May 11, 2015
Posted: May 9, 2015 – 4:49pm
By Jan Biles
Lawrence resident Brian Jensen is hoping for a repeat at this year’s Dirty Kanza, a 200-mile gravel grinder bicycle race on May 30 on blacktop, gravel and dirt roads through the Flint Hills near Emporia.
Jensen, 39, finished last year’s race in 10 hours and 43 minutes, ahead of 1,200 riders from around the world. This year, he’ll be trying to out-pedal 1,500 other bicyclists.
“I don’t know if I should go to a mental institution,” the 39-year-old said jokingly of his second attempt to win the race. “I got first place last year, and so I feel obligated to go back. It’s nice to have it as a goal because it’s such a big event.”
The 10th annual Dirty Kanza will start at 6 a.m. in the 800 block of Commercial Street in downtown Emporia. Fifty- and 20-mile courses are offered for those who don’t want to tackle the longer ride.
A festive finish-line party, with entertainment, food and merchandise vendors, will start at 4 p.m. A children’s bike ride and run will begin at 3 p.m. at Kellogg Circle Drive at Emporia State University.
Jensen, a civil engineer at