Yuri Hauswald attacks the numerous rolling climbs across 200 miles of Kansas terrain (click to enlarge). Photo by Adventuremonkey.com
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."
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."
[IMG alt=""Vicious" was how Yuri described the mud on Saturday's race."]https://www.roadbikereview.com/reviews/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Clogged.jpg[/IMG]
"Vicious" is how Hauswald described the mud (click to enlarge).
"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!'"
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 »
In the last 50 miles, Hauswald made up 22 minutes on the leader (click to enlarge). Photo by Adventuremonkey.com
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, 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.
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.