“The Dirty Kanza wants your soul.” That’s how our ambassador Noah Tautfest described the 206-mile gravel-grinder through the Flint Hills of Kansas.
The roads around Emporia, KS are a grid-network of rolling gravel through farms and open land. It’s a small community, and the whole town comes out to cheer on riders… literally the whole town. Amazing local support and a challenging, rewarding race have enabled this race to grow from what it was 13-years ago to what it is now – the premier gravel grinder in the country.
The GU Crew was busy last weekend. Here’s what happened out there on the gravel roads of Kansas.
All photos by Myke Hermsmeyer.
The “Queen of Pain” Rebecca Rusch dominated the first ever 350-mile Dirty Kanza XL. To be clear, this means she rode three-hundred-and-fifty-miles, many of them in the dark, for over 28 hours. No aid stations, no crew, just her, her bike, and relentless gravel roads. She was the first woman finisher and fourth overall… but just finishing this epic effort was an accomplishment in itself with only 18 finishers of the 39 starters.
The Rush In seems like a fitting place for Rebecca Rusch to stop mid-race…
“All you can do is pedal your bike…”
Rain and hail, a crimson electrical storm lighting up the horizon, a lone bobcat running across the road… this was Yuri Hauswald’s reality at 4:30 am on Saturday morning. He was already 12-hours deep into his Dirty Kanza XL effort sitting in second place. A few hours later, he pulled into a stranger’s front yard and asked to borrow a hose to wash the stubborn Kansas mud off his drivetrain so he could re-lube his chain and keep pedaling.
Before crossing the finish line in second place over 25 hours after he started, he hit a low point at mile 280 when he called his wife Vanessa. “I just walked over a mile through mud… this is f***ed.”
With no aid stations or crews allowed, Yuri was in and out of gas-station convenience stores with precision. Four or five liters of water, ice from the soda fountain, ginger-ale, and at one stop, an egg-sausage-cheese breakfast biscuit. “It’d get what I needed, then I’d go out and yard-sale sale everything as I refilled my bottles, pull out old-trash, and repacked my nutrition.”
Why did he do it? “As a rule, I always want to challenge myself with new challenges… but this was definitely on the edge of what I’m capable of doing. I had to honor the invite, though… When Jim Cummings [DK race director] calls, you answer!”
To Aero or Not to Aero
GU Crew rider Geoff Kabush rattled up some “controversy” with a pre-race editorial about the dangers of using aero-bars in a mass-start gravel race. Then he crushed the 206-mile Dirty Kanza for a third-place finish despite a flat tire early in the race.
Nothing like a quick mid-race nap
Husband and wife duo Jay and Tracey Petervary rode the 350-mile Dirty Kanza XL… on a tandem! Rumor has it that Tracey rested her head on Jay’s back and caught some shut-eye during the race. The pair finished in just over 32 hours.
The first EVER High School Gravel Race
“It was awesome. 25 kids signed up, so it was a small, but mighty event! There were kids in matching kits and kids wearing gym shorts on mountain bikes… but they all came out to play!” That’s what race-organizer Vanessa Hauswald, ED of the Norcal High School Cycling League, had to say about the first ever high-school gravel-grinder.
Next year? Vanessa and the Dirty Kanza Race Crew hope it will be five-times as big!
We gave these high-school riders a sneak-peek at the latest GU Energy Gel flavor set to launch on June 11. The flavor is still a secret, but, spoiler alert, they liked it! Look for it on shelves soon, and try it out knowing that 10% of all sales will go to support high-school mountain bikers through NICA.
Chief Endurance Officer
GU’s co-founder and CEO Brian Vaughan lived up to his title of Chief Endurance Officer by braving the 90+ degree heat and finishing the 206-mile Dirty Kanza in just over 16-hours. Our boss is faster than yours!
Last Year's Queen of Kanza
Last year’s Dirty Kanza Queen and GU Crew rider Alison Tetrick came back to defend her crown this year. Despite a cold, she crushed the 206-mile race and earned herself a third-place podium finish.
Pro Triathlete Turned DK Crusher
GU ambassador Matt Lieto turned in his wetsuit and running shoes for a gravel bike and rode the longest ride of his life for a surprise 17th place finish overall (and second in his age-group).