Interview: Dirty Kanza winner Yuri Hauswald

Vicious conditions make for epic tale of perseverance and victory

Yuri Hauswald attacks the numerous rolling climbs across 200 miles of Kansas terrain. Photo by

Yuri Hauswald attacks the numerous rolling climbs across 200 miles of Kansas terrain (click to enlarge). Photo by

In addition to his signature jaw-length sideburns, Yuri Hauswald has tanned and muscular arms fully adorned with colorful tattoos, making him easy to spot on rides around his hometown of Petaluma, California. Each of the tattoos has special meaning to Hauswald, especially the ones dedicated to his late father.

“He was my biggest fan growing up and came to all my high school games,” said Hauswald. “Even after high school when I was a dirtbag mountain bike racer living out of my car, my dad was happy because I was happy. I only wish he could have been there when I turned pro.”

Yuri Trophy
Hauswald calls his Dirty Kanza victory the biggest of his career (click to enlarge).

When he was 36, Hauswald lost his father to an aggressive form of melanoma, and the emotional pain he and his family went through became a spiritual source of energy. Seeing his father go from a big, strong man to a frail 120 pounds in a matter of two months was devastating. And whenever he’s suffering on the bike, Hauswald’s tattoos remind him that no matter how bad he is hurting, it’s nothing compared to what his father went through.

Hauswald, 44, is the marketing manager for GU Energy, and has just come off the biggest victory of his bike racing career, taking the win at the 10th running of the Dirty Kanza in Emporia, Kansas. At 200 miles in length, Dirty Kanza is considered the toughest – and original – gravel grinder. But this year’s Dirty Kanza running was not only notable for its decade anniversary, but also because it was the most punishing of all 10 editions.

“The mud was vicious, brutal,” said Hauswald recounting the day. “I must have walked, pushed and carried my bike for at least three miles. My shoes became mud boots that wouldn’t clip into my pedals. At every creek crossing I’d wash the clogged mud out of my chainstays. Peoples’ bikes were completely paralyzed. Derailleurs were ripping off left and right. We were running through bushes. It was insane.”

Despite the 200 miles of carnage, Hauswald suffered no mechanicals or flats on his disc brake-equipped Marin Cortina cyclocross bike. Even he admits part of it was luck, but part of it was also knowing when to get off the bike and run.

“Before a mud pit, I would just shoulder my bike and run straight through,” said Hauswald. “It wasn’t the fastest way, but it was most definitely the smartest and safest way that preserved my bike.”

“Vicious” was how Yuri described the mud on Saturday’s race.

“Vicious” is how Hauswald described the mud (click to enlarge).

Another essential piece of know-how to winning is proper nutrition, and considering Hauswald represents GU Energy, he was properly fueled the entire ride.

Hauswald estimated that he consumed about 19 gels (all GU of course), a couple bottles of Roctane drink, and he refilled his hydration pack with water and electrolyte tabs numerous times. He also consumed three branch-chain amino acid capsules per hour, a new product from GU that’s claimed to help decrease muscle damage and mental fatigue. For a taste of real food, he ate “six or seven” peanut butter and honey sandwiches over the course of 13 hours on the bike.

By mile 90, Hauswald began to see the absolutely brutal conditions begin taking its toll on race favorites like four-time winner Dan Hughes and mountain bike pro Barry Wicks.

“At one point, Barry turned around and started pedaling in the opposite direction towards me,” said Hauswald. “As I approached, I asked him what’s up and he said ‘I didn’t sign up for this shit!’”

Yuri closing in on the race leader. Photo by John Decker

Hauswald closing in on the race leader (click to enlarge). Photo by John Decker

By the time Hauswald hit the final aid station at mile 150, he was sitting in second place. However, what he didn’t know was that first place was 22 minutes up the road.

“Had I known how far ahead first place was at the time, it might have psyched me out,” said Hauswald.

Having done the Kanza two previous times, Hauswald knew the course well, and knew the final 50 miles were psychologically difficult.

“There are sections of road with these seemingly never ending rollers that run to the horizon,” he said. “Last year I came unraveled on them, but this year, I kept a positive attitude and a steady pace, always staying between 220 and 250 watts of power.”

Continue to page 2 for more of Yuri’s interview and a photo gallery »
About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.

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