Dirty Kanza 200

The Dirty Kanza 200 is an endurance gravel race that covers 200+ miles in Emporia, KS.  The route changes every year and is disclosed only days before the event starts to prevent cyclists from riding many of the private roads the event covers.

Before deciding to take on this challenge, I researched the event extensively.  I read every blog on the internet that talked about the event and spoke with riders who competed in it.  My goal with this article is to summarize what I learned and provide athletes who are going to compete for the first time with a “cheat sheet” for success.  Separately, I will post detailed articles that discuss tires, nutrition, and other race strategy.  It’s too much to cover everything in one post so this will become a series of articles all linked together.

Signing up for the Dirty Kanza 200

Last year (2016) the Dirty Kanza 200 sold out in a few minutes from the start of registration.  That means if you want to race the 2017 event you need to be ready.

  • Registration is handled through BikeReg.  Create an account and login well before the registration day.  Practice registering for an event BEFORE registering for Dirty Kanza.  Make sure your credit card is saved in BikeReg.
  • 30 minutes before registration opens, sign into BikeReg and start watching the clock count down.
  • The URL for registration (as of Jan 2017) is https://www.bikereg.com/dirty-kanza.
  • 10 minutes before 8:00AM start refreshing the URL ever 30 seconds.
  • 5 minutes before 8:00AM start refreshing the URL ever few seconds.
  • At 8:00AM refresh the website constantly.  There are plugins for Chrome that do it automatically, but I’ll leave it up to the reader to figure that out.
  • If at 8:01AM you do not see the registration page open up, close the tab in your browser and open it up again in a new tab.  It’s possible your browser is opening a cached version of BikeReg and displaying the page from a few minutes in the past.  Close and reopen the tab ever 30 seconds and refresh the page in between.  Continue this operating until the registration page loads.
  • Like everything at Kanza, it pays to be prepared.

Plan your Hotel Early

As of September 2016 the Holiday in Express in Emporia, KS was sold out for the 2017 event.  The better hotels in Emporia are already sold out for 2017 as of January.  I was not able to find any Airbnb’s that were close to Emporia, but that could have changed recently.  In 2016 I stayed on campus in the student housing.  The air conditioning was out the first day, but eventually kicked on the night before the race.  Being 6’6″ I did not fit in the bed which had a foot board.  However, the sleeping quarters were clean and very conveniently located.  The student housing is a 5 minutes bike ride to the starting line.

 Be Prepared

Like registering for the event and selecting a hotel early, it pays to prepare for Kanza.  It’s hard to imagine many people who raced this event in 2016 were more prepared than me.  My list of extras included spare wheels, derailleurs, tires, tubes, Garmin’s, food, hydration, pumps, CO2, kit, shoes, helmet….  I basically had two of everything, except a second bike: it’s not allowed.  My training was intense, riding on average more than 300 miles a week.  I competed in the Belgian Waffle Ride (146 mile mixed terrain with 12,000 feet of climbing) in April 2016 to test out my nutrition and legs.  Despite my preparation and research, I did make one mistake at Kanza.  At the recommendation of an experienced and decorated Kanza finisher, I only took a Camelbak that held 1.5liters of water.  That turned out to be a mistake for me, and many others.  Being a taller and heavier rider, I need more of everything:  food, carbs, and yes, water.  I ran out of water on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th legs of the race.  Fortunately I packed a “water weenie” that held 10oz of emergency water that I picked up at stop 3.  Even with the extra 10oz I still ran out of water on leg 3 and 4, partially because I had to share it with my teammates.

During my preparation rides and events, I never did one that had a 60 mile segment between stops in 90 degree heat with a 15 to 20 mph headwind in the middle of the day.  Those aren’t conditions that exist in Chicago leading up to Kanza in June.  I carried (2) 33oz water bottles and (1) 1.5 liter Camelbak, all filled with Carbopro.  In Chicago, that gives me a range of more than 100 miles, but not in Emporia.

If you can replicate this training condition, I recommend you test out your hydration BEFORE coming to Kanza.

Tire Selection Really Matters

I spent 6 months researching and testing tires before settling on the Clement X’PLOR MSO 36 tubeless tire.  I bought 4 spare tires and had them at the various stops, along with two fresh carbon wheels with new tires on them, making that a total of 6 spare tires.  Selecting a tire that is light, but with double puncture protection is absolutely a must.  There are other, heavier tires on the market, but I was racing to place in the top 20 and I knew weight would matter.

The Mud does Suck

Everything you read about the mud at Kanza is true and it sucks.  I was one of the 20% in the field that got caught in derailleur armageddon.  Around mile six my derailleur blew off.  I had a spare hanger, but I was running DI2 and the control cable pulled out of the derailleur.  Right then Kanza went from a race to a war.  The derailleur control cable was full of mud and I lost all shifting.  Furthermore, the derailleur got throw into the wheel bending the arm and breaking some of the carbon around a spoke nipple.  I had to ride the next 50 miles single speed.  Stay tuned for more soon…