by Don Lee
I was riding on the Tuesday night Founder’s ride a few weeks ago and Elliot Cooper and Sally Finkbeiner were talking about the Dirty Kanza 200 gravel road race. I don’t exactly remember how it came up but I probably mentioned that I’d like to do it at some point. I’ve read many accounts, mostly from John Despres Facebook page and I was intrigued. I always like to have a story…
It turned out that Jane VanHof had an entry to burn because she had some family from out of town visiting that weekend and wasn’t going to be able to use it. Sure enough I called her and went through the transfer procedure and there I was. Four weeks out from a 200 mile gravel race and truthfully, I had no clue. No ride, no place to stay, maybe some of the gear that I need and no support.
The good news is I’ve been riding. I have about 1,000 miles in so far this year. I took it really easy this Winter so I’m feeling fresh and was ready to be back on the bike when the weather started getting nice. I guess the other piece of good news is that I like endurance racing, I’ve done a bit of it and I seem to be able to stay on the bike for long periods of time and suffer.
So, how to prepare? The nice thing about the Tuesday night Founder’s rides is meeting everybody for beers after. I was able to have a great conversation with Elliot about tire choice, gearing, difficulties of the course, parts preparation, and every other nugget of wisdom I could squeeze out of him. From the conversation we had I decided to run 42 x 11/28 on my Canondale CX-1. I’m also planning to run Clement X’PLOR MSO 700X36 Tubeless on Velocity Aileron/Industry 9 Pro-build wheelset. I’ll also bring both pairs of Clement MXP and PDX in case of inclement weather. Which from what I understand, tire choice will make zero difference anyway. Or as Chris Jensen stated, “Whatever tire you choose will simultaneously be the best and the worst choice you can make.” Options…
I also had a long conversation via FB chat with John Despres. We talked about gear, spares, contingencies and more about the difficulties of the course and logistics of support. He sent me his gear pack list and some photos of his Salsa Warbird. His list smartly consisted of what he carries in which bags on the bike and also what he packs in the feed bags that are sagged by his support. From those conversations and the list he sent me I decided to go with the Revelate Designs Tangle frame bag and Pika seat bag. You need to measure your bike for the Tangle as I discovered in a rather unfortunate way by ordering a medium and large to “try them out” only to discover that the small is the only one that will fit in my frame. So, if you’re looking for a medium or large Tangle Frame Bag, give Justin up at Alger Bikes a call.
How to get there? Facebook can be a great resource in a time of need. A simple post, albeit a little pathetic, and I had a ride and a place to stay in the DK nether-regions of remote Kansas. John Despres, who is apparently the West Michigan ambassador to the DK was literally “Johnny on the spot” not only for myself, but also Josh Duggan who was going through similar trepidation about getting there, having support and I suspect gearing up. A ride and a place to stay. Check!
So, now to get in some miles. Evan Wilson had a century ride that he’s been planning of a few months that conveniently peaked at the highest point in the lower peninsula. With DK boasting some pretty tough climbing on parts of the course, we figured a formidible day of climbing and distance would be just what we need to test our DK legs.
I packed out a CamelBak with everything I needed for a century with the idea that this is what I would kit up with for the DK. I have an old ToPeak Alien because it has EVERYTHING including a chain breaker, a Ziplock with enough Scratch Labs powder for two bottles, Serfas Micro inflater w/two COs, Cannondale AirSpeed Max mini-pump, half a dozen GUs, 70 oz. of H20 and assorted bars including Erg Bars, Clif Bar Protien, and Luna Lemonzest because – if you try it you’ll know.
Joel VanKuiken, Josh and I decided to see what we could do pace wise for 100 miles. We weren’t killing ourselves by any stretch, but with a 20mph headwind sometimes gusting to 35, we certainly earned all of the KOMs we didn’t get. It was a tough 100 miles but we managed it in about 5 and half hours with an average speed of just under 18mph. That was very much due to the tailwind we enjoyed on the return trip, which but for one flat and some really fun and fast riding, was relatively uneventful.
Up next… Support and getting the gear together.