Author: Brent Moody
Kansas…. Who would have ever thought or dreamed that have much elevation gain or would be any tough riding….
One of the Top 17 Bucket List rides that Leon had sent out to use this past year, it truly made the list. I had been preparing for this epic ride for a few months. Longer rides, lots of gravel grinders, but nothing can really prepare you for this ride. Dirty Kanza takes place the last weekend of May, storm season kick off in Kansas. You never know what the weather will be there at this time of year, Thunderstorms with 40 mph winds, 90 degrees and sweltering, or 30 and snow!
I had heard the previous year that the weather was 80, but 30-40mph gusts… was hoping that wouldn’t be the case. Weather was predicted with chance thunderstorms, but 85 and light wind. I will take that, especially starting out at 6am.
Of all places in the world to meet some other riders riding Dirty Kanza, I happened to be riding in Nebraska, near my hometown of Ansley, when I met a guy from Broken Bow riding the Dirty Kanza! No Way! This was a great cross of paths as we were able to get quite a few gravel rides in Nebraska a few weeks before the race. I have really taken a love for gravel grinding and the prairie of Nebraska with the desolate and minimum maintenance roads. One of these rides in Nebraska, we were outrunning the Thunderstorm and rode an extra 15 miles just to escape. The rain and hail was on our heels the entire way, LOL!
My wife and I had found an RV spot in Emporia, KS where the race would take place, start and finish loop. Emporia is a nice little town, but think what happens when you bring 1350 racers into town, with their support staff, etc. This little town quickly becomes overrun. What’s a really great success story about this race is it’s only about 5 years old on the spotlight. The first year started out with about 15 racers, and has grown to this size in that short amount of time. All the bike companies, etc. with even ESPN was supporting and covering this race. There was a race meeting and checking in the night before the race, very well organized, with lots of goodies. You do have to register right away when it registration comes open as it sells out within a few weeks. Race is only $90, so super in expensive and you get a lot in return from this great little town. The racing options were a 100 mile ½ pint or the great 200 mile Fully Monty! That was me, choosing the 200 mile race. No support on the race, except every 50 miles. You have the choice of organizing your own race support, but can only meet you at the 50 mile marks. Or, the other option, what I chose, was to have 3 different bags of food, water, change of kit, and they would have them there for you at the check in spots. Time to go home, get into bed and get some sleep.
4:30 am came very quickly the next day, but I was ready to go. I convinced my wife to get up early, give me a ride to the start line, so she could see me off. She wasn’t too thrilled about that, but once she arrived, she was pretty excited to see all the support and bikers ready to race. My goal was 12-14 hours, would be tough, but doable. The countdown was on, and they started in waves. 12 hour wave went first, followed 15 seconds later by the next wave and so on. It was like a horse race out of the gate… Looked like everyone was out for a 25 mile time trial. I knew that wasn’t a smart move, so I stuck to my guns of holding a 17 mph pace. The weather was perfect, and no wind, some fog, so beautiful scenery and pictures. We quickly rode out of the pavement, about 2 miles and were on our way to gravel roads. Didn’t take long for some wrecks and people out of the race. I just wanted to stick to my plan, avoid the wrecks, and fuel accordingly. Looking ahead, it looked like a stampede. I could see all the riders, but the gravel dust had flared up, no wind, and really cool sunlight, looked crazy... Heck, I thought I that time, I am crazy, but excited. This flat, what I thought Kansas was, quickly turned into decent sized rollers. Grass was extremely green heading out thru these pastures, MM roads, and back roads. What was interesting was these decent gravel roads started getting pretty rocky… introduction to the Flint Hills of Kansas. I head heard some stories about this flint, sharp rocks that take no mercy on your tires. It started to look like a Nascar pitstop, guys/gals everywhere changing flats. What I noticed was though most everyone was running regular tires and tubes. I had tubeless, and what’s amazing, never had a flat or problem that day. I just wanted to keep it that way. The rolling hills and flint rock quickly took its toll on riders. Wrecks and riders gassing out already. It was carnage! I quickly passed a boatload of riders, which thanks to the Cyclopaths, had all that great climbing in!
This race had a mix of obstacles, gravel and sharp rock roads, water crossings, freeway bridges, dirt and mud, herds of cattle, herds of cyclists... you get it. I was feeling pretty good into mile 25, wasn’t riding too hard, and was fueling fine. I had been riding with a few other guys after mile 25.
We were coming up to the first major water crossing at mile 42. This was a river… you had the choice of riding thru or picking up your bike and running. I decided to ride, piece of cake. Water was above the crank, so I would say about 2 ft. deep.
Made it across, but muddy slick mess on the exit and steep uphill climb. I decided at this point to definitely dismount and run up the hill a bill to drier ground. I quickly jumped back on my bike and was riding with the 3 guys I had been riding with.
WE were about at the top of the hill, jeep trail kind of road with grass in the middle and the sharp flint rock in between. The guy directly in front of me slowed down quickly and cut me off to change lanes. I quickly went down, endo’ing myself. I laid there a bit, trying to get my sense back into me. I didn’t feel right, hands were bleeding, arm was numb, and my face didn’t feel quite right. Well, the adrenaline was flowing, so up I jumped and grabbed my bike. It didn’t look so great... Handlebars were bent; pedal bent and the big ring had a few bent teeth. There was a couple behind me riding a tandem CX bike that stopped, luckily there were doctors. All looked good they said, so on the way I went! It didn’t take long to set in, really didn’t feel good. My arm was pretty number all the way down to my hand.
I made it into checkpoint 50. I took a little extra time, ate some food and drank some drinks. Should have had a beer there, probably would have been much better. I re fueled, grabbed my food bag and off I went again! The next 50 miles was grueling with pain, bike not working well and I was sucking more water than usual. Found a few spectators along the way, as desolate as it was out there, to snag some water from them. At this time, the weather was starting to get warm. I was slowing down some, but mostly because I didn’t feel well or trust my riding ability on this course. I didn’t make it to the next check point, which was about mile 96. I decided not to go on and call it a day. Mentally I was not a happy guy, but probably saved myself from going down again.
My wife ended up coming to get me and brought me back into Emporia. We did end up seeing the first finisher of the race. 10hr 42 min for 200 miles, a young kid from Kansas. Previous record was just under 12 hours. It was an amazing race, and just about 1/3 ended up finishing, so the carnage added up! I will be back next year to conquer this race!