Dirty Kanza 200, arguably the World’s Premiere gravel bike race, is coming to you again on June 1st, 2019. Things have changed this year with a change in ownership and a new course, but some things still remain the same. Co-Founder Jim Cummins and his closely knit team are still at the helm (click here to see my recent interview with Jim) and the need for training still exists. Not everyone can bluff riding 200 miles of gravel roads on no training.
This is my story from March of 2019 onwards with plenty of less memorable rides not mentioned. Its had its fair share of ups and downs and inconsistency, but in no means is it a pity party. I’m not about online pity / sympathy fests, there are other websites and social media to placate your needs should you need to fill that void!
The Dirty Pecan – March 2, 2019
Historically, the Dirty Pecan event held in Monticello, Florida, a little east of Tallahassee, Florida (Florida’s capital city) is the starter event that kicks off my serious training for Dirty Kanza 200. I roughly follow my own training plan (here’s a link to an older version) devoid of coaches, power meters and structure. If it isn’t fun, I’m not interested. Some people need structure and advice from a well-seasoned rider / coach, but I’m pretty lazy, and I don’t do well with someone bossing me around.
The 2019 Dirty Pecan offers a multitude of distances for riders, all the way up to 200 miles (new for 2019). We were riding our staple event of 150 miles. The crew and I, consisting of Dr. Pain, Jimbo, Big Head Todd, Rusty, and the Belgian Diesel made our various ways to Monticello the night before or the morning of. Typically, this time of year in Florida is pretty amazing, although the meteorologist warned of violent thunderstorms, rain, and other nonsense. What could possibly go wrong, right?
I roomed with Big Head Todd (aka BHT), and spent a relaxing evening watching pointless TV and preparing our bikes with arse guard mud fenders zip tied to the saddles of our bikes. At the time I questioned their effectiveness… they ultimately proved to be quite ineffective. Moving onto the next morning, the early start saw the skies above open a massive deluge of heavy rain, just as we were preparing to roll out.
Nothing beats riding straight out of the parking lot and into a sludge fest… at least it was warm rain. Teammate Rusty was the smartest of us all, about facing on the way to Monticello to ride somewhere drier and more pleasant.
The event went as follows. Suffer with the lads through an endless sludge pit of nastiness, all the while listening to disc rotors crunching and groaning wearily as wave after wave of gritty mud found its way into every nook and cranny of one’s bike and clothing. During our journey, we rode as a cohesive unit, barring those times when the Belgian Diesel took his sweet time warming up during the first 40 miles, or those times I came off the back during the last 20 miles.
This madness was broken up momentarily at about 60 miles in when we rolled into Boston, Georgia, the first scheduled stop of the day.
We made a decision to cut the ride short from the scheduled 150 to just 80 – a decision echoed by everyone else in attendance.
With that said, I understand one bloke finished the entire 150-mile course. However, his annual Dirty Pecan routine is to depart the start line at least two to three hours early, which this year caused him to miss a ton of the bad rain. Leaving early before an event officially starts isn’t too cool in my book… I wonder how Dirty Kanza would feel if I decided to start at 3am? Maybe I could win it! Err…
Fried Clay 200K
I’m not going to write too much about this event, as I went into excruciating detail in my ride report, HERE. Suffice to say, it was a huge challenge just to finish, considering how my nutrition plan went totally belly up. Mentally, I couldn’t have asked for better preparation for a really tough day on the bike. I seldom use Strava because I don’t need the affirmation or everyone seeing what I do every waking moment, but you can see my workout from this ride, HERE.
The Hipp Ride aka Roadie Fest
This roadie ride has been a fixture in Gainesville, Florida since the early 1990’s, possibly earlier. It is a fast rotation-oriented ride on Tuesday and Thursday nights during DST hours, although riders can sit on, provided they don’t partake in any sprints like a wheel sucking hero. Generally, the Tuesday ride is the longer of the two rides once the DST hours become more expansive. On the odd occasion, the ride has degenerated into a complete wanker fest – by that I mean, some riders will profit from a gap in traffic and keep hammering – most unsporting and completely unsafe (also, it isn’t a race) – but for much of the time, the ride has some resemblance of orderly conduct.
Depending on my overall well-being, I appear semi-regularly and contribute where I can to the rotation. I can never push myself this hard training by myself, so the ride adds value to my routine. Here’s a sample workout from 2019. If you don’t know what a paceline is and how to ride in wind, etc, check out this article.
Tour of the Farmlands – March 31, 3019
An invite-only private event, this ride takes in some beautiful farmland roads in North Central Florida, along with an amazing and historic brick road, once a major thoroughfare in North Central Florida. Unfortunately, a crash happened towards the end of the ride to spoil the party, but it could have been worse!
I came away with a knackered shoulder (not broken) but nary a cut or scrap on me anywhere… and the bike was almost perfect, brilliant! Nothing three weeks of active rehabilitation and a light dosage of ibuprofen cannot fix.
North American Handmade Bicycle Show for 2019
Not much riding happened here, in fact, none at all, but it had been years since I last visited NAHBS. I figured the good audience of Gravel Cyclist would appreciate seeing gravel bikes of the show, so I did my best to cover just about every bike at 2019’s show. If you’re interested in seeing the coverage, click this link. There are about 46 videos to ogle over.
