It is always good to get a win. Even though Dirty Kanza is a regional race it is starting to get a big time reputation, and rightfully so. This race has become one of the Classics, the final event of spring, and a unique mega-loop with more hills and crappy roads than you could dream up.
Threatening hail storms nearly had the race start postponed, but we rolled out at 6:00 sharp thinking we were really in for it. Amazingly enough we skirted the storms and had just the lightest bit of rain. At mile 50 a 5 man group had formed-Matt Brown, Matt Gersib, Cornbread Cory, Dan Hughes, and myself. We had averaged 18.5 mph over the first 1/4. Matt G unfortunately fell off the pace not long after leaving checkpoint one. We were all still working together. Dan and Cory were pulling on the flats, I kept the pace high on the climbs. We hit the monster climb of Texaco Hill, several miles of sustained climbing with a few really steep pitches. I ticked it out and pulled away from the others but was not ready to commit to a 125 mile solo effort. Dan, Cory, and I continued to drive the pace. Props to cornbread for some impressive riding, that drink of water has been doing some training. We got into some poppy rollers that I felt great in. Dan fell off, and it looked like a good opportunity to work with Cory and put some distance between the freight train and ourselves. Dan Hughes can flat get it on on some dirt roads, I did not want to get tired with him anywhere near. I told Cory he could sit in as long as he wanted, I was willing to pay for company, but it wasn't 2 miles and he had came around me and was pedaling for it. We were in a really good position at that point. 10 miles from the 100 checkpoint, 2 guys both riding strong, with the easier to draft sections ahead. Pssssss. Cory flats (the first of 9 for him) My stomach sank, but I wished him luck and continued on. I thought of Jens Voight this week in the Giro attacking with 35 Km left and his Director saying "Opp, that's a bit to soon." I cruised into the half way checkpoint feeling fairly good but my feet were in serious pain. I shook the rocks out and tried to massage a little life in them. But the facts are that my 2 year old Sidi's are just done for. My feet were my biggest problem the rest of the day.
Dan arrived a few minutes after. I took my time at the stop knowing we had a long day ahead. Dan and I left together. I was thinking we could work together because we were on record setting pace and could keep the heat on working a bit. But I quickly saw our pace was just so different that it did not really work. I am in and out of the saddle- exhilarate, spin, exhilarate, spin. Dan is just a rock, he just sits there and turns em over. I pulled away and realized it was time to dig in. The next 50 miles was my hardest although I never felt terrible I teetered on it. The pavement section that I thought would be good recovery seemed to take more energy and the climb leaving Elmdale is painful. Luckily Joel made us feel Euro and wrote our names on the climb with some encouragement, that stocked me up. I rolled straight into Casey's Convenience store and straight to the cold drinks. I finished off a water and a Gatorade before I made it to the counter, I also wolfed down a Hershey bar and filled my pockets with pretzels for the final leg. I kept my pit stop quick and wanted to get riding ASAP.
Oh Yeah the legs are there. Long long climbing section to start the last 50. The little tailwind helped out, the realization I could shatter the old course record helped out. I was bombing every little descent and sprinting up the climbs. I made it to the Kahola Lake in no time, there is 2 long steep climbs at about mile 170 and 175 leaving the lake. Last year they nearly ended me and a suffered horribly to the finish line. This year I wanted to rock the last 20 so I played it conservative spinning up the climbs and eating and drinking plenty on the descent. Time to put my head down and bury it. I was still feeling good although my feet were screaming, that is something you can deal with. The only hiccup was a mile section that offroaders had churned into a rutted out mess after the last rain. You simply could not ride fast and just had to stay up right and pick the best line. I did not know exactly were Emporia was but knew I was closing in on the finish and sub 12 hours was possible, I tried focus. It was close but I made it and broke the tape at 11:58.32.
Great job by the Heartland Crew putting on such and event. Jim Cummins (who had an amazing ride to finish 4th)and Joel Dyke are the men with the vision, thank you guys for all your work. Local Punk rock legend Tim Mohn finished 3rd besting his time last year by 45 minutes. The freight train Dan Hughes bested his time by nearly an hour rolling in a solid 2nd. Great Job everyone. All the participants add so much value to this race and every ones hard work creates something really cool.