Have you ever had the scintillating luxury of trying Sriracha peas? They’re a bit like wasabi peas, but coated in spicy Sriracha. As you’d guess they’re shades of red rather than shades of green. They’re picante hot, but with a hint of sweetness, they’re satisfyingly crunchy, and chew up real nice. The more you eat, the hotter they get, with the relatively inert pea center helping quench the heat, while the subtle sweetness complements the rest of the spice, so that you end up eating a small handful time after time after time and suddenly the entire can is gone. You just keep coming back to the tin-can well.
Dirty Kanza, my friends, is the Sriracha peas of cycling. I don’t mean that I keep coming back, since I’ve only come back once. Rather having set the benchmark for this new age of gravel, Dirty Kanza is on my mind whenever there’s any sort of talk about bike racing, mixed terrain, riding a bike, riding a bike fast, riding a bike slow, groad, froad, riding my bike a very long distance, being in the box, being tired, being dirty, being in Kansas, and being anywhere east of the Pacific Ocean. Even though there are slivers of misery during the race where all you really just want to do is go home, enjoy a shower beer, and 24 hour nap, I miss it and I think about it a lot.
It’s helpful, then, to have a friend like Linda Guerrette who takes awesome photos. These ended up in my inbox so without further ado, I’ll share them. Commence explanatory photo montage.
A ride went out from gravel king, Dan Hughes’ shop on Thursday, two days before the race. A gnarly flash thunderstorm zoomed by, delaying the ride so here Laura and I seek cover while those braver than we are outside making us look like wusses. That shank-like item in my rear left pocket is a custom, handmade mud remover by a friendly Sunflower customer, just in case Saturday’s race featured the same flash-peanut-butter-mud-storms.
But then the sun came out and we had a sweet ride.
Caught grammin’ here, executing the oft’ underused panoramic selfie.
That night, Rebecca Rusch and I caught up and talked shop, life, bikes, Blood Road, and 206 mile races.
Within a few hours it was time to go to sleep, wake up, and line up for an all-too-early, prompt 6am start.
With some weird weird eyes, I meet Menso de Jong, who has one of the coolest names in the peloton.
Story of my day right here: not enough air in my tires and deflated luck. Dang those Flint (rock) Hills of Kansas are sharp.
More of the same: flat tires, fast legs, frustration, and filthy conditions.
And out of the dusty quagmire comes Jade. Jade is the man. At this point in the day, I’ve been wrenching on my tire for the previous ten minutes unable to get it off. I left my tire lever at the previous aid station when I quickly unloaded my pockets and brought on more supplies for the second leg of the race to continue my chase. So with hands cakes in sealant, sweat, dust, and cow poo, I’ve rendered my hands so weak and useless that I’m weak and useless. I’ve also asked the previous forty people who rode by for a lever which elicited a lot of “Sorry!”. Jade, thank you. Now let me fix my earbuds.
Commence chase, and/or ride away from the gnarly skies.
Another aid station, another funny face.
Later in the race when I recognize that the catch is virtually impossible, a stretch and coast seems blissfully appropriate.
Nearly thirty minutes faster despite a lot more mechanical difficulties, it’s honestly nice for me to see that I finished with a smile.
Jersey pockets loaded to the brim, chocolate milk, and sweat stained legs.
Chatting up race director Jim Cummins as I debate for 1/8 of a second whether I’ll come back.
That look I have is the spicy, sweet, picante taste of Sriracha peas. And dust. Whole lot of dust in my mouth right there.