Leading camps, product testing, dabbling in fondos, fundos, and the rare fondu, my travel schedule is busier now than that of my previous career and at times can feel frenetic. Amid all that, there’s nothing that piques my interest and gets the energy flowing as much as pinning a number on and going off road. The finish line of San Diego’s Belgian Waffle Ride’s and the start line of Vermont’s Rasputita’s start line are 3,000 miles and three time zones apart but make for one amazing week.
The contrasts were abrupt. Belgian Waffle sizzled in the San Diego sun over 133 miles while Rasputitsa embraced a late-in-the-season dusting of snow with subsequent muddy thaw over a brisk 40 miles.
The trip to Vermont was largely for some down and dirty racing, but it also conveniently covered early real estate hunting as Laura and I made it official: we’re moving to Vermont! Exciting news, but we’ll cover that in a subsequent post.
Meanwhile, Vermont offered a warm welcome, although not a literal one. In its defense, you can see that the sun is in fact shining and providing real shadows on the right image, below, amid our steely grimaces.
The similarities between the two extends to the booming off road culture. 1,300 people lined up for each race. THIRTEEN HUNDRED. That doesn’t just speak volumes, that screams volumes over a loudspeaker from the rooftops! If you care to dive in deeper on either of those, this tells the tale about why these events are so popular. As domestic road races begin to wane, the off road culture is growing with no signs of slowing down.
Travel-&-Gravel is the name of the game right now. Tomorrow kicks off the Velocio athlete summit in grand Mammoth, CA. That’ll be four days of riding, hanging, eating, drinking, and basking in the eastern Sierras, some of the most spectacular riding in America with some super cool people from around the country. From there the Amgen Tour of California zips through the Golden State and I will be hosting an UnTapped party atop the final Kingsbury Grade/Daggett Summit on the queen stage 6. If you’re keen for something delicious and a raucous good time, come in search of the plaid and wholesome scent of maple. Psst: brand new MapleAid will be up for grabs.
Saturday marks the final one-day ‘hopper of the year, King Ridge Dirt Surpreme Grasshopper. Some of my favorite rides of all time involve Grasshoppers, which is a big reason why today I’m heading up to Sonoma for the first ever podcast with the grasshopper founder, Miguel Crawford! A podcast you say? Yes, stay tuned. And Sunday will wrap up the week with another fun edition of João and Friends ride for WBR. This encompasses a more personal “grand tour of California” for yours truly and will be a thousand mile farewell.
More to the point, the move east will take place directly after the biggest target of the first half of the year, Dirty Kanza! If we take a stroll down memory lane you may recall that I excitedly took home the race winner’s belt buckle in my first go at DK200, two years ago in 2016. It turns out that ignorant is in fact bliss, as I really didn’t know what I was getting into. In a previous chapter of life, I’d ridden inordinately long rides, raced cobbled Classics, pedaled across vast flat plains, but until you do Dirty Kanza, there’s nothing you can really do to prepare for Dirty Kanza. It’s a totally zany, one of a kind, all day monster of a bike race and as soon as I won it, I told myself NEVER AGAIN.
…which lasted exactly one year since I was on the start line in 2017 too. Thereby bringing us to the punchline of today’s entry, How To Prepare for Dirty Kanza.
To begin, how do I prepare for something when you’ve sworn off doing intervals? Well, I begin by sticking to my word and not doing intervals! Look, I ride my bike a lot and often do so at high intensity. I also ride slowly, verrrrry slowwwwwly, and I have a pretty stout understanding of how training routines work. I don’t start my clock and pull off three ten-minute LT efforts. Instead I fully embrace group rides, which the San Francisco Bay Area has in spades and is one of the greatest aspects of cycling worldwide. The Wednesday morning Roaster Ride is a staple for a social hour and a half of intensity. The monthly Col du Pantoll assault of Mt. Tam provide a thorough flogging. And the Belgian Waffles, Rasputitsas, Grasshoppers, sporadic dawn patrols, and random group rides with buddies supplement the rest. Suffering through intervals is boring, riding with good people is awesome. Do it.
Next, geek out on your bike. I’ve long been blessed with a fleet of Cannondales and after two years of Slates at DK, I’m mixing it up and going with the SuperX. Yes, a cyclocross bike. As I’m linking off road rides and hit pavement sections, the bike is a speed demon and has the feel of a pure road race bike, then goes back to its natural habitat and rips up the off road. The clearance is massive for tires of all sizes, so that I’ve ridden 32c WTB Exposures at Belgian Waffle Ride, directly to 40c WTB Nanos at Rasputitsa; I rode 34c WTB Exposures at last week’s Grasshopper, and slap on lots of other rubber here, there, and everywhere in between. I can’t speak highly enough of SRAM’s 1x drivetrain. I run a 44t front and 42-10t cassette which covers every spectrum of gradient I would ever care to pedal. The bike is pure awesome and I have full confidence there.
Nerd out on what touches your body. If history is any indication, it’s going to be hot. It’s Kansas in the summer, people, even when it’s cool, it’s hot. Velocio, already noted for their excellent bib shorts, just dropped Ultralights. Paired with the Radiator Mesh jersey, equally brand new and made for extreme heat, I couldn’t be happier with that choice.
I’ve been rocking the POC Ventral for a month or more and it’s as well ventilated as it is aero. An aero helmet for a gravel race, Ted? Yeah, I guess so. But it also just looks super stylie so it’s my everyday driver too.
Kiddos and folks new to the sport ask me all the time “What should I do to have a long career like you Ted?” Without fail, one of the first things I tell them is to wear sunscreen. A fellow New England endurance athlete Jarrod Shoemaker and his wife Alicia Kaye started Endurance Shield and as much as I never thought I’d geek out on sunscreen, their stuff is the best.
At the end of the day your job is to Control the Controllable. Know on that start line with 2200 of your best friends about to set out across Kansas, that you will experience every emotion known to to man out in the flint hills of Kansas. You will be euphoric, you will be ferociously upset at time, and you’ll likely have a few hallucinations, but when you roll into Emporia, win, lose, or draw, you’ll be ecstatic. You can be derailled a dozen different ways over the course, but don’t let them be from a reason that’s closely in your control.
For example, read the race bible and take in my last Dirty Kanza Tip: when you expect 200 miles, be prepared for a bonus six. The race forewarns that it’s 206 miles, but you forget that when you’re at mile 199.