Dirty Kanza 100 2019

I’ve just got back from a pretty great trip.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this year I was going to take part in one of the premier gravel riding events, the Dirty Kanza.

The Trip

I flew out to Denver and spent the first 4 days in Boulder. This was for a few reasons. Firstly it’s somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for a while as it was one of the options I listed for my year at uni in the US (I suspect that the powers that be knew I’d have spent the whole year snowboarding which is why I ended up in North Carolina…) and I was sure there would be some good riding to shake the flight out of my legs. It’s also at altitude (about a mile above sea level) which I was hoping would help as a final little push (I know you have to spend more than a week at altitude before it actually starts to have a positive effect).

While in town I went on 2 rides led out of the Full Cycle bike shop. The first was a road ride on Saturday morning at 09:00 which covered about 70km in 2 and a bit hours.

It was a nice pace to shake the flight out of my legs and to make sure I’d put the bike back together properly after the flight. The ride was pretty flat and I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with the pace.

The second ride was billed as a gravel ride but had aspects that were closer to a mountain bike single track ride. And this time I really started to feel the altitude as there was a bunch more climbing some of it pretty steep.

Both rides left from the Pearl Street store with at least 2 ride leaders. If you are in town and want somebody to show you some good riding I suggest you head along and see these folk.

I stuck in a repeat of Saturday’s ride on my own on the Monday just to keep the legs turning over as I didn’t fancy doing any major climbing. I also tried to stick a short run in but the the altitude really kicked in and I managed about 4k before deciding that enough was enough while gasping for air.

On Wednesday I set off on the monumental drive across most of Kansas. I had booked a place to stop in a small town called Hays to break up the nearly 600mile drive.

The drive was an experience, I’ve driven round different parts of the US in the past, but either on the East coast or round the US National Parks in the South West, but this was just hour after hour of nearly totally straight flat road. I can totally see the appeal of a self driving (totally, definitely not the current systems that require human oversight) vehicle for this kind of driving.

While stretching my legs when I arrived I happened to catch a train crossing Main Street.

Then on Thursday I finished off the run in to Emporia. While the first 360 miles had been nearly totally flat the ground did finally start to become a little bit more rolling.

The Event

The Dirty Kanza is based out the town of Emporia in East Kansas.

The DK takes over pretty much all of Commercial Street, with pretty much all of the shops getting involved. There is a area between Commercial Street and Mechanics Street where all the sponsors get to set up their stands and you can look at all the new bikes and tech.

On the Friday before the actual event there is a short social ride, I rolled round with everybody before heading off to recy the first 10 miles of the course.

The full 200 mile event starts at 6am (with the dawn) and the 100 mile event starts 30 minutes later so I got to see the folk doing the longer distance set off.

Once they had cleared the starting area, we got to line up to set off.

The ride was a tale of 2 parts, the first 90km to the feed station went really well, cruising along at a steady 23kph and doing just over half the climbing in just under 4 hours. I’d made a decent dent into the 2 750ml drink bottles I had with me. I refilled them both and had a snack to keep the energy up, I spent about 15mins at the rest station. The temperature for the first leg had topped out at about 25 °C.

The second leg was a lot harder covering just short of 80km, the temperature topped out at 35 °C and averaged 32 °C and this meant I burnt through a lot more water. Luckily there were a couple of places along the way where I could top up my bottles again. It also kicked off with one of the bigger climbs of the whole route. There had been a 40% chance of rain (with the possibility of thunder) in the forecast for the afternoon that I had been keeping an eye on all of the week running up to the event, hoping it wouldn’t happen. By the time the temperature passed 30 °C I had changed my mind and scanning the sky for clouds.

I got within 10km of the finish when I had my first and only mechanical issue. My rear tire had nearly fully deflated, but the tubeless sealant had managed to plug the leak so all I needed to do was use a CO2 canister to top it up.

Crossing the DK finish line

The finish line was back down Commercial Street which had been converted into a street party while we had been out on the trail. Lots of people cheering which really helped get over the line.

I would definitely do the DK again, may be even give the full 200mile version a try next time, but that would need a bigger training plan and probably finding a way to spend a good few weeks at altitude in the run up. I would also make use of the third bottle cage mounts on the bike

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