For those new to the gravel road racing and endurance cycling scene, the Dirty Kanza 200 is one tough event. Take 200 miles of gravel, throw in the sharp Flint Hills rock, some hills, some wind and the heat and you've got perfect conditions for both heroic efforts and painful defeat. That is exactly why Salsa loves this event both from a sponsorship and from a participant viewpoint. It is one tough event that pushes folks out of their comfort zone. It is a true test of mind, body and equipment. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Regardless of winning or losing, chances are you leave Emporia with a new perspective or at least with a lesson or two learned. This event is also pretty amazing in that the city of Emporia, Kansas really gets behind this event. They open their doors, close their streets and share their awesome city and amazing landscape with racers and support crews from all over the USA. Salsa would like to thank Jim Cummins, the Mohns, Joel Dyke, the city of Emporia, and all the volunteers. I know there are many others involved that we just don't know and don't see. Thank you too. We are so thankful to be part of this great event and can't wait to talk about next year. Today's post is a tribute and thank you to all of you.
Friday started at the amazing Granada Theater. Salsa presented a Ride the Divide movie screening to support our friend Erik Mathy and 1gear1cause.org where he is riding this year's Tour Divide as a fundraiser for cancer research. The movie was timed with registration too. The racers started rolling in and the front of the theater turned into a huge gathering of good people. The local Farmer's Market also catered a pasta feed with homemade deserts.
After all this meeting, greeting and eating, we went back to the Granada for the pre race meeting. There was a lot of schwag and give aways from the event sponsors as well as some wise words from Jim about the race.? For those wondering about what is under that black sheet, it is a beautiful Adventure Monkey canvas print given out to the winner of the David Pals award. The print was stunning. Sorry no pics from the balcony. The meeting was over and the racers quickly dispersed. It was time for final preperation and hopefully some rest.
Race day began early. The race starts at 6:00AM sharp. Lot's of energy for such an early start time. Eki had his game face on. Knowing what I know now, I don't think he knew what he was in for.?
We had 5 Salsa racers participating in the event as well as a special guest. Here in the front row are our fast dudes...Notice I'm not in that picture. Left to right are Tim Ek, Ryan Horkey, Joe Meiser, Jason Gaikowski and our friend at VeloNews, Nick Legan (He's on a Vaya Ti).
The rollout went as typical gravel races go. The fast folks move to the front. There is some jockeying for position before you hit gravel and then the pack splits. This last photo above was taken 2 miles from the start. I like to start with the fast group and fall off the back so I don't have to follow folks when we hit gravel. It give me open road.
After the initial craziness, people settle in and nerves began to calm. The sun peeks over the horizon. You look around (at least I do) and realize that you are in an amazing land with good people.
This year's route brought us through some very picturesque areas of the Flint Hills. The section above was one of my favorites. You could see unobstructed in every direction for miles and miles. For me personally, this is one of the reasons I like to go to events like the Dirty Kanza. It is moments like this that you get to be out there and get to feel like you are "out there".
But this isn't just about cruising through a beautiful countryside, the DK200 is a race. Above Ryan checks in at checkpoint one after 58 miles and gets the map for section two. At these events, navigation is part of the race and you don't know the route until you reach the check point. Check out the dust all over Ryan.?
After checkpoint 1, we headed out for 44 miles. We had an amazing tailwind for a good part of this section. It was easy to fly across the countryside. On this section there were a few navigational challenges in that some of the course markings had been removed. After consulting the map, I found my way but I know many others did not. It was also on this section that I ran over a big snake in the water on one of the creek crossing. It scared me to death.
At checkpoint 2 you start to see how the the heat, the dust, the hills, the flat tires and the efforts are taking a toll on the riders.? Above Eki rolls in and quickly moves on. He's a warrior. For me, my day ended at check point two. I ended with a little over 100 miles in just over 7 hours. My hands and feet had gone numb from the vibration and the heat. I was having trouble eating and taking in calories. It was not my day.? It is also where my pictures end.
From what I have read and what I have heard, the race really got crazy for those that pushed on to check point 3 and furthermore onto the finish. Storms and high winds. Crazy mud. Broken derailleurs. This is where the amazing stories and the personal growth happen. In the end, not that many finished the event. Those that did are warriors in my book. Your efforts are amazing. But truthfully, anyone who enters this race inspires me.
Thank you all for the inspiration to take on something challenging and to keep pedaling no matter what.? Thank you Dirty Kanza.