on the actual schedule date and time.