The Dirty Kanza takes place in a few weeks down in Emporia, Kansas. It is a 200-mile gravel grinder through an area called the Flint Hills. We're sending the Dirty Six…plus Lucky Seven…to take it on.
Each of these guys has his own motivations, and his own fears, for this event. Today they introduce themselves, their goals for the DK 200.
The Dirty Six
Eki - I've thought about the Dirty Kanza 200 for a few years now and have always viewed the race as one of the pioneers of gravel road racing. Having completed the Trans Iowa twice I knew the DK was always on my horizon.
My goals for this year's race are simple; finish, be in the break, and have fun! I've found that overcomplicating a race with detailed goals only leads to disappointment. I believe in the 'keep it simple' plan.
However, my hopes for the race do become a bit more detailed. I hope my 'dark times' do not resemble black holes and their duration is short. I hope to be positioned in such a way during the closing miles that a podium spot is possible. Finally, I hope to finish with a smile on my face, a few slaps on the back, and one more successful adventure under my belt.
Gnat - Over the course of the last month lots of folks have been asking me. “Why would you ride 200 miles of gravel in Kansas?” On the surface, it appears to be a great question. However, my response is more of “Why wouldn’t you?” Over the course of the last 3 years I’ve developed a real passion for solitude, gravel and natural beauty. I think the DK200 and Kansas has mile after mile of those things.
Beyond those these things called out above, I’m doing it to push myself further than I’ve gone before. I’ve never ridden 200 miles in one day. In all honesty, finishing may be a challenge for me. However, the anticipated feeling of finishing and accomplishment outweigh my fears.
What is Gnat’s bike choice and set up for the event?
I’ve never been known to do things halfway so when I decided to do this event, I set out to build a purpose-built bike. This bike will take on the DK and another un-named event I hope to one day complete. It is a pretty amazing bike. I could write for hours on end about why I did what I did and chose what I chose when designing the bike. However, at the moment, I simply want to share a couple of pictures.
My set up for the DK is ever changing. I’m still tweaking and tuning. I have one goal though, to get as much weight off of me and onto the bike as possible. The DK is long and grueling and taking weight off the body is critical for me to manage my fatigue.
Sean - Growing up in Tennessee, we would travel to Kansas once a year to visit my dad’s family. I always loved Kansas because it was so much different than Tennessee. I love east Kansas and its limestone hills and huge bald plains. Last fall when I found out there was a race through this same area I knew I had to do it!
I’ll be riding a completely taken apart and put back together Chili Con Crosso. The Trans Iowa this year reeked havoc on my drivetrain and hubs. I had to replace the front hub bearings and put a new chain on it just because of the TI. I think the highlights of the bike are: very lightweight (especially for a 60cm), Cane Creek ST thudbuster, and Conti speed tires. The Jandd frame bag I have works pretty well too.
I feel like my fitness has continued to increase this spring especially now that I’m rubbing elbows in the local road and criterium races. I think I would enjoy just getting to stay with the leaders like Joe Meiser, Tim Ek, Charlie Farrow, Ryan Horkey, Charlie Tri, and anyone else that’s fast (you know who you are, I could name off quite a few people now that I’ve done the Trans Iowa!). I mean honestly what a great group of guys to ride with just because of the quality of the people, and also because of how strong they are and how they push me. I hope to stay with them as long as possible, hopefully finishing with them, and to also enjoy the beautiful scenery of east Kansas.
Joe - My goal is a sub 13-hour finish. I'll be riding my La Cruz Ti prototype.
I'm scared of what the road surface is like. I keep hearing these stories of these flint shard roads and I know that flint makes good knives in a pinch!
Ryan - I'm doing the DK200 because I got bored doing 20 to 30-mile XC races and started enjoying long 100 to 200-mile road rides. I want a race that will stretch my limits and take me out of my comfort zone. I don't know exactly how my body will react to the stress of a 200-mile race. I enjoy the preparation and strategy (as rudimentary as it may be) of planning my nutrition, carrying gear, etc.
I will be riding a steel La Cruz with disc brakes, Woodchipper bar, SRAM group, Cane Creek Thudbuster ST, and 35mm tires. I will also be showing off my new full custom map holder by ZipLock!
My goal is to finish strong with the lead group. I know there is a handful of accomplished riders starting the race along with the very capable Salsa contingent, so the pace should be fast. If can finish in the top ten I will be very pleased.
PK - For myself, the DK is way to experience a completely different aspect of bicycle riding than I typically pursue, and also to see where my limits are. I want to see if I can ride that far in one take. I’ve only ever ridden 2 century rides and nothing longer. The first included a 1.5 hour lunch break, plus a Dairy Queen stop at mile 85, so it was hardly 100 miles straight. The second was just a couple weekends ago at this year’s Almanzo 100. My average idea of a “long ride” is from the top of the Garbanzo chair back down to Whistler village. “Hydration” usually means riding across the street from the DJs to grab a ‘Dew at the convenience store. This whole “gravel racing” thing is a bit outside my normal scope and I’m looking forward to getting up-close and personal with it for a few hours.
For the DK, I’ll be pushing the same setup I used in the Almanzo: A proto Vaya frame with Woodchippers, a Canecreek Thudbuster ST and a set of DT 240 hub'd wheels, setup tubeless with 42mm rubber. I’ll likely be using the same configuration of frame bags with H20 bladder as well. That seemed to work really well for the Almanzo where I went the full 100 self-supported. I like having nothing on my back. With the ability to refuel at the DK check-points, it should be even easier in terms of carrying “enough” food and water. The extra 100 miles? I’ll just have find out….
And finally…Lucky Seven…Matt - This will be my third Dirty Kanza 200. My best finish in the race was fifth place in 2008. I wasn't able to compete in the 2009 event due to a friend's wedding, so I'm looking forward to being back in Emporia toeing the line in a couple weeks.
I'm choosing my Salsa Vaya for the 'Kanza, as it's the perfect combination of speed and strength for the demanding Kansas Flint Hills course, based on my experience. In my first two 'Kanza finishes, I was on an El Mariachi in '07 and a La Cruz in '08, and I went three hours faster on the La Cruz. I know this year the field is stacked with talent, so I'll be very happy if I end up in the top ten, but am also realistic enough to know that might be optimistic.
As long as I have fun, ride hard and finish, I'll be proud and happy, as everyone that finishes this awesome 200-mile event should be.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.