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Dirty Kanza

The Dirty Kanza 200 Gravel Race -  one of the hardest and most challenging gravel races around. It's one of those races where no matter how hard you train, there is always something that is unexpected - from the unrelenting mud of last year to this year's heat and wind, in addition to mud from an early morning thunder storm. The course changes slightly every year, but riders know they will face river crossing, unrelenting wash-boarded roads, tire-slicing flint and the ever changing Kansas wind. The race starts at 6:00AM Saturday - with the ultimate goal for the fastest riders to beat the sunset. Most just want to finish. Most will not - 1500 started this year and only 559 made it back to Emporia before 3:00AM Sunday. And it is all self-supported, outside of a few checkpoints. Carry what you need for the next five to eight hours - because once you leave the check point, you are on your own. Preparation for this race involves more then just riding - gear selection and knowledge also plays a huge role in success.

I had two athletes taking on the DK200 - Don returning for redemption after a DNF last year and Judd facing the beast for the first time. Just like during Arrowhead 135 and 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, I was checking the updates as frequently as I could. But this wasn't as straight forward as the movements of a blue dot or the consistent lap times in a 24 hour race. There was hours between the three checkpoints, with no way of knowing what was going on. Even if I'd been out there helping as support crew - it would have been the same. Support crew had to take separate roads from the race to ensure self-support. Unless picking up a dropped rider, the only time support could help was at the checkpoints. So I was waiting for the results to pop up, doing the math on average times and when I should anticipate seeing the splits appear. And consistently, they did. I was also watching the official DK feeds so knew that the course was muddy and crazy for the first few hours, then dusty and hot. Very hot. Many athletes were wilting in the heat and I was seeing photos and reading stories of people sitting in the river crossings to try to cool off. I just had to hope that both of my athletes were handling the heat well, staying on top of nutrition and hydration and that they'd paced themselves smartly.

With Don I also had the added worry about factors outside his control - how well his stoker was doing. Yes, Don was the captain of a tandem team. That's how he races for most of these gravel grinders. I knew that his stoker, Brian, was strong, but had no other information. And Judd had just missed two weeks of training with a nasty chest cold. Was he 100% going into the race? Or would the dust aggravate the residual lung issues and cause him to pull up short? Each checkpoint result was a sigh of relief. Even better was watching Don and Brain move up through the tandem class at each checkpoint. Not only were they going to finish, but at the final check point they had landed in podium position! When I checked the results first thing Sunday morning, Judd and Don had both finished. Judd in 18:35 and Don and Brian in 18:54. Success on both counts, with the bonus of a 5th place in the tandem class for Don and Brian. I'm sure as I get race reports and the stories from the dust, the finishes will be even more impressive for both of them. Dirty Kanza is all about finding your limits and the personal challenge of keeping pedaling when things are going great and when things are bleak. Both of my athletes met the challenge head on and succeeded and I couldn't be prouder.

Very hard earned pint glasses!
Photo Don Wood

And bringing home some hardware! Don Wood and Brian Gillies took 5th in the tandem class
Photo Don Wood


  1. What an amazing experience. Sunday morning Woody said 'never again'. I kinda agreed. But by Monday afternoon we were both psyched for 2017. Not sure it if was the DK200 experience or the BPR experience. Either way. 2017 it is.


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