|L-R: Jeremy Fry, Mike Johnson, Ron Saul, G-Ted @ the DK200 2010|
The DK200 has been crafted into a "big deal" for the riders that attend. Lots of attention from Emporia, lots of attention from the cycling media, the manufacturers, and the promoters. They all have amped up the lead in to the event, and the experience during the event, to the point that riders say they feel like "rock stars". That's a monumental task to pull off, but Jim Cummins, the Mohns, and LeLan Dains have done it and keep growing it bigger. (For more on the Dirty Kanza 200, where it started, where it is, and where it is going, listen to the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast with Jim Cummins HERE.)
I haven't been to a DK200 since 2010. That was about when the "big deal" started with the event. It was the first year that they shut down the main street we finished on in Emporia and the first where we started downtown. Things were getting big by that point, but by comparison to today, those were small potatoes. The scene now is far more festive, with a bigger production, and a lot more riders. In ten years, this thing has done blowed up, and that's putting it mildly.
It wasn't always this way though.
|The start of the first DK200. That's me in white. Image courtesy of P. Jacobson|
So it was that the Dirty Kanza was to be a long, arduous course set into the Flint Hills where Joel and Jim hoped that they would be able to attract a few "nutcases" down from the Trans Iowa and from other 24 hour mtb events to tackle this challenge. The "scene" wasn't much back in those days. Gravel events were something unheard of, and without the then fairly new tool of the internet, it is likely that you would have never heard of Trans Iowa, the Dirty Kanza 200, or much of anything, for that matter! The thing was, these sorts of events were very much "under the radar" back in 2006.
|The registration table for the first DK200|
David picked me up at my sister's place in Des Moines and we left on a hot, humid day to go into the unknown. We checked out some of the areas we knew the course would go through, and the heat and winds were rather worrisome. I know it was up around 100 degrees most of that day. We checked in at the Travel Lodge, where we had to hunt for the registration area, which amounted to a round table commandeered by a few of the DK200 volunteers. They were really friendly, and showed us some of the swag they had as prizes. Then we signed in, and went to our room to await the early morning alarm clock warning and then hit the parking lot for the 6:00am start. The rider's meeting happened right there. Just before we took off, and that was that. The DK200 was started.
|Early on in the inaugural DK200 and I was all alone.|
|Winner Dan Hughes giving Doug, one of the DK volunteers, a smooch after winning.|
I rode back to town with Doug where we found the 10 X 10 pop up that served as the "finish line" in the middle of the motel parking lot where we all had left that morning. Not long after, Dan Hughes came rolling in, all dusty, and dropped his bike to the ground, a white Steelman cross bike with Bruce Gordon Rock and Road tires on it. There was a smattering of hand claps and a "good job!" from the six or so gathered there. Dan grabbed a PBR out of a nearby cooler, slammed it, and smiled broadly. I'm not sure he felt like much of a "rock star", but he was, (and still is), in our eyes.
The fifteen finishers started to trickle in, and the stories began in earnest. Lost, defeated by flat tires, and burnt by the Sun, (which eventually did come out), many others that had cut their rides short also joined in the festivities around that pop-up tent on the unforgiving blacktop. Laughter and a sense of camaraderie was evident. Pizzas were ordered and delivered by astonished teenage delivery drivers who had never seen anything quite like the finish of the first DK200.
The final finisher was my traveling companion, and future co-director of Trans Iowa, David Pals, who finished at about 12:30am after being in a spectacular thunder and lightning storm, and then getting hit and knocked off his bicycle by a car a mere few blocks from the finish line. An auspicious ending to the event that has grown up so much, it doesn't even resemble the "back yard barbeque" feel it had back in 2006. Yep, it wasn't always the way it is now, with the lights, the big deal, and what not, but how could it stay that way.......
This post is dedicated to the memory of Joel Dyke, DK200 co-founder. Please consider a donation to the fund to help his family at BigGrin.org