Death, taxes, Amanda Nauman racing at Dirty Kanza. Some things in life are just certain to happen.
Nauman first raced the famed gravel race in 2015 when she got her first win and has been back for the Dirty Kanza 200 each year since. Heading into 2019, Nauman was looking for her 3rd win to tie Rebecca Rusch in the all-time winner's circle and join the 1,000-mile club for riders who have completed the DK200 5 times.
It was mission partially accomplished for Nauman this year. She finished to get her 1,000-mile club glass but came up a bit short in the overall standings after finishing 6th. It is, after all, tough to always meet the high standards Nauman has set for herself at the annual Kansas race.
Fortunately for her, a chance for 200-mile redemption came quickly. Nauman headed to Michigan last weekend for the Cross the Mitten Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder and won the Women's race—and finished sixth overall—all while shaving a huge chunk of time off her 2018 ride. The growth of gravel certainly has its advantages when it allows you to quickly bounce back and race again.
Nauman returned to the 2019 Dirty Kanza as a member of the SDG - Muscle Monster team. New this year was Drew Dillman joining her as a teammate in his first try at the DK200.
Returning was her trusty Niner RLT 9 RDO gravel bike [you can read our 2018 profile]. Nauman switched to Niner's gravel bike in 2017—a bike she called her "Cadillac"—and is now in her second year riding her current iteration of the gravel grinder.
I checked in with Nauman's bike and the SDG - Muscle Monster team's tech guy Dave Sheek for a look at what is new and returning for 2019 on her gravel bike.
Amanda Nauman's 2019 DK200 Niner RLT 9 RDO
Amanda Nauman came to gravel racing from cyclocross, and like many others, initially found her Niner BSB 9 RDO bike a good fit for the rigors of gravel. However, when the company released its RLT 9 RDO gravel bike, she was totally okay making the switch.
Just as Craig Richey mentioned in his DK200 advice, Nauman cited the "gravel' geometry as a reason why the bike is much more comforable during an all-day 200-mile grind.
"I tell people, yeah I could race my BSB [cyclocross bike] and set it up to be a little bit more comfortable for gravel, but the things that aren’t going to change are bottom bracket height, the angle of your head tube and the height of your head tube," she said last year. "Those three points are kind of what set it up geometry-wise for why people would want to buy a gravel bike. It’s because it’s more comfortable."
Nauman's 47cm frame is built with Niner's "Race Day Optimized" carbon (in case you were wondering what RDO stands for). Niner also offers the bike in steel, aluminum and an aluminum frame with a flat bar if your budget and riding preferences differ.
The bike features the black and orange colorway of the 2019 model year with some green added in by sponsor SDG and via the camo handlebars. Both the frame and fork have mounts for racks, but Niner has yet to add mounts for the top tube bag Nauman has attached with straps in previous years. This year, she kept her gear carrying simple with just a saddle bag on race day.
The newest addition to Nauman's Niner is new rims from sponsor Easton. She ran the EA90 AX adventure rims that are 24mm wide internally to start the race.
Sheek commented on the new rims. "Sometimes with a heavy gravel tire, the tires don't mount up because the rims are so wide. My rims are 24mm internal as well and it took me, say, a very long time to mount mine up, but these Easton rims mounted up really quickly. The seal is really nice on the bead."
Always prepared, Nauman also had a backup plan. As mentioned in our profile of Mat Stephen's Factor Vista, many teams were expecting nasty weather and nastier conditions out on the course.
Nauman's Plan B was a set of Easton EC70 AX carbon rims that also feature a wide internal profile. [Amity Rockwell ran the EC70 AX prototypes on race day] Nauman's carbon rims had Panaracer GravelKing Mud tires mounted up.
"If it's nasty, we might change wheels, but I really don't think the rain cells are going to line up to be a super storm; it's going to be a cell here or there," Sheek said on Friday afternoon. "If it is bad, the mud is so cakey, you'll probably be walking anyway. You pedal it, you break stuff."
Last year when I spoke to Sheek, he said he expected to see Nauman riding the then-new Ultegra RX805 clutch rear derailleur. His prediction probably does not qualify for "ask this guy for lottery advice territory," but not surprisingly, his prediction was correct. Nauman also added a few teeth in the rear, running an 11-34t Shimano cassette.
Up front, she attached Easton 47/32t Gravel Shifting Rings to an Easton EC90 SL crankset with an Easton power meter. She stuck with the R9150 Dura-Ace Di2 front derailleur and Dura-Ace R9170 shift/brake levers.
A subtle swap Nauman made for 2019 was new Kogel pulley wheels designed specifically for the new clutch Ultegra derailleur. Her Kogel PF30-386L bottom bracket returned, still spinning smoothly.
"The Kogel bottom bracket is tried, true and trusted. The best ’cross seals out there," Sheek said. "We've had limited problems with them ever. They can survive Belgian winters and they can survive DK."
A few other small changes this year included 140mm Dura-Ace rotors in place of XTR models, an old full cut-out saddle similar to SDG's Circuit series in place of a Radar prototype and a new bottle cap on top of the head tube. With the last in that list, it's important we cover the key changes, obviously.
Nauman's handlebar was the 40cm EA70 AX flared model she ran last year. "It changes your position a bit from what we're used to during cyclocross season, but it gives a bit more comfort and varying positions when you're out there on the gravel for 200 miles," Sheek said. Other parts, including her stem and seatpost, were from sponsor Easton as well.
I briefly chatted with Nauman following her race, and she said while she will defintely be back at Dirty Kanza in 2020, she is not sure which distance she will be racing. On one hand, she got her 1,000-mile club award and is DKXL-curious, but at the same time, win number 3 is still out there to be had. One thing is certain, we will probably be taking a look at her bike, whichever distance she chooses to race.
Sheek is not just the SDG - Muscle Monster mechanic, he is a racer himself. Sheek successfully finished his 5th DK200 to joined the rarified air of the 1,000-mile club. "They're trying to talk me into doing the 350. I don't know if I have the smarts to deal with that. It's number six. I just want to finish and get my cup because I had to stop early when Amanda won in 2015," he said on DK Eve.
For a closer look at Amanda Nauman's RLT 9 RDO, see the photo gallery and specs below.