Conquering the Kanza Conquering the Kanza

Conquering the Kanza

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Monday, June 8, 2015

We asked Rebecca Rusch to tell us about her experience at the especially brutal 2015 edition of the Dirty Kanza 200 race in Emporia, Kansas. This 200 mile course consisting of dirt and gravel roads was transformed into a sticky mud pit by a deluge of rain. In the midst of riders dropping like flies to mechanicals, Rusch battled through the conditions to finish 3rd on SRAM Force 1™. The following is Rebecca’s race report.

Photo Credit: Andy White

The 10th anniversary running of the Dirty Kanza gravel road race lived up to their hashtag #DecadeofDirty. It seems they collected all of the mud and grit from the previous nine years and piled it all onto the gravel roads in the Flint Hills to make this year extra memorable. 200 miles on remote, unimproved gravel roads is epic enough. I’ve raced there three times before and won the women’s race each time in about 12 hours. The heavy rains this year created mud like I’ve never seen before and took away any hopes of finishing in record time. The mud was un-rideable, soul crushing and derailleur chomping.

Even in good conditions, this event puts a huge demand on your body and your gear to survive the conditions and the sheer distance. This year I was stoked with my new Niner BSB 9 RDO. It’s a sexy bike and I hadn’t ridden it more than about 50 miles total, so DK would really be the first big test. To round out the package, I chose Zipp 303 disc brake wheels, Maxxis prototype 40c gravel tires, SRAM Force hydraulic disc brakes and 1x rear derailleur. For my drivetrain I ran SRAM Force 1 with a 44 tooth front chain ring, 10/42 cassette and Quarq power meter, with Garmin 1000 unit for navigation. For nutrition, I ran a Camelbak with plain water and survived mostly on GU and Red Bull.

Photo Credit: Andy White

Normally DK is known for shredding tires. This year was no different in that respect, but the mud added a whole new dimension of technical issues for tons of riders from the top contenders to the back of the field. It was like a derailleur graveyard out there. I’ll admit that there were a few fleeting moments, where I wished my derailleur would rip off so I could have an excuse to stop torturing myself. But it didn’t, so I soldiered on. Actually, the bike was the most perfect part of my race. On a day where my body wasn’t doing what I asked of it and my mind was struggling to hang on, it was a relief to at least have a machine that was operating flawlessly. I didn’t have one flat tire or mechanical the entire race. My tire lever got a ton of use as a mud-prying tool and I gave out a tube and CO2 to a stranded racer. Other than that, I never opened my tool bag once.

Photo Credit: Andy White

There were a lot of firsts for me on the equipment side this race, and I was super pleased with the performance. I’ve been a SRAM 1x fanatic on my mountain bike for years. This was my first venture into 1x on a road bike, and like most, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough gears. I was wrong. The simplicity of this system is what I love most. I’m not going to change a thing on this bike.

I was alone in my suffering for most of the event. It’s crazy to think that with thousands of racers, you can have a day where you barely utter a word to another human. A few grunts were shared, a few thanks to the volunteers, but mostly it was me and my bike against the Kansas elements. It took me nearly 15 hours to finish and the sweet feeling of relief and accomplishment overwhelmed me when I finally hit the smooth pavement in Emporia. The rattling stopped, my legs stopped turning and the pain stopped too. All that was left was the pride from finishing this grueling event and a really, really dirty bike.

Photo Credit: Andy White

BSB in Ninerd terminology stands for “blood, sweat and beers” and that moniker would stand as a pretty fitting description of the day. Yes there was blood, yes there was sweat, and there were even tears. I was so spent at the end of the day, that I actually didn’t even have the strength to toast with a celebratory beer. I had to save that for the following morning when I could finally stand upright again.

Read more My 1x stories from: Grinduro!, Open the Road Gloucester, Gloucester GP CX Race, riding and racing in Indiana, The JAM Fund Grand Fundo, German National TIme Trial Champs, and 70.3 Ironman® U.S. National Champs.

Learn more about SRAM 1x Force 1 and Rival 1 groups in the video below.

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