One could likely excuse the Dirty Kanza 200 for resting on its laurels after building one of the biggest bike races in America. However, event co-directors Jim Cummins and Lelan Dains like to keep the race moving forward. “We like to keep things fresh, including the route,” Dains said.
To that end, the 2019 DK200 on Saturday will feature a new course that heads north from Emporia into the Flint Hills. “I think this is the first time we’ve used these roads since maybe 2013 or 2014,” Cummins said. “Riders who have been coming to the race for a long time might recognize some of them.”
Dains said the race team likes to use the same course for a few years, so expect to see these roads for the next few DKs, if you can win the lottery, of course.
The 2019 DK200 course officially measures 201.7 miles (we’ll call it 202), making it a bit shorter than last year’s 206-mile route that went due south from Emporia. The race will start going north along Commercial Street out of Emporia and then return to the traditional finish, passing through towns including Eskridge, Alma, Alta Vista and Council Grove.
Similar to the other Dirty Kanza races, riders will get the full experience of the Flint Hills, with a total amount of climbing of over 10,500 feet (per RideWithGPS). Most of the climbing is between Miles 20 and 185, so when riders are delirious and talking to tress at the end, the going will be a bit smoother heading back to the finish line party.
Although the Texaco Hill climb from Mile 65ish is gone from last year’s route, Cummins said there is at least one early feature on the route that he can see splitting things up. “There is a 4-mile section at Mile 26 along E. Kaw Reserve Road that could break things up early at the front,” he said. “It’s a minimally maintained road that is pretty rugged. We flatted two truck tires in there while driving the route.”
Also new this year is the use of just two checkpoints instead of three. Last year’s course had checkpoints roughly every 50 miles, but this year, the distance between the only spots riders are allowed to get assistance is a bit greater.
Cummins and Dains said that although having one less checkpoint means riders have to carry more supplies, there are definitely benefits. “One thing that is nice about having two checkpoints is we have more freedom in the route design,” Cummins said. “With three, we were kind of limited knowing we had to stop three different times.”
Checkpoint 1 will be in the town of Alma at Mile 64 and the Checkpoint 2 is at Council Grove High School at Mile 152. According to the minimal Dirty Kanza 200 rulebook, riders are only allowed to receive from their support team at the two checkpoints.
The change in the number of checkpoints is a bit of a twist that might affect how much food and water riders carry between them, but the Dirty Kanza race directors put that info in the SAG Guide released well ahead of the race. “We want to give everyone the information they need to finish our race,” Cummins said.
Both Daines and Cummins are not just in charge of planning the Dirty Kanza, they are gravel riders themselves. If you are worrying the new route will not be Send-It Certified, never fear.
“We’ve ridden the entire route,” Cummins said. “I think people are really really going to enjoy this course.”
For full course information including GPX files and maps, visit dirtykanza.com. The password protection should be removed at 6:00 p.m. Central time.2019 Dirty Kanza 200 course map