Last weekend, the rolling hills around Emporia, Kansas threw everything they had at the competitors at the 2018 Dirty Kanza gravel race. The 2500 competitors in the classic DK200 faced a thunderstorm, creek crossings, drivetrain-clogging mud, sharp tire-slashing rocks, and 206 miles of leg and mind-sapping hills. It was a pure test of mind, body, and machine, like nothing else in the cycling world.
A large contingent of SRAM athletes took on this year’s race with varying objectives. Some, like 2016 winner Ted King, were looking to get back on the top step of the podium. Others, like SRAMbassador Ayesha McGowan, simply wanted to push their limits and experience something new. Photographer Wil Matthews was on site to capture the day, and his photos are below.
The DK200 start was delayed 30 minutes as a severe thunderstorm moved through the area. Marathon MTB National Champion Payson McElveen and others huddled in Roger Bennett's SRAM NRS van.
In her event writeup, Ayesha McGowan said that Kanza is full of "things that I generally avoid at all costs." A newcomer to gravel, she nonetheless finished strong in her first DK200 experience.
CX superstar Kaitie Keough was also venturing into the gravel racing world for the first time. Despite some nutrition issues, she took her first DK200 win by 19 minutes in a stacked women's field.
A top notch support crew is essential.
Longtime SRAM/Zipp athlete, 1x advocate, and Ironman champion Jordan Rapp took 6th place in his first Kanza attempt.
Their use in gravel events is somewhat controversial, but aero bars were used by many competitors not only for aerodynamics, but for the comfort of an additional body position over the long hours on course.
After multiple flats derailed his 2017 attempt, Ted King rode his Cannondale SuperX, equipped with SRAM Force 1 HRD, Zipp 303 Firecrest Tubeless Carbon Clinchers, and Quarq DZero power meter to his second Dirty Kanza victory. He used a 44 tooth X-SYNC chainring with a 10-42 cassette to handle the rolling Flint Hills.
Nico Deportago-Cabrera has been gunning for a podium finish in the singlespeed category for years, and finally got it in 2018.
Thunder, hail, mud, dust, hills, headwinds...Ali Tetrick saw it all during her title defense. Congratulations to all the riders who took on the 2018 Dirty Kanza.
All photos © Pinned Grit