The 2016 Dirty Kanza was probably my favorite ever achievement on a bike. The significance of the event was profound for me on many different levels. To land on the podium was almost inconceivable. Racing against such a talented and fast group of riders was hugely intimidating and also an honor. Overcoming the setbacks of flats, dehydration, heat, and headwinds with a never-say-die mindset was deeply satisfying.
Words by Nik Van der W00ts, Photos by Brett Stakelin (@das_guy)
Cyclocross is a niche within a niche, but there is something I love about this high energy, gritty sport. I got started grinding my gears on the grass, sand, mud and barriers on the east coast. Some would cite this as the unofficial heart and home of American cyclocross. The days spent racing and volunteering in Gloucester and Providence were cold, muddy and certainly epic affairs. Those memories have stuck with me and often are the first that come to mind when I think of cyclocross.
After a hiatus from cyclocross (prompted by grad-school and a 2,000 mile relocation to Colorado) I re-tested the waters. I was in for a shock. The climate and terrain were unfamiliar compared with my first dirt-covered memories. Gone were the days of racing in parks with pristine grass that turned to rutted muddy lines. In Colorado if a race is on grass, it is spiky unfriendly blades. All the moisture is evaporated, leaving dusty loose conditions. Many a time I have come home from racing and felt like a miner, hacking up dust for the next few days. Some of the rugged courses tested my nerves on cantilever brakes and left my hands sore from trying to modulate my speed.
Ten years ago, when I was newer to Colorado, I naively signed up for the Mount Evans Hill Climb. I drove the course a few weeks before the race, having no idea what I was getting into. My body betrayed me with an ill-timed cold, which doubled as a convenient reason to bail on the race.
I chalked it up to the cold, but really I was just scared – of the elevation gain, the altitude, the exposure.
Most every summer since then, as the date of Mount Evans approached, I would think really hard about lining up in Idaho Springs, but could never bring myself to do it. Timing, travel, or total lack of training always seemed to be ready excuses.
Until this year, 10 days before the race, when – thanks in part to some encouragement from the Rodeo crew – I finally peer pressured myself into signing up for the 28 mile ascent of the highest paved road in North America.
I made it to the start line this time. And tried to weather the various mental stages of such a singular challenge.
We are only days from the end of 2015 and there are a bunch of highlights from the year that I haven’t had the time to share. I doubt I’ll get to everything on my list and I won’t be able to cover them in much depth, but I’d love to leave them on the journal for the sake of posterity.
The first of these highlights is the Dirty Kanza 200, the two hundred mile gravel (and in our case mud) race through the roads and hills surrounding Emporia, Kansas. There is no way for me to write up this particular event quickly, so if you continue reading please remember to eat often and stay hydrated.
This whole Trail Donkey project has been quite a romp, as I babbled on about in my last writeup on the subject. Now that we’ve ridden the spit out of the rigs, we have a fair amount of confidence in their abilities to convey us, under our own power, just about anywhere we point them. Beyond the typical dirt riding they’ve been seeing, Chris Magnotta notably rode his to 3rd place at the Deer Trail State Champ Road race here in Colorado. The only thing he changed from dirt spec to road spec was the tires. Chris is a bit of a monster rider anyway so we can’t go and say that a Donkey gave him magical powers, but we do think it is satisfying it’s original mission to be “one bike to rule them all”. We aren’t really kidding ourselves, we don’t think that a glorified cyclocross bike RULES other specialized road or mountain bikes in their respective disciplines, but it does road ride better than an MTB, and it does MTB better than a road bike, so we will be generous and playfully allow ourselves to keep using the title, tongue in cheek. Come at us, haters!
I once read somewhere that you should not be trying to win a Category 5 race. Cat 5 races are for gaining experience and learning, rather than achieving results. Beginning racers need to learn to negotiate riding in a pack, holding lines in tight turns, and coping with the extremely high intensity. But make no mistake: I was racing the Louisville Criterium Cat 5 race to win.
It turns out that I finished 3rd. Initially I was pretty jacked about this result. But after a little time to reflect on it, I see some things I could have should have would have done better. Plus, I’m trying to maintain the perspective that it was only a Cat 5 race… with a field of 23 other novices… for only 20 minutes. Not exactly epic. But I am excited about the result and even more excited about what I learned from the experience. So I truly managed to achieve the best of both worlds. The following is a report on the entire experience.Continue reading
Yesterday was the kick off of crit season and the second race with riders under the Rodeo banner. (The first was the Carter Lake road race done by Patrick Charles).
The course for the crit was almost as brutal as can be created for crit racing. A short and intense wall led into the start-finish area, followed by a mean climb in to a headwind, followed by a fast s-turn descent through some tight 90 degree corners… followed by that first brutal hill again. The effort profile for the course actually looked like perfectly spaced interval efforts. Sometimes only a few hundred watts and some coasting were required, but a few times per lap the wattage spiked to 500-800 watts for extended periods during the tough bits. The net effect was that the races all but shattered shortly after starting and often became loosely spaced TT efforts for dropped racers. There was nowhere to hide from the course, nowhere to sit in and rest, each racer just had to go go go until the bell.
This is a repost from last season. We are selecting a few blog entries from members to fill out our vibe and style while we boot up the new year and new adventures.
What is the inherent value of an athletic endeavor? This is the question I find myself asking after participating in the 2013 edition of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race.