The Strada Bellamy – April 7, 2019
An annual event held in North Central Florida, Big Head Todd holds a challenging ride every year, and 2019 didn’t disappoint with several new dirty roads for people to enjoy. This year’s event was made more challenging than usual, courtesy of the star-studded cast who showed up to smash legs. The distance, heat and pace eventually smashed my legs with about 20 miles / 32kms remaining, but I still ended the day with an average speed of 29.2km/hr or 18.25mph. This ride happened, even on Strava.
Sea Otter Classic for 2019
Sea Otter has become the primo North American show for releases of new cycling product, gravel bike-related or otherwise. Thus I made the journey to Monterey, California to cover all of the new gravel goodies for 2019. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and click this link to see what’s new for 2019!
The 158 Mile Solo Gravel Ride – April 20. 2019
This ride was all about sorting out my nutritional plan for Dirty Kanza 200. I wanted to emulate the checkpoint distances as closely as possible with supplies carried mostly on the bike. The high temperature on this day was a pleasant 72F / 22C albeit with a ton of wind.
It went as follows:
- Start the ride with a two-litre Camelbak (the long-discontinued Razor model), filled with Gu Energy’s Roctane mix, supplemented by two one-litre bottles of the same mix, loaded into Zefal Magnum bottles on the bike. Completing my nutrition were five Larabars stuffed into a Revelate Designs Jerrycan rear-mount top tube bag, along with the equivalent of eight scoops of Roctane mix stashed into a resealable bag. In my rear pockets were three more Larabars, a Gu Energy Gel Flask filled to the brim with the Salted Caramel flavor (yum!), a smartphone and a SPURCYCLE Titanium Multi-Tool.
- I rode to mile 64 / km# 102 to the Dollar General store as planned. I’d burned through almost two litres of my Camelbak, four or five Larabars, but didn’t touch the bottles on the bike. A quick refill of water ensued, along with a bag of Salt and Vinegar crisps / chips and a 20oz / 591ml Coke purchased at the store.
- The remaining 94 miles of my journey was completed sans stops, utilizing almost all of my hydration on board. Barring one additional Larabar consumed close to my stop, all of my nutrition was liquid or gel-related. Thanks, Gu for getting me through without a messed up stomach!
- Mission accomplished, feeling in a much better place about the two checkpoints / neutral water stop at this year’s DK 200. Average speed was about 15.4mph solo including the wretched wind, a well-measured effort.
The 153 Mile Team Gravel Ride – April 27, 2019
I was going to spend this particular Saturday doing a short ride of my own, but peer pressure and the opportunity to further hone my training with my friends was a good opportunity. Following an almost identical course to the previous weekend, I set out with Dr. Pain, Rusty and Mr and Mrs K-Dogg under pleasant weather devoid of humidity, but at a high temperature in the high 80’s Fahrenheit. Believe it or not, K-Dogg is down for doing the DK200 again, although he promises this time it will be fun… 🙂 See my video from DK200 2018 to see how it went down – or his version of the race.
My nutrition this week was identical as before, although I substituted the bottles on the bike for plain water. I figured with higher temperatures, I may need to hydrate a bit more on pure water.
The ride went as follows:
- Maintain a pleasant tempo all the way to mile 60 / km 94 where the group made a planned stop at a convenience store. I’d burned through at least four Larabars and most of my Camelbak, so again a refill was in order. Crap ingested during the break included a 20oz / 591ml Coke and a bag of Salt and Vinegar crisps / chips. I was feeling pretty good.
- At around 90 miles into the ride, I began feeling a bit dodgy. I’ve been dragging around a sinus infection the past few weeks, and likely the tempo I’d been keeping was a bit too hard early on. I backed it off to around 15 – 16mph, hoping my teammates would leave me out there to chug on solo. But, being the good people they are, they waited for me. I mostly sat their wheels for the next 20 or so miles into the next convenience store, located somewhere near the bustling metropolis of Beachville, Florida (nowhere near the Beach).
- I’d wager we were at the Beachville convenience store for close to half an hour. I chugged some chemical / caffeine laden goodness (aka Rockstar or something similar), a 20oz / 591ml Ginger Ale and a Larabar. I didn’t check on everyone else, but I suspect they were downing their own concoctions for the final push to the finish.
- My overall constitution took a complete turnaround not long after we’d left the store. I wouldn’t say I was feeling A-M-A-Z-I-N-G but vastly more energetic than a little earlier. With a sort of tailwind at times, our group made excellent progress and I believe finished with a ride time of under 10 hours. A good effort considering the warmer temperatures and my own personal issues. K-Dogg informed me via email later he felt A-M-A-Z-I-N-G the entire time… a statement that is 50% true.
On Friday, May 10, I’ll be partaking in a media ride with Roll Massif, encompassing the Colorado National Monument (part of Tour of the Moon) and Palisade wine country (part of Tour de Vineyards). The following day, May 11, 2019, I’ll be riding in Roll Massif’s Wild Horse Gravel in beautiful De Beque, Colorado. I’m going to suffer greatly at altitude, but I cannot wait to get out and revel in the gorgeous beauty that this area has to offer. Naturally, I’ll be riding the 72-mile event at Wild Horse Gravel, because that’s what you do when you fly in from Florida. There will be video involving POV, drone and hopefully, an interview or two. Thanks to Ben Delaney and his crew for the invitation!
Finally, somewhere around May 14 or 15, I’ll take a day off from my regular gig to ride my final preparatory ride for the 2019 Dirty Kanza 200, approximately 175 miles / 280kms, most likely solo. Wish me luck!
See you at Dirty Kanza in late May / early June of 2019!