Yuri Hauswald: A legendary victory from a diesel strongman

by Elliot Wilkinson-Ray June 04, 2015

The Dirty Kanza 200 is the nation’s premier endurance gravel race. Kitsbow ambassador and friend, Yuri Hauswald, had raced it the last two years but flat tires took him out of winning contention both times. Known as “the Diesel,” Yuri has an amazing ability to maintain a strong power output over long distances.

This year Yuri set his sights on the DK200 as his number one goal and worked with coach Dan Harting to come up with a vicious cycle of training rides that culminated in riding the 700 mile Tour of California course ahead of the Peloton. Attempting to tag along for one of Yuri’s workouts, I can attest first hand they were leg breaking.

A feat of attrition, the 2015 DK200 was going smoothly – as smoothly as the Dirty Kanza goes – constantly stopping to clear giant clay mud formations from various parts of his bike, and navigating shark teeth-shaped fields of rocks across long sustained sloping climbs. Yuri, a man of endurance, stuck to his plan, locking in on the  power range that was the focus of all his training. With just under 50 miles to go, a photographer told Yuri that he had 10 minutes to gain to catch the race leader. At this point Yuri was in second place. What he later learned was that he was actually 22 minutes behind.

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“If I had heard 22 minutes at that point I’m not sure I would have had hope,” said Yuri in a post-race interview.

But the Diesel kept grinding away, and reportedly got faster throughout the race. Yuri recounted, “I was passing all kinds of folks because there’s also a 100 mile race that was finishing at about the same time, so it was hard to tell if anyone was from the 200 event. Then I spotted someone up ahead looking way more pro, and I pulled aside him and asked him if he was racing the 200, and if he was the race leader. I probably should have just blown by because I was moving faster but you don’t always make the best decisions in that state of mind.”

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In an amazing feat of strength Yuri had, indeed, bridged the 22-minute gap in less than 50 miles and caught the race leader Michael Sencenbaugh with two miles to go. What ensued was a sprint finish that neither had expected after riding large sections of the race solo. Yuri made a pass and Michael attempted to stay on his wheel. Round the last bend is a final hill into town and Yuri gave it everything only to have a few bike lengths lead over Michael.

“I thought I was done – I thought I’d burned my last match and only had a slight edge at the top of the climb, but I rounded the last straight and just gave it hell. Michael picked the wrong side of me that tapered into a barricade and had to pull back and go around the other side, and by then it was too late.”

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With the average Tour De France stage just over 100 miles, racing 200 miles in the mud against many of the country’s fastest pros is certainly a huge feat of strength and a quintessential strongman accolade. Yuri considers the 10th anniversary of the Dirty Kanza 200, “A Decade of Dirty,” his biggest victory to-date. It’s a test of mettle against some of the best. Rebecca Rusch and Barry Wicks were among the legends in the competition that didn’t come away with a win.

To win a race like the DK200 you develop some tricks of the trade.  What Yuri is often asked is, “what was he listening to in his headphones for most of the race?” He explained that an updated playlist with fresh tracks made a big difference. Yuri mentioned one album above all that spurned him  on during the 13 hour event – one  that had a seriously uplifting impact: “Frogstomp” by Silver Chair, an early album by the Australian grunge rock band, popular in the 90’s. Here’s a link to the full 45 minute album: https://vimeo.com/37185317. I think you’ll learn a lot about the mental state of an athlete during this sort of an event.

A huge congratulations to Yuri Hauswald, Petaluma native, all around nice guy, and longtime cycling advocate!! To many more!

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Additional photos by Eric Benjamin at Adventure Monkey.

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Elliot Wilkinson-Ray
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