Dubbed the World’s Premiere Gravel Grinder, The Dirty Kanza takes racers through 200 miles of the Flint Hills of east central Kansas. From a humble beginning of 38 riders in 2006, the event has grown to a sold-out field of 1,200 riders for 2014.
As is often the custom in these events, riders are totally on their own and responsible for making sure they have what they need to attempt a completion. Being that the course is so remote, checkpoints provide areas where crews can assemble for riders to restock. The 2014 event also offers a support-for-hire program providing a drop bag service at each of the three checkpoints for the 200 mile racers.
The remoteness and openness of the Kansas plains means there will be beautiful views for those that look up from their stems, but it also promises that the course will provide very little protection or cover from the elements. From the infamous headwinds to late spring thunderstorms, riders are exposed and vulnerable to both drastically altering the race.
And to add another spanner to the works, the flint gravel is notoriously tough on tires. Don’t forget, the Kansas Indians flourished on these prairies partly because the flint could easily be sharpened into tools and weapons. On race day, the flint can also be quite lethal to tires. Shred a tire without a back-up, and even the fittest rider will have the dreaded DNF next to his or her name in the results.
The event also offers a 111 mile “Half Pint” race as well as 25 and 50 mile “Lite” options. All skill levels are welcome to test their mettle against the gravel and weather of the Flint Hills.
I’ll be one of the ones hoping to conquer the 200. The organizers offer a special limited edition print from a local artist for those that win the race against sundown. 8:42 PM is the cut-off for this, and my race goal is to be among those that do.