Interview: Dirty Kanza winner Yuri Hauswald

Vicious conditions make for epic tale of perseverance and victory

In the last 50 miles, Yuri made up 22 minutes on the leader. Photo by

In the last 50 miles, Hauswald made up 22 minutes on the leader (click to enlarge). Photo by

It was in those final 50 miles that Hauswald really channeled his father’s spiritual energy and took advantage of all the training he received by his coach and longtime friend, Dan Harting. By mile 160, Hauswald had made up an incredible 12 minutes to be only 10 minutes back on the leader.

“I didn’t realize I was gaining ground, all I was trying to do was maintain a steady pace,” he said.

Eventually Hauswald began passing 100-mile event riders, which made matters even more confusing. But with only two miles to go, he came upon a rider that stood out from the rest.

“I could just tell he was the guy, so for whatever reason, instead of blasting by him, I rolled up and asked if he was the leader,” said Hauswald. “He nodded his head.”

After more than 13 hours of absolute brutality on the bike and thousands of training miles that included an entire week riding the Tour of California course, Hauswald couldn’t believe that the end of this epic day was going to come down to a sprint. But thankfully, his coach had him doing sprint interval workouts a week leading up to the event, which proved critical.

“The other rider didn’t seem to want to work with me, so we rolled into town side by side,” said Hauswald. “Since I know the finish really well, I tested him out with an attack through the college campus about a mile from the finish. He was right there with me.”

With only about 30 seconds to recover for the final sprint, Hauswald was worried that he had just burnt his final match. But based on his big and powerful riding style, Hauswald knew that if he wanted to win, he would have to lead out the sprint and force the other rider to come around.

“I turned on full diesel mode and just went for it,” said Hauswald. “He never came around me. As I crossed the line, I let out this guttural, tribal scream. All the excitement, exhaustion and disbelief came together and I collapsed. My wife Vanessa surprised me by flying in the night before and she was there. It was simply amazing.”

In addition to his father, Yuri’s wife Vanessa is a powerful source of perseverance and inspiration in his life. Photo by Dirty Kanza

In addition to his father, Hauswald’s wife Vanessa is a powerful source of perseverance and inspiration in his life (click to enlarge). Photo by Dirty Kanza

Vanessa, the executive director of the Nor Cal High School Mountain Bike League, has been another incredible source of inspiration for Hauswald. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. All the chemotherapy, radiation and surgery she went through was an unimaginable struggle for the both of them, but she has fully recovered and is back to working daily at the noble mission of getting more kids on bikes.

“Whenever I feel sorry for myself or whatever is going wrong with my bike racing, I think of Vanessa and my dad,” said Hauswald.

Yuri returned home to Petaluma and was greeted by another adoring fan, his dog Kingston.

Hauswald returned home to Petaluma and was greeted by another adoring fan, his dog Kingston (click to enlarge).

Since winning the race, Hauswald has been humbled by the outpouring of support and congratulations from friends, strangers and even students he taught and hasn’t heard from in more than a decade. The 10th running of the Dirty Kanza couldn’t have gone to a more deserving and persevering human being. Congratulations Yuri, you’ve most definitely earned this truly epic victory.

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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