Monday, June 13, 2016

Kanza Ride: Final Thoughts

This means so much to those who finish the DK200- My friend Tony signing the banner at the finish line.
I hope everyone enjoyed the recap of my ride around the Kanza Countryside and I also hope that it was apparent that I still think the DK200 is a great event, but that other reasons to ride down there exist and should be explored by many. Just limiting yourself to the event is short-changing yourself in terms of really getting into the area. I had a great trip, and hanging out before and afterward at the DK200 was definitely a highlight for me. Obviously, the "Kanza Ride" was awesome, and something I would sure like to repeat in the future.

If you are interested in riding in the Flint Hills, the DK Promotions site has ten "Iconic Routes" already mapped out for you to try from easy to advanced. Click HERE to see those and don't be afraid to go to the KDOT site and download your own maps if you really want an adventure like I had. I'd recommend staying in Emporia at any of the nice motels they have and plan on hitting up Commercial and Market Streets for some shopping and for restaurants and pubs which are every bit as good as anywhere else at a bargain price.

I thought I'd touch on a few things here that have sprouted up in the week past the event. Many of you may know that a certain, high profile rider, was disqualified for breaking a rule or two during the event. The Dirty Kanza 200 made no bones about the fact that they would DQ any rider who had a support vehicle on course outside of the designated checkpoint areas where crews could meet their riders and aid them. Well, this certain rider's vehicle with their company's name on the side was out on the course so it wasn't hard to figure out who that vehicle was supporting. A rider filed a complaint, and the rest was history, or so you would think.

It's up to the rider to make the right choices.
However; glossing over the fact that he was DQ'ed for an obvious infraction, this rider tried to drive the conversation to one about aid stations, the lack thereof, and how this somehow makes the playing field "unfair". Look, I put one of these events on, have for over a decade, and so here is what I have to say about this deal.

First of all, no one is making you spend your money to come to the Dirty Kamza 200. You are free to go, or not go. However; once you have paid your entry fee, and plan on being there, it may be a wise thing to, ya know......familiarize yourself with the way the event is run. Don't tell me you didn't have time to figure that out. Most people could easily read the DK200's "Rider's Bible" in 15 minutes or less. Me? It takes me longer because I read slow, but I could read it anytime. So could you. Not knowing the rules pretty much puts you in a very compromised position. Not only that, but the DQ'ed rider is a college graduate, a CEO of his own company, and was required to read the Rider's Bible when he registered, just like everyone else in the event. Plus, this rider's support people were on course and taking images for this rider. Gee.......didn't seem like there was an issue figuring that part out. But you don't know the rules? Something is fishy there.

Secondly, every rider that partakes of that event down there has a lot of decisions to make. How much water do I need to get from the start to the first checkpoint? How much food do I need? That answer is different for everyone, so you should know that going in, and you should understand that the DK200 is not an event that coddles the participants with "aid stations". Why? Because it is the way gravel events like this have set themselves up to be- challenges to overcome. Guess what? You could make bad decisions and end up having to quit, or suffer some other consequences based upon your decisions. It's all up to you. Go out there with less water than you need and guess what? You'll have issues with dehydration. Most of the riders I witnessed coming across the line at the finish obviously "got the memo" as they had hydration packs or five water bottles, or both, on their bikes. So, it can be done. You just have to be smart.

It's a hard and unforgiving land. But overcoming the obstacles is not impossible.
The rider that got DQ'ed tried to turn the conversation to "vagueness in the application of rules" and the way to "fix" it was to have neutral aid and mechanical assistance for all riders. That's untenable and would gut the event of what makes it appealing to 2000 riders every year.

 The very nature of these events seem to be in question. The thing is, adding neutral aid stations isn't in the DNA of the Dirty Kanza, nor for Trans Iowa, or many other grassroots, non-sanctioned, non-affiliated-to-anything events. It would seem that this irks or makes some people used to seamless, fully supported, "rider's needs" focused events uncomfortable. Guess what? If that is an issue for you, maybe these events are not for you. Giving any of these events what would amount to a triathlon or running event structure with aid stations and neutral support would fundamentally make the DK200 or Trans Iowa, or anything like those events into......well, something other than what they are. Something that a lot of people are trying to avoid. You know......the thing that the DK200 doesn't have that makes people want to do it. 

For a more direct, hard hitting viewpoint on this, see Chad Ament's take here

Finally, I cannot help but wonder a few things about the Dirty Kanza and its future. Plus, I have an announcement at the end.

Done! The challenge overcome has potentially life changing effects for many. Even without aid stations!
First off, I think making the pre-race meeting mandatory is a must do for any event like this. In the case of the DK200, I wonder if the RFID chip on the number plate couldn't be used as a way to verify folks came to the meeting. Make them walk through a scanning area at the Grenada Theater, and if afterward anyone's chip didn't scan, you turn off that number and they don't get scored. Make folks aware of that, and I bet you'll get near 100% attendance.

Secondly- The whole water hand up deal is absolutely a no-brainer. You gotta go 50-ish miles, and if you think you are "joe-racer" and are going to do that on two water bottles, you are ill informed. I do not think adding aid stations is a good idea here. They tried that in 2015 and it was goofy. It didn't work. Besides, it would make people rely more on the event and less on themselves, thus changing the entire nature of the event. (See previous thoughts above)

As for hand ups from the locals, many may not be aware that this has happened since the first DK200. I know, I got some water in this manner that first year. The rules are a bit confusing concerning that point. In my opinion, it is fair play if locals are handing up water. The DK200 probably should address that point, but these are open roads and go by private property. I don't see how that can be regulated, so I think you have to let that go. I allow competitors to ask for water on route at residences at Trans Iowa, but like the DK200, I do not allow support from non-resident, support people tied to a racer, nor can their vehicles be on course. The Boo vehicle was on course. That's a DQ right there according to DK200 rules which are clearly written in regard to that point. The rest of the dust up is a moot point after that.

The announcement is that I won't be riding in the DK200 next year, I'll be supporting some folks in it. That's right, my partner, Ben, and I will be offering to be a few folks support crew for the '17 edition of the DK200. Details will be released at a later date, but we were fed up with all the drama surrounding this DQ thing and decided to take action in a positive way.

We're also trying to come up with some ideas on a gathering, possibly, and how we're going to do a donation to a local Emporia charity. Anyway, we figured positivity and action will be better for all concerned, and this is a small way for us to give back to the gravel grinding scene we love. This isn't like any other form of cycling. It is grassroots, and it runs on personal freedom to choose and to overcome or fail as a result of those choices. You don't need a team, you don't need to win, be an age group podium finisher, or top finisher to "win" at an event like the Dirty Kanza. Just ask my friend Tony, who is stoked to have finished and wants to go back next year. When I saw him cross the finish line before mid-night, he sure looked like a winner to me.

See ya down in Kansas in 2017 around the first weekend in June.......


bnelson said...

good post gt

MG said...

Amen, Brother... We are totally on the same page. At the point gravel events become supported like road races, you won't see me at them. That's not the appeal for me...

RC said...

What they said.....And Major Kudos to the DK200 people for sticking to the rules. Money and self-important individuals should not dictate race results. Thank You.

youcancallmeAl said...

It was to be expected that the so called "pros" would try and take over this kind of event. They always do. Soon the sanctioning bodies will start trying to ban participants from their events if they race in these grass roots affairs. It's the nature of the beast.