Cyclocross

2019 Dirty Kanza 200 Race Preview: 38 Buckle Hopefuls to Watch – Cyclocross Magazine

The general principle of the Dirty Kanza 200 has not changed since the race was first held in 2006—ride 200 miles of Flint Hills gravel and party in Emporia after the incredible accomplishment.

Some things, however, have changed.

The races are faster, with Alison Tetrick setting the Women’s course speed record in 2017 and Ted King doing the same for the Men in 2018. The fields have also gotten bigger, with the anticipation of the lottery now preceding the anticipation of the race. Another thing that is new for this year is a new 202-mile course that heads north from Emporia.

Other than that, just endless beautiful gravel roads and the famed Kanza gods stand between the field and Kanza glory.

Oh, that field has also gotten stronger, and this year has perhaps the best yet, with WorldTour pros, former winners and professionals from all disciplines heading to Emporia’s Commercial Street on Saturday morning.

To help get ready for this year’s race, today’s preview looks at some of the riders to watch on the roads north of Emporia this weekend, not unlike what we did Land Run 100 back in March.

As with that Land Run preview, this is a best shot at some riders to watch, and all athletes are more than welcome to use omissions as pre-race bulletin board material. This preview is based on the publically available start lists.

The start line in Emporia awaits. 2018 Dirty Kanza 200. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

First, Some History

The 2019 Dirty Kanza 200 is the 14th edition of the Kansas gravel race that was first held in 2006 and results are available dating to 2007. This year, two of the riders are hoping to put their names on the short list of all-time top title winners*.

Rebecca Rusch won 3-straight DK200 titles from 2012 to 2014, and Dan Hughes won 3-straight titles from 2011** to 2013.

*Rusch also won the inaugural DKXL last year to give her four total titles

**Technically, the 2011 race was won by the tandem duo of Barbie Miller and Lance Andre, but Hughes won the Open Men race

Entering this year, both Amanda Nauman and Ted King have two titles to their names. Nauman won in 2015 and 2016, and defending Men’s champ King also won in 2016. The two of them have a shot for number three and perhaps a chance to generate some discussion about the above asterisks.

Dirty Kanza 200 Open Winners – 2007 to 2018

Year Women Men
2018 Kaitie Keough Ted King
2017 Alison Tetrick Mat Stephens
2016 Amanda Nauman Ted King
2015 Amanda Nauman Yuri Hauswald
2014 Rebecca Rusch Brian Jensen
2013 Rebecca Rusch Dan Hughes
2012 Rebecca Rusch Dan Hughes
2011 Betsy Shogren Dan Hughes
2010 Emily Brock Corey Godfrey
2009 Michael Marchal
2008 Kristen High Cameron Chambers
2007 Leslie Hiemenz Steve Guetzelman

Open Women

This Saturday, a new Queen of Kanza will be crowned as defending champion Kaitie Keough is not racing as she prepares for a full cyclocross season in Europe this fall and winter following the U.S. World Cups.

Six of the top 10 finishers from the 2018 Dirty Kanza 200 return to race this year. A conversation about this year’s race should likely start with the two former champions in the field.

Amanda Nauman (SDG – Muscle Monster) and Alison Tetrick (Specialized) have developed a friendly rivalry on the roads of Kanza after Tetrick nipped Nauman by 5 seconds in 2017 and then Nauman passed Tetrick in the waning miles of the 2018 race to finish 2nd.

Nauman is returning to form after illness derailed her 2018 cyclocross season and has scored top 10s at both the Land Run 100 and Belgian Waffle Ride.

Former road pro Tetrick is one of the riders who has established a solid second career as a gravel specialist. She won the 2017 DK200 and is the 2-time defending Gravel Worlds champion. There is no question she is looking to add another belt buckle to her collection.

Alison Tetrick and Amanda Nauman were able to share a laugh after last year’s DK200. 2018 Women’s Dirty Kanza 200. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

The single busiest gravel racer in the U.S. this year has been Kae Takeshita (Panaracer / Factor p/b Bicycle X-Change). The Japanese native and Chicago-area resident has raced everywhere from Texas to Michigan to Missouri to southern Illinois, winning or reaching the podium at nearly every race. She also counts a 2nd-place finish at the Land Run 100 among her 2019 gravel palmares.

Takeshita, who originally moved to the U.S. to be a pilot, bested the Kanza gods in 2018 after a run of bad luck, finishing 4th and on the 5-woman podium.

Kae Takeshita has seen the gravel world this year. 2018 Dirty Kanza 200. © Cyclocross Magazine

The other returnees from the 2018 top 10 are looking to climb further up the rankings. Professional mountain biker Kaysee Armstrong (Liv Cycling) returns to improve on her fifth-place finish. Armstrong has been keeping busy racing the UCI XCO circuit and the Epic Rides Off-Road series. Armstrong also finished second at Marathon MTB Nats, so she knows a thing or two about success during long days in the saddle.

