Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Dirty Kanza Report: Surprises And Send-Offs

Our host, Joe, prepped his bike on Friday for another go at the DK100
Inside Joe's House, 2:30pm, Friday, June 1st:

Joe is prepping his bike for the following day's attempt at the DK100. MG has already left for the start of the 350 mile DKXL which is to depart from the All Things Gravel Expo area at 4:00pm.

It is interesting to me, as a non-rider, non-promoter at this event to simply observe from a different perspective. Joe is getting more nervous. He's completed the 100 version before, but Joe lives in this area and he knows. Nothing can be taken for granted when you ride in the Flint Hills. Flats, tire shredding flint, heat, wind, maybe even mud, all of which can happen on the same day and take you away from that coveted finish.

Meanwhile, a couple of Joe's teammates from Team Mulready's are to be picked up by Joe and I and we are all going down to the depart of the DKXL. Joe and his teammates are cheering on one of their own who was invited to be one of the 34 riders. That number was chosen to reflect the number of starters in the first DK200 in 2006. Hard to imagine that, but the Dirty Kanza was one of the first gravel grinders, one of the pioneers of the genre'.

Of course, we didn't know what to expect for this. The DKXL was in its inaugural year, this wasn't a heavily promoted part of the weekend since it was small and a test of the event for the DK Promotions team. I assumed there would be a gathering of folks, maybe a hundred if it was a good day. It was that, but it was hot, humid, and the wind was roaring out of the Southwest. Surely folks would be there, but I never thought we would see what we did.

The sea of humanity in the expo area was amazing. People spilled out into the streets along the route for three city blocks as well.
"Oh! Holy Shiiiii.......Wow!", were things exclaimed when we rounded the corner in Joe's truck. We were floored by the press of humanity which was at least a block long at this time before the start. We scrambled out of Joe's truck and at this point, all I was thinking about was getting close enough to perhaps be able to get a shot of MG at the start line. I left my companions behind and started into my "concert mode". Having gone to several rock concerts in the 80's, I knew how to weasel my way through a crowd of people. So it was that I got to the edge of the alleyway and spied a good spot to grab a photo when the riders would go by.

This happened to be at the same spot where a small PA system was and a DK Promotions lady was pumping up the crowd. A veritable wall of photographers and videographers were trying to film the riders who were hemmed in on all sides at this point, like a herd of cattle waiting to be loaded onto a truck. The heat in the alley was stifling, but this was likely due to the press of humans there more than anything else. It was astounding. Later estimates put the crowd that showed up anywhere from 600-800 people. Jim Cummings spied me in the crowd and walked over and said to me, "We never expected anything like this, Mark!"

Jim Cummings pulled me out of the crowd and said some very kind words in tribute to Trans Iowa and myself at the start of the DKXL. Image courtesy of Dori Jansma
As things drew closer to 4:00pm, Jim Cummings took the mic and started in on a dialogue about the influences on Joel Dyke, also a co-founder of the Dirty Kanza, and himself. I was suddenly aware that he was making reference to Trans Iowa. I was hoping to escape notice, but no......Jim went there, and he called me out in the crowd and had me come out next to him for another surprise.

Jim made some heartfelt comments about myself and the Trans Iowa which I will forever appreciate. He didn't have to take the time out to do any of that, but he did, and that means the world to me. What a surprise and what an honor. Then it was back to the business of getting the event started.

MG departs on his way to........we weren't sure!
The send off was electric. The crowd was roaring and the atmosphere was jubilant. I don't think I've seen anything quite like it in the gravel scene. Even the mighty Dirty Kanza 200 start is not as thunderous as this was. What a surprise! I was certainly thrilled to have been there, much less get the recognition there at the start.

Now it was over and the crowd thinned quickly. I was standing there for another hour talking with people. Finally I walked off. I said to myself, "The last man standing, as usual!", and I made my way  back to Joe's place along quiet city streets.

Walking home I had lots of time to contemplate the day
What a crazy turn of events! First there was defeat, concern, and that turned to amazement and joy when MG was able to get going. Then the surprise of the start and the unexpected honor from Jim. Now that this had all passed I was wondering- just how far would MG make it? I'm certain he had no clear idea of what to expect at this point either.

After getting back to the house I hooked up with Joe and we went out for a bite to eat. Joe and I saw a lot of DK cyclists out in their kit, riding about the city. Joe remarked that he thought it was odd that these folks would be spending all day Friday, in some cases, in cycling gear, wasting energy, when the next day they would be spending the better part of a day and night riding again. I offered that perhaps it was just the result of nervous energy. These folks were ready, but waiting was proving to be difficult. Joe nodded his head in agreement.

Back at Joe's place later that evening I found him in his basement, fettling his kit, and fretting over every detail. He looked up at me sheepishly and said, "You know that comment you made about nervous energy? Well, it's real."

The next morning, early, Joe would be joining two thousand plus other riders doing the Dirty Kanza 200, 100, and DKLite rides. It was getting time to turn into bed, and we hadn't heard a peep about MG. No news was good news!  Joe and I were left speechless at the turn of events for MG. But Joe now had to think about himself and we said good night. Before I went in for the evening, I decided to close up MG's sun roof. It didn't look like rain, but Joe said there was a 40% chance of overnight thunderstorms, so just in case........

Next: Starts And Finishes

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