Good day folks. Today it is my pleasure to introduce MG, our guest Amigo's blogger. MG's been a Salsa Amigo for a couple of years. You can read MG's stories here. Just over a week ago, MG rode our lovely La Cruz to a 5th place finish in this year's Dirty Kanza 200, that's 200 miles of gravel. Here's Matt's story.
As I sat on the start line of the 2008 Dirty Kanza 200 mile gravel grinder conversing with eventual race winner, Cameron Chambers of Team 360, the promoters contemplated postponing the race start to allow a strong thunderstorm to the southwest of Emporia, Kansas to move through the area. But instead, seemingly in an instant, the racers were deemed not to be in danger and the decision was made to go ahead with the planned 6am departure. So, just a few minutes behind schedule, after a brief rider's meeting, 67 racers rolled through town behind a neutral start to the Emporia city limit. And over the next 13 hours and 58 minutes (the time it took me to complete 203 miles and change), I saw a lot of old friends, met several new friends, nearly lost lunch a couple times, but in the end, rode waaaay faster over 200 miles than I thought possible just a week ago.
Image credit: Cornbread
Matt Wills and I were talking about our DK200 experiences earlier tonight, and we both agreed that the 'Kanza has less of a "death march" factor than Trans Iowa. Perhaps it's the fact that it's more than a hundred miles shorter. Or that it comes a month later in the year. Whatever it is, the DK200 was a distinctly more attainable goal for me than T.I. was this year.
That said, I almost went out hard enough to ruin my own chances of finishing the DK200. I was feeling good in the early miles and the pace didn't feel hard at all, though looking at my computer told me that our average speed was in the 18.5mph range -- pretty fast. We pulled into the first checkpoint in a little over two hours, and were in and out quickly. The lead group was down to six at that point. We were fifty miles into the race. Cornbread and I felt like Cameron Chambers looked the strongest by far. 2007 Kanza winner, Dan Hughes, looked strong, but clearly could not match the more lithe Chambers at the crucial moments.
The one person who did have the power to match Chambers' massive out-of-the-saddle accelerations was Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey. Cornbread, known as such for his penchant for bringing panloads of cornbread to races, was helping Chambers put time on Hughes. An alliance was born. Or so it seemed for a while... until the flat tires started. Eight of them, exactly. I gave him the tube to fix number nine if he needed to do it, but it never happened. Thank God.
Image credit: JoelDyke
You might think that eight flat tires would ruin a guy's performance. Not Cornbread. He still finished in seventh place overall. What a stud! He did it on a Michelin tire being held together by duct tape! Incredible... He's one of those guys that's an unsung hero sitting just below the radar screen of the major teams today. We'll see what tomorrow brings. The boy's good, and man, if he could focus on training, it'd be amazing to think of how good he could be...
Cornbread and I actually hooked up late in the race, after the sleepy town of Americus. I had taken a pass on the Casey's convenience store in town, and paid the price. When Corey rode up on me, I was sitting in a ditch, basically emptying the contents of every sugary food I had in my bag into my mouth. It worked. I somehow was able to come back around and have a great last 20 miles of the race. Unfortunately, Cornbread had some leg cramps and was forced to stop and stretch his calves out near the finish. As a result, he lost a couple of positions near the finish. Was he bummed? Naaaaah... Corey took it all in stride with his trademark smile. He had a blast. And why not? He spent the day on his bike. It certainly could have been worse. But that said, there are a lot of "racer types" who forget the joy of riding bikes all too easily. Cornbread proves that not all talented racers ride to race. Some simply love to ride bikes, and if you know what to look for, it's easy to tell who those cyclists are.
DK200 promoter, Jim Cummins, is one of those people, though. He finished in fourth place overall, just ahead of me. What an awesome cyclist to put on the event and compete in such a challenging race. Amazing!!
My new friend Jason Gaikowski is another rider I'd put into that category. A former Minnesota resident now living in Kansas City, at the exit of the final checkpoint, Gaikowski took a wrong turn and ended up 20 miles away from the finish in Emporia, in the town of Madison, putting an end to a stellar ride that very well might have seen him ride into the top-three overall by the race end, had he stayed on-course. But he handled it like a champ, and even bummed a ride back to Emporia in the truck of a fellow cyclist that had been out on a road ride, so while he definitely got his 200 miles in, he didn't have to get 220 miles getting back to Emporia (and nobody had to go get him).
I'd like to thank Jim, Craig, Joel and all of the Heartland Racing crew for putting on the Dirty Kanza 200. It was an awesome event, and I'm already looking forward to the fourth version of the race in 2009. Visit the Heartland Racing Website for more information about the Dirty Kanza 200, or any of the races in the Heartland Racing Series.
My Salsa La Cruz Complete was the perfect ride for the DK200, as the abusive flint rock roads would have made me queasy on a super light steed. Steel's the real deal on that stuff, as far as I'm concerned. So are disc brakes -- 100 percent. There were times where I'd be braking hard and rocks would get kicked up against the rims and I'd think how lucky I was to have discs on-board. They're the ticket all the time -- road and mountain. The future, mark my words. The fork on the La Cruz is a work of art -- approaching perfection. I don't know how you guys tuned that thing to ride so incredibly, but kudos. Jesse P and I were talking earlier tonight about how incredibly they handle, feel and soak up bumps, and on the flint rock in Kansas, you could see as well as feel it working. It was awesome! And in switching to the La Cruz 'cross bike from the mountain bike I used last year helped me shave a full three hours, one minute and 33 seconds off my time, and improve my finish placing from ninth to fifth. Thanks Salsa, for making the La Cruz such an awesome bike for these types of rides and races. It was perfect for the Kanza.
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Growing up as a Minnesota farm boy, I developed an appreciation and love for land and open space. This appreciation has fostered two passions, cycling and photography. Both of these passions provide freedom, encourage me to explore and foster creativity. More importantly though, my journey with a bike and a camera reminds me that the world is big and I am small.