While most ‘cross racers are just starting to dust off their ‘cross bikes after several months of neglect, some racers are dusting off their ‘cross bikes after completing some recent, long, epic ‘cross rides and races. In part 1 of our enduro-cross series, Lelan Dains of team HighGear tells Cyclocross Magazine about his race experience at the Dirta Kanza 200, a 200 mile race held on May 31, 2008. Dains finished the event 16th overall out of 68 starters. (Photos by

According to former pro racer Davis Phinney the Tour de France would be a lot easier if it were held in Kansas. Well, I guess he’s right, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still upset at the reference. The TdF would be easier if it were held anywhere, so why throw Kansas under the bus? Oh that’s right, Kansas is flat. Wrong. What we lack in feet above sea level, we make up for in wide open, rolling hills.

The Dirty Kanza gravel grinder, in 2008.

The Dirty Kanza gravel grinder, in 2008.

Another myth, which is slightly more universal, is that ‘cross bikes hibernate in the summer. Just because the season is over doesn’t mean the ‘cross bike is done for the year. And to prove that point Midwesterners have devised events in which the ‘cross bike has become the weapon of choice. Enter the gravel grinder. These, typically, one-day ultra-endurance events are some of the most grueling races around.

The Dirty Kanza 200 is one such event. This year was the third running of the Dirty Kanza 200. The event has quickly gained in popularity-riders from across nation have caught wind of this special event and found the journey worth their while.

Held in Emporia, Kansas, hailed as the front porch to the Flint Hills, this bike race takes competitors over 200 miles of gravel and minimum maintenance roads. Roads that even vehicles dare not traverse and with the exception of the occasional biker only see traffic from cattle in the open range. Not to mention the 10,000 feet of climbing hitting grades that even the Tour could be proud of.

Despite these rough conditions most riders prefer to attempt this feat on their ‘cross bike…..with some beefed up tread of course. With their light weight and aerodynamic position the ‘cross bike easily gains the advantage over mountain bikes on the smoother sections of gravel. With a quick prayer and some white knuckles they even handle some of the rougher downhill descents. In the DK 200’s short history each winner has mounted a ‘cross-bred steed.

Although traditional manufacturers are still high in popularity, the custom build little men are elevating their ‘cross bikes to the forefront and are making a name in events such as these. This year’s winner and 2005 National 24-Hour Champion Cameron Chambers did so upon a custom built, Columbus Steel ‘Podium’ cyclocross bike. “My position on the ‘cross bike allows me to get more power without climbing out of the saddle,” Chambers said of the versatile ‘cross bike.

As the sport of cyclocross continues to grow, more and more riders will discover that the ‘cross bike is not just a winter machine. This resourceful bike is well-suited for multiple types of terrain. So, if you are getting tired of the same old pavement, dust off the ‘cross bike and head for the nearest road to nowhere and enjoy the view.

For more info, see the Dirty Kanza website.