Stories From The Saddle

Dirty Kanza 200

Decade of Dirty. Dirty Kanza 200 – 2015: Emporia, Kansas is now and forever will be the EPICcenter of Gravel Riding.  Every year forward will be compared to this year.  The 2015 Dirty Kanza 200 broke the rules, bikes, riders, spirits, hopes and dreams.  But it built legends.

Photo Credit: Eric Benjamin

Photo Credit: Eric Benjamin

Dirty Kanza 200 is supposed to be hard, that is the rule, 200 miles on gravel is hard, 200 miles in Kansas, in the Flint Hills on a nice day is hard.  That is the rule, it is hard already, but no Dirty Kanza 200 you decide to toss in miles of mud that cannot be ridden.  Miles of mud that a bike cannot be pushed along.  Miles of mud that the bike has to be carried over.  Miles of mud that tears a bicycle into little pieces. It wasn’t fair, that is against the rules we had agreed upon.  It is already hard Dirty Kanza 200, under optimum conditions it is hard, but you decided that you did not want to negotiate this agreement in good faith.  Dirty Kanza 200 you already have the upper hand in this relationship, but you want to take more than your share and that is not fair, you did not play by the rules.

Sure Dirty Kanza 200, we all know how hard and sharp your rocks are, we all debate over and over which tire to use, blah blah blah, yeah, you’re special in that way.  We know you have the ability to sideline 4×4 vehicles with flat tires, we get it and we respect that about you.  We also know you can break our puny bicycle wheels and challenge our stems, handlebars and seat posts, pretty much any part on the bicycle is subject to your evil tendencies to break nice things.  That is all agreed upon as part of the rules of conduct for you.  But Dirty Kanza 200, you didn’t follow those rules, you brought out this mud, no not traditional run of the mill garden mud, but devil mud, mud pulled up from the bilge of Hades.  It wasn’t really mud as it was a mix of wet cement, glue, spackling, goo, snot, dung, bicycle fly paper, derailleur poison, chain cancer…soul robbing mix of water and the Flint Hills of Kansas.  Impenetrable to many, but not to all.

You were not very nice this year Dirty Kanza 200.  You never really are, but this year, well, you kind of went over the top.  You broke more than bikes, you broke riders.  You broke riders physically, several were hauled off of you to a local hospital to begin their healing.  Not really what any rider had in mind.  You broke the spirit of many other riders for that day.  They just couldn’t continue riding you Dirty Kanza 200, it was just too much, with the mud and the broken bikes for many to continue on.  But not all were broken.

Dirty Kanza 200, you also broke hopes and dreams.  Some of the first riders that had to withdraw had trained for months, even years and had traveled hours or days all at the beckoning of your siren’s song.  You created them that dream, to ride and finish the Dirty Kanza 200.  But Dirty Kanza 200, you were greedy, you took advantage of them, you leveraged all your strength against them and then played your trump card and you still held the deck with 200 miles in it.  I guess you never have been fair with us, you always have had the upper hand, but never to this degree against this many.  But not all dreams were broken Dirty Kanza 200, and even though you may not like it, even after all that you tossed at the riders, many of them built new dreams on that day and realized them.  The human spirit is strong Dirty Kanza 200.  The human’s natural ability to hope is even stronger and yes, you threw it all at us, you still couldn’t break all our hopes to finish, and finish we did.

The legends crossed the line, over 400 of them crossed your finish line Dirty Kanza 200, you did your best, you did more than your best, but you lost Dirty Kanza 200, you lost big time! You lost so bad that some of the riders even sprinted against each other at the finish.  You left enough of them to still battle each other and not you at the finish.  So Dirty Kanza 200, bring it on, show us your best again, I will be there, I will ride you and I will beat you again next year, for I am part of the legend of Dirty Kanza 200, 2015.

Curt Shelman 5X Dirty Kanza 200 Finisher

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