Two-thousand adventure seekers tackled the 200 grueling miles (322 kilometres) of dirt and gravel that make up the Dirty Kanza 200 over the weekend, spending anywhere between 10 and 20 hours in the saddle to complete the course across the Flint Hills region of Kansas.
Founded in 2006 by local gravel grinders, the DK200 is now the premier gravel race in the country. And with 10,000 feet (over 3,000m) of climbing and a roadbed that varies from fist-size gravel to dirt trails, the event tests riders’ fitness, mental strength and equipment.
Panaracer Gravel Team rider Matt Stephens conquered them all – as well as the added pain of a rib fractured a week beforehand – and was first to cross the finish line in 10 hours and 49 minutes.
Jake Wells of Colorado came in nearly three minutes later for second place, a mere 5 seconds ahead of Menso de Jong in third.
Meanwhile, in the women’s field, pro roadie Alison Tetrick (Cylance) set a new women’s course record, when she came in at 11:41:40. In doing so, she beat the two-time winner and defending champion Amanda Nauman, but only by 5 seconds. Retired pro road cyclist Janel Holcomb rounded out the podium in third place with a time of 12:13:26.
The all-female singlespeed crew we wrote about before the event had a harder go of it, spending well over 14 hours in the saddle. Oklahoma rider Gabrielle Shelton took the win after a battle with Jennifer Rhoades and Chicago rider Allison Zmuda, who came in second and third respectively.
“My body feels like it got tossed off a mountain, but since I’m still coming down from the high of finishing it doesn’t actually ‘hurt’,” said Chicago singlespeeder Kelsey Phillips. “It’s like a reminder that I completed what I set out to do.”
Phillips came across the finish holding her teammate Mary Randall’s hand while a huge crowd, including endurance star Rebecca Rusch, welcomed them in.
“Obviously, I sobbed,” commented Phillips. “But the second I crossed the line I was already planning next year’s race. I’m crazy like that.”
Her teammate Lauren Conroy will be keen to join, ‘absolutely’ wanting to go at it again. For those considering tackling the DK200 themselves, she advised; “Surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you. Train hard and then believe in yourself. Stay calm when you get a mechanical.”
1. Mat Stephens 10:49:08
2. Jake Wells 10:51:51
3. Menso de Jong 10:51:56
1. Alison Tetrick 11:41:40
2. Amanda Nauman 11:41:45
3. Janel Holcomb 12:13:26
DK200 Single Speed women:
1. Gabrielle Shelton 14:41:55
2. Jennifer Rhoades 14:46:00
3. Allison Zmuda 14:48:22