Dirty Kanza Gravel Camp

Kitsbow Ambassador Yuri Hauswald is a professional endurance racer who gets to travel the world by bike. Here’s what Yuri’s been up to recently.

Yuri for Kitsbow 2017 (26 of 33)“This one time, at gravel camp, I spent three days riding with forty folks from all over the country in the windswept Flint Hills which surround Emporia, Kansas, the launch pad for the Dirty Kanza gravel camp and the home of the Dirty Kanza 200, arguably the hardest gravel race in the world.

Yuri for Kitsbow 2017 (23 of 33)

There are no National Parks in Kansas, there’s no BLM land, the paved roads rarely have safe shoulders to ride on and there certainly aren’t any mountains, so gravel gives people a chance to see the stunning landscapes just a few miles outside of town and get away from it all. Yeah, I know, most folks don’t put “stunning” and “Kansas” in the same sentence, but they obviously haven’t experienced the geography that makes this part of the state unique and beautiful. The Flint Hills are a region of eastern Kansas and north central Oklahoma that contain the largest tallgrass prairie in North America. Less than 4 percent of the original tallgrass prairie remains, and most of it is in the Flint Hills of Kansas. One of the other distinguishing features of  this region, and the bane of those who dare to ride bikes through it, is the sharp flint rock that has survived eons of erosion and is what prevented the tall grass prairie from being plowed under for farmland.

Yuri for Kitsbow 2017 (1 of 1)

There were campers who made the pilgrimage to the world’s epicenter of gravel racing to hone their riding skills, to dial in their nutrition plans, to experience the beauty of the Flint Hills and to get an exclusive first look at the 2017 course. Campers ran the spectrum, from Dirty Kanza first timers to seasoned veterans and road racers. No camp can be successful without a dedicated, passionate crew of counselors, and the folks at Dirty Kanza assembled a stellar group of gravel luminaries to help out. The mentors assembled here included endurance mutant Jay Petervary, who just won the Iditarod Trail Invitational, Andrea Cohen, Crystal Wintle, and four-time DK 200 Winner, Dan Hughes. The proliferation of top-shelf coaches, inspiring mentors, and ninja-level mechanics is a testament to the quality of instruction that this camp provides.

Yuri for Kitsbow 2017 (31 of 33)

Unfortunately the weather gods were not smiling upon the prairies in the week leading up to camp. A deluge left the surrounding areas covered in more water in a week than they had received all winter. The prairie precipitation meant our first ride of camp was actually on pavement, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits – after all, we had Old Highway 50 to Nebo basically to ourselves. So we went big on road miles, then filled the caloric void with BBQ, attended a mechanic class, did yoga, ate dinner, rinsed and repeated. I think you get the picture: ride, eat, eat. Not a bad routine to follow for three days!

Yuri for Kitsbow 2017 (9 of 33)

So why should you attend gravel camp? Beside the fact that all the cool kids are doing it and that it guarantees you a spot in the race? Well, it’s the best way to get inspiration and information from some of the world’s most experienced gravel veterans and extreme endurance riders. The other bonus is you get to ride almost 200 miles of stellar gravel roads in three days. Plus, you’ll be able to say, hopefully with a straight face: You remember, that one time, at gravel camp…

Yuri for Kitsbow 2017 (4 of 33)

Thanks for checking in, Yuri. Cheers!

 

Words by Yuri Hauswald

Images by Andrew White

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