When she has not been busy working as a race director for the first-ever Steamboat Gravel coming this August, Amy Charity (DNA Pro Team) has been busy racing gravel herself. Charity is coming off a knee injury suffered while skiing, an injury that allowed Hanna Muegge to experience the alternative racing scene at BWR.

Charity had a monster result at Land Run, finishing third, and if healthy, she will certainly be looking to break onto the DK200 podium.

Amy Charity, on couch right, is expected to be a podium contender if healthy. Salsa Chase the Chaise Lounge. © Scott Haraldson / Salsa Cycles

Rounding out the top 10 returnees is Anna Grace Christiansen (Ottolock Adventure Squad). The Oregon resident and former pro crit racer had a strong ride in SoCal, finishing fifth at the Belgian Waffle Ride.

Joining the 2018 top 10 returnees will be a number of women with strong podium aspirations for 2019.

One rider all the other riders will no doubt be watching is California’s Olivia Dillon. Dillon was the West Coast crusher in 2018, winning both the Sagan Dirt Fondo and Lost and Found Gravel Grinder in California. Dillon is passing on Lost and Found this year to head east for the granddaddy of them all.

Olivia Dillon is a West-Coaster to watch. 2018 Sagan Dirt Fondo. © Jonathan Devich / epicimages.us

“General Badass” (it was in the team PR, what can I say?) Amity Rockwell (Easton Overland Gravel Team) is riding strong during the past year, finishing 4th at the 2019 Land Run 100 and 2nd at the 2018 Gravel Worlds. Rockwell returns to the Dirty Kanza with a little unfinished business after an 18th-place finish in 2018.

Amity Rockwell returns to Kanza eyeing a podium finish. 2018 Gravel Worlds © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Racing her first-ever Dirty Kanza 200 is DNA Cycling’s Lauren De Crescenzo. Crescenzo brings an incredible story to Emporia, as she has kicked off a second career in cycling via gravel after a traumatic crash on the road in 2016. She won the 2018 Crusher in the Tushar and placed in the top 6 at both this year’s Land Run 100 and Belgian Waffle Ride.

Gravel has been good to Lauren De Crescenzo thus far 2018 Crusher in the Tushar. © Cathy Fegan-Kim

Joining LDC as a first-timer is Oregon’s Sarah Max (Argonaut). Max helped put her name on the alt racing map earlier this month with a second-place finish behind Sarah Sturm at Belgian Waffle. Max moonlights as a writer, so you know there will be a good story of her ride, and she may end up cutting some business deals during the ride as well?

Notable mentions: Karen Pritchard (Panaracer / Factor p/b Bicycle X-Change), Judah Sencenbaugh (706 Project / United Healthcare).

Joining the impressive list of riders will be former WNBA player Jackie Stiles.

Open Men

The 2019 Dirty Kanza 200 may be the year of the WorldTour teams, but the groad to the belt buckle goes through the defending King of Kanza, Ted King (Cannondale – SRAM – Roka – Velocio – UnTapped). King captured his 2nd title in 3 tries in 2018 and returns for his 4th Kanza this year.

King has been taking a different approach in preparing for this year’s race, adding some skiing, fat biking and bikepacking to his training after moving back to Vermont. He took the win at Missouri’s The Epic and finished second at Land Run and third at BWR this year.

Ted King is the defending King of Kanza. © Cyclocross Magazine

Peter Stetina (Trek – Segafredo) returned to his off-road roots when he won the Belgian Waffle Ride earlier this month. Stetina kicked his season off at the Tour Down Under, raced Liege-Bastogne-Liege and raced the Tour of California the week after BWR. The DK200 is a chance for the WorldTour rider to capture a true gravel event and get another chance to show off his keg-carrying skills.

Peter Stetina took the win at the 2019 BWR. photo: BWR Photo Pool

Joining Stetina will be his teammate Kiel Reijnen (Trek – Segafredo). The four-year member of Trek – Segafredo raced several of the 2019 spring classics and was also part of the Tour of California team. He has been preparing for the Dirty Kanza in part by ripping around the dirt roads and trails near his Washington home.

While the Trek – Segafredo riders kept their Dirty Kanza plans mum until this week, the EF Education First squad has been more open about its alternative calendar approach. The Dirty Kanza represents the team’s first “alt” event on a calendar that includes the Leadville 100 and Three Peaks Cyclocross.

Last week, the team announced its squad of Alex HowesTaylor Phinney and Lachlan Morton. The team should have their setups dialed with famed mechanic Tom Hopper helping them out, but with their bright pink kits, the EF boys are likely to get a lot of attention come Saturday.

Four riders who finished in the top 10 of the 2018 Dirty Kanza 200 return for 2019. Josh Berry (Giant Off-Road Team) was a breakout star of last year’s race, joining King in a two-man break before finishing second. Berry went on to finish third at the 2018 Gravel Worlds and has been racing a mix of gravel and mountain bikes thus far this season.

It is worth noting that although King and Berry will likely be wearing the same Velocio kit, they are friends, not teammates.

Josh Berry used his cyclocross skills to ride the creek last year. 2018 Men’s Dirty Kanza 200. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Last year, Geoff Kabush (Yeti – Maxxis – Shimano) made a splash with his anti-aero-bar essay published in the week leading up to the Dirty Kanza 200. It was only fitting that Kabush ended up in a group with aero bar proponent Mat Stephens (Panaracer / Factor p/b Bicycle X-Change). Kabush got the best of the battle, finishing third to Stephens’ fifth.

Kabush is no stranger to drop bars, as in 2018 he went on to win the November Iceman Cometh mountain bike race in Michigan on a drop bar bike. He has also been rolling at the Epic Rides Off-Road series this year, winning the Fat Tire Crit and finishing second in the Backcountry race at the Grand Junction Off-Road.

Stephens is one of the pioneers of trading the road for gravel and has a lot of success to show for it. He won the 2017 DK200, the 2018 Land Run 100 and captured his 3rd-straight Barry-Roubaix in Michigan earlier this year.

Stephens and Kabush had an aero bar staredown last year. Salsa Chase the Chaise Lounge. © Scott Haraldson / Salsa Cycles

The other returning Dirty Kanza 200 winner is 2015 champion Yuri Hauswald (GU Energy Labs). Hauswald finished second at last year’s 350-mile DKXL and got his win in the famed “Mud Year,” a result that may come in handy pending the shape of the rain-soaked gravel roads in the Flint Hills.

Joining Stetina and Stephens as a winner of one of 2019’s marquee gravel races is Payson McElveen (Orange Seal Off-Road Team). McElveen won the Land Run 100 in a sprint before heading to Moab to set the Fastest Known Time on the 100-mile White Rim Trail. McElveen and his ‘stache head to Kanza looking for redemption after a mechanical-marred DNF in 2018. We will find out if the Kanza gods love a good redemption story.

We last saw Payson McElveen at the Dirty Kanza, where he had a tough go of it. 2018 Dirty Kanza 200. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Fellow LR100 podium finisher Drew “Dizzle” Dillman (SDG – Muscle Monster) will be taking on his first Dirty Kanza 200, because of course a teammate of Nauman is going to do the DK200. Dillman finished third at Land Run and has been racing the Epic Rides Off-Road series to stay busy before the coming cyclocross season, where he is expected to be one of the top riders in the U.S. after a fourth-place finish at Louisville Nationals.

Drew Dillman has traded cyclocross for gravel this spring. 2018 Trek CX Cup, Waterloo © Cyclocross Magazine / D. Mable

Another familiar name on the start list that cyclocross fans have not really heard for the last two years is that of Yannick Eckmann. Eckmann won the 2013 U23 Cyclocross National Championship and finished as high as 6th at Elite U.S. Cyclocross Nationals at Hartford in 2017 before leaving the sport along with Amanda Miller when their team stepped away from sponsoring national-level cyclocross. We love a good story, so we may be silently cheering for Eckmannia on Saturday.

Yannick Eckmann is a former U23 cyclocross national champion who is racing DK this year. 2013 U23 Cyclocross National Championships. © Meg McMahon

Riders 11 through 15 from 2018 return this year looking to break into the top 10.

Timothy Rugg (BAI – Sicasal – Petro du Luanda) won a stage of the 2018 Tour of Rwanda. Michael Sencenbaugh (Panaracer / Factor p/b Bicycle X-Change) finished 2nd at DK in both 2015 and 2016. Neil Shirley (ENVE) is a former BWR and Gravel Worlds winner, although he did tell me after the 2018 DK200 that he was “doing the 100 instead of the 200 next year,” but here he is. Cory Wallace (Kona Adventure Team) is a Canadian endurance mountain biker who races all over the world. And Jesse Stauffer (QCW p/b Cadence Cycling) has completed the 4,000-mile Trans-Am Bike Race, so the 202-mile Dirty Kanza 200 should be a snap.

Brian McCulloch (KHS / Elevate Pro Cycling Team) brings an impressive win from last year with his title at the 2018 Belgian Waffle Ride.

Other notable riders include: John Borstelmann (Panaracer / Factor p/b Bicycle X-Change), Rob Bell (Panaracer / Factor p/b Bicycle X-Change), Eric Marcotte (Factor), Colin Strickland (Meteor x Giordana) and Tristan Uhl (Giant Factory Off-Road Team)

Joining the long list of pro and former pro cyclists will be a pro of another kind. Former NFL cornerback Jason Sehorn is set to take on the DK200 on Saturday.

For more from Emporia, check out all of our coverage of the 2019 Dirty Kanza.