When we last spoke with Yuri Hauswald, the 2015 winner of the Dirty Kanza 200 was on his way back to Kansas to defend his title as champion of the most difficult gravel race in the world. Training and racing had left “The Diesel” in top shape, prepared to take on a formidable field of pro racers. But as fate would have it, incessant mechanical failures plagued him for the entirety of his race and led Yuri to abdicate after 115 miles in the Flint Hills. We’ll let him tell the rest of the story in his own words.
“It’s hard to truly put into words the deep disappointment I felt the moment I realized that mechanicals were going to prevent me from finishing my fourth Dirty Kanza. When you invest over six months of your life training for an event, particularly when you are the defending champion, it’s hard to accept defeat.
But you know what? That’s racing.
Once I moved past my initial disappointment, I started thinking about the time I’d spent this year in Kansas. In the days leading up to the big race, three kids approached me shyly with my rider card in hand and asked for my autograph. I had other riders approach me and thank me for the inspiration that I’d provided by finishing last year’s prairie mud bath.
The most impactful encounter of the weekend was when a teary-eyed man, his face still grimy from riding the 100 mile course, grabbed me by the shoulders and told me that his daughter had been diagnosed with cancer a year ago. He said all that he had been thinking about for the last 30 miles, what had kept him pedaling, was my 2015 DK finish, which I had dedicated to my wife who had been battling Stage 4 colon cancer. To share the terrible bond of cancer with a sobbing stranger who had just pushed his physical and emotional boundaries to the limit was the most powerful thing, besides winning last year, I’ve ever experienced at a race. I was beyond honored to have had this moment. Humbled, in fact. When we parted ways, I was shaking and on the verge of tears.
Race results are only one measure of success. My 2016 Dirty Kanza will forever be etched in my memory because of the human moments I had in the days leading up to the event. The interactions with fans, the stories I shared with gladiators preparing to tackle the most audacious race they’ve ever done, the deep, powerful conversations I had in my last moments as the 2015 Dirty Kanza champion – these will be the memories I will carry with me for a lifetime.”
The Diesel is one of the most hardworking, humble, and dedicated riders we’ve ever encountered. Win or lose, he carries himself with dignity. He takes lemons and turns them into lemonade. So with that metaphorical glass of lemonade, let’s offer a toast to Yuri Hauswald. Cheers.
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