Road to Kanza

Preparing bike, body and brain for 200 miles of gravel

The Road to Kanza - A Newbie Takes on the World's Biggest Gravel Race

This is a sponsored article that was produced in association with CamelBak

The project began with more questions than answers. How in the world does one prepare for a 200-mile gravel race? What bike do you need? Which tires? How do you train? And, more crucially, why would anyone in their right mind want to do such a thing in the first place?

To answer these questions, I enlisted all the help I could find, starting with Kansas boy and multi-time Dirty Kanza 200 finisher Josh Patterson. Josh knows gravel inside and out.

Besides finishing on the podium at an early DK 200, Josh has sold bikes, hand built bikes and made a career out of studying and critiquing bikes. Plus, as a colleague, he was kinda stuck answering my annoying questions.

I also tracked down many past winners — Rebecca Rusch, Amanda Nauman, Yuri Hauswald — plus the man himself, race founder Jim Cummins, to find The Key to Kanza.

CamelBak supports the project, providing Podium Dirt Series bottles, which have Mud Caps to keep the dust and muck off, as well as the CamelBak Chase Bike Vest, which holds 50oz of water with pockets on the front for easy access to food, plus you can still access your jersey pockets.

As the race approached, thunderstorms gathered along with nerves. Would the wealth of information and gear I had accumulated from others be enough to get me through an entire day way out in rural Kansas? Watch the video to see how things get sideways — and whether I can make it to the finish.

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team Issue, Specialized S-Works Tarmac, Priority Eight city bike... and a constant rotation of test bikes
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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