|Black Heart's House of Art sponsored my 2012 Dirty Kanza 200 rider trading card. Each year the promoters ask a handful of riders to participate in the trading cards, and I was lucky to be chosen this year to participate! Thanks to Black Heart's for their support of my card!|
|The back side... Now you know a little about me.|
As we dropped onto Coyne Creek Road at about mile 85 of the 2012 Dirty Kanza 200, the conscious decisions I'd made about bike setup for the event suddenly paid off big time. It was the roughest, rockiest part of the course and riders all around me were scrambling to hit the brakes and pick the smoothest line through the scree.
Because I was riding more of a mountain bike than a 'cross bike, instead of braking I was able to hit the gas and rip the section like it was a mountain bike race. It was an interesting contrast in styles, as my slightly slower bike on the smooth sections more than made up for itself in the rough. And make no mistake, the Dirty Kanza is rough... To define it as a "typical" gravel event is to underestimate its sheer ruggedness.
|All smiles as we arrive at the start around 5:20 a.m. Photo: Laura Gersib|
At the start, I was fortunate to get out of the gate with the leaders and, up until a wrong turn about 15 miles in, was riding comfortably with the lead group. But once we had to make up time after the wrong turn, things got a little ugly. Fortunately, there were plenty of fast riders to link up with just behind the lead so I was never alone for long. I rode at or near the lead pack for perhaps the first hour or two, dropping off the pace perhaps 30 miles in or so. It's a bit of a blur, in all honesty, as it was just a lot of pack riding, and then a lot of catching and passing groups of slower riders after the wrong turn.
|Still with the leaders here... There's Cornbread to my right, about three wheels up.|
|Another one, from a little higher up.|
|Looking back on the pacelines... We were going pretty fast here, but at least the roads were smooth.|
I rolled into the first checkpoint right around the top-25, or so I was told by my lovely wife, Laura, who'd accompanied me to Emporia to volunteer as my pit crew for the event. Thanks to Laura's awesome effort, I never went thirsty or hungry during the event, and was able to keep my stops at the checkpoints to 15 minutes or under for pretty much every stop (perhaps excepting the third stop -- I think I may have stayed there for 20 minutes -- but that wasn't her fault). And even though my stomach was not being particularly cooperative as far as what it would let me eat, she figured out what would work and would always have it waiting for me at the next stop. Thank you Laura!
|Staying hydrated at checkpoint two... Photo: L. Gersib|
|The Kansas Flint Hills have miles of vast prairie. It's very cool...|
|The "middle miles" of long races like the 'Kanza often are sometimes the loneliest. As you work into your pace, you may or may not find someone that's riding at a compatible pace. Between CP 2 and 3, I rode mostly alone.|
|You can always look forward or back and see people, which gives you reason to keep chasing, but whether you actually catch them or not is another deal. Sometimes you'll work for an hour simply to make up a half mile on someone...|
The final segment of the Dirty Kanza was a highlight of the event, as I linked up with two fantastic riders for the final push into Emporia -- Jim Simms of the Swiftwick Racing team, and Bill Ruth of the Boulder Trek Store team. Bill is a particularly inspiring racer. At more than 60 years young, he continues to push his body and bike to incredible levels... His performance earned him the Dave Pals award this year, and I'd say he's a deserving recipient.
We pulled into Emporia just ahead of 8pm, and across the line at exactly 7:57pm, for a finish time of 13:57:00 for the (officially) 202 mile event. I actually had 206.5 miles on my computer as a result of the extra miles we'd accrued during our early missed turn. Average speed for the day on the bike was well over 15 mph -- an impressive speed on a gravel grinder of any length, but especially impressive over more than 200 miles in the Kansas Flint Hills, on a bike with 2.2-inch tires. I'll take it...
|At the finish with my best friend and pit crew. Photo: Kristi Henrikson-Mohn|
There are so many folks that helped make this year's Dirty Kanza 200 possible for me... I mentioned Laura already, but I'll say it again... Thank you Sweetheart!! You were awesome out there. Thanks also to the promoters of the Dirty Kanza 200, who are very dear friends -- Jim Cummins, Kristi Henrikson-Mohn and Tim Mohn -- the generosity the three of you have shown me is amazing. Rob Gilligan, thanks for the awesome Dirty Kanza 200 rider card this year, and for including me in your pre-race promotions. Thanks to my teammates, Corey Godfrey, Aaron Gammel, Scott Bigelow, Bruce Currin, MW, CVO and everyone else that's inspired me by pushing me on rides over the past few months. Oh, and thanks to the people of Emporia, Kansas and the surrounding area for being fantastic, gracious hosts. Laura and I had a great time during our stay.
Finally, thanks to the fantastic people that support my riding and racing: Kris and Julie Sonderup at Cycle Works and The Moose's Tooth in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Rob Versteegh at Oakley. I ride with these folks because the products they provide me are the best I can get, and because they are cyclists themselves. Please consider them as you shop for outdoor and cycling gear.
Thanks for reading! Have great adventures and I'll see you out on the road or singletrack.