|Sh*t's About to Get Real... Photo Credit: Kyle Thompson|
|Stretching out to the horizon Photo Credit: Kyle Thompson|
|You ARE in Kansas Anymore! Photo Credit: Dave Leiker|
My race got off to a fast start owing to the help of the Northerly winds as we headed South toward the first checkpoint. The first leg had a few muddy hike-a-bikes and a gentle stream crossing complete with cheering spectators. I had early on resolved to attack all water crossings with my shoes on, which saved me from having to make the decision on the fly. True to form, at the creek crossing I never hesitated. I was across and gone before other riders could even get their shoes off. I hit the first checkpoint in 3 1/2 hours, feeling great and allowing myself to dream of a 14 hour finish. At checkpoint 1, I followed my plan to be in and out in a matter of minutes. Once my CamelBak was filled and I had my nutrition on board, I flew out - leap-frogging dozens of other riders who had beat me there. As the second leg began, my race ended...
2013 may go down in history in the gravel crushing community as the 'Wicked Wind of the North'. I'm a little unclear as to how the organizers of the 2013 Dirty Kanza 200 had the omniscience to know that the winds on June 1st, 2013 would be howling from the North. It IS my belief that their clairvoyance led them to premeditatedly construct a route that exacted the maximum amount of Northerly travel possible from the racers without straying onto the Almanzo course. The unrelenting headwinds of this years race foiled many earnest attempts to slay the course (only about half of those who toed the line for the full 200 miles finished). The shell-shocked look in the eyes of the riders at Check Point 3 later in the day delivered the news, while the bleary minds behind those eyes struggled to weigh their options: go on and suffer, or abandon the field without shame in the hopes that they might return victorious next year. There is comfort in knowing that there will always be a next time in the Flint Hills.
|The Emerald Gritty... Photo Credit: Kyle Thompson|
At checkpoint 2, I felt great and took the time to take care of a few important tasks like sunscreen, bathroom, and chamois cream. I didn't dilly-dally, but I did allow myself a few extra minutes to snap out of my wind-induced delirium. Per the map for the third leg, our first 13 miles was arrow straight with the wind at our backs. I lit out from the checkpoint and was killing it, but only for those 13 miles. As soon as the course returned to its Northerly/Westerly meandering, I was once again reduced to a slow grind. I remained incredibly positive however because everything else was going to plan. I was well ahead of the cutoff time and knew that I could complete the race. In these windy hours, I began to strategize about how to change my training in order that I might become stronger under these kinds of conditions. My bike, a Twenty2 Cycles steel MonsterCross rig was taking everything that the course could throw at it and my confidence in my machine was supreme. I soldiered on, counting down the miles until checkpoint 3.
|The Author: 120 miles into the race Photo Credit Kim Morris|
As it turns out, I did take a wrong turn near Kahola lake where I followed another rider in the direction of the lake. I felt that something was awry, but followed nonetheless. Shortly after our wrong turn, that rider flatted and I began the process of rejoining the course. Luckily, I'd only strayed a mile or so off the course and I soon saw the lights of approaching riders. I picked my way through the remaining miles, being cautious and praying that I wouldn't experience a mechanical. As I carefully navigated the darkness, several other riders joined me and placed their confidence in my route-finding abilities. Unlike my experience at Worlds last year, none of these gentlemen who had been relying on me for navigation attempted to beat me to the finish. Regardless, to ensure that I maintained my position, I picked up the pace and sprinted down the main street of Emporia to the cheering of a small yet enthusiastic crowd.
I was greeted by Kristi Mohn at the finish line, received my finisher's pint glass and dismounted my bike. I was immediately joined by three of my compadres - Al Brunner, Josh Lederman, and Pete Chrapkowski (Pete, who despite finishing 5 hours earlier and placing 2nd in the Single Speed division, was still there with his bike cheering on the finishers! Pete my friend, you are truly a gentleman and a scholar and you can CRUSH a bike! Much respect bro...).
|Peter Chrapkowski - Killing It!|
|Band of Brothers: the Author, Pete Chrapkowski, and Al Brunner|
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