2018 Dirty Kanza: Soul sucking sacrifice

Rain, hail, mud, darkness, pain, agony and ecstasy define this year's race

Race Coverage
2018 Dirty Kanza

Off and riding at the 2018 Dirty Kanza. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer

Editor’s Note: This Dirty Kanza post is courtesy of GU Energy and originally appeared on guenergy.com. We also pulled in assets from Cannondale and Rebecca Rusch. Full race results are here.

The Dirty Kanza wants your soul. That’s how GU Energy ambassador Noah Tautfest described the 206-mile gravel-grinder through the Flint Hills of Kansas.

2018 Dirty Kanza

Foreboding skies in Kansas. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer

The roads around Emporia 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.

2018 Dirty Kanza

Don’t forget to fuel up. It’s gonna be a long day. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer

The GU Crew was busy last weekend. Here’s what happened out there on the gravel roads of Kansas, starting with the “Queen of Pain” Rebecca Rusch, who dominated the first ever 350-mile Dirty Kanza XL. To be clear, this means she rode 350 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.

2018 Dirty Kanza

Rebecca Rusch spent much of her 28-plus hours alone with just her thoughts. Photo courtesy Linda Guerrette Photography

“DKXL is Dirty Kanza, taken back to the very basics of gravel. It’s the DK that we first set out to create in 2006. It’s long. It’s hard. It’s extra-large. It’s totally rider-self-supported,” explained Jim Cummins, the executive director of Dirty Kanza Promotions.

2018 Dirty Kanza

Rusch’s winning Niner gravel bike. Photo courtesy Linda Guerrette Photography

“I’d previously competed in and won five variations of Dirty Kanza, and I was excited to try my hand a sixth time and take on the challenge of DK XL after an invitation was extended to me,” added Rusch. “This win is huge! The feeling of coming back to screaming crowds of friends and hugs after more than 28 hours alone on the bike…this is the feeling of personal accomplishment and connection with community that is what this event is about for every rider out there.”

2018 Dirty Kanza

Yuri Hauswald takes on the first DKXL. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer

Among those other riders was Yuri Hauswald, another DKXL finisher. His story starts with rain and hail, a crimson electrical storm lighting up the horizon, a lone bobcat running across the road. That was Hauswald’s reality at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning. He was already 12-hours deep into his 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.

2018 Dirty Kanza

Yuri’s yard sale. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer

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,” he told her. Matt Acker won the inaugural death march race.

2018 Dirty Kanza

That’s gonna be a high TSS score. Photo courtesy Linda Guerrette Photography

With no aid stations or crews allowed, Hauswald 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. “I’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,” he recalled.

2018 Dirty Kanza

Racing through the night at the DKXL. Photo courtesy Linda Guerrette Photography

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,” he said. “I had to honor the invite, though… When Jim Cummings calls, you answer!”

2018 Dirty Kanza

Aero was everything for DK “normal” winner Ted King. Photo by Wil Matthews

Meanwhile, 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. Former WorldTour pro road racer Ted King was first, with Josh Berry slotting second.

2018 Dirty Kanza

The long road behind and ahead for Keough. Photo by Wil Matthews

Also racing the 206-mile event was last year’s Dirty Kanza Queen and GU Crew rider Alison Tetrick, who came back to defend her crown this year. Despite a cold, she earned herself a third-place podium finish. Kaitie Keough took the win with Amanda Nauman in second. King and Keough both ride for Cannondale, who provided this video recap.

As for husband and wife duo Jay and Tracey Petervary, they rode the 350-mile DKXL… 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.

2018 Dirty Kanza

Jay and Tracey Petervary rode the 350-miler on a tandem. Now that is a solid marriage. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer

And then there was GU co-founder and CEO Brian Vaughan, who 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. Lastly, GU ambassador and triathlete 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).

About the author: RoadBikeReview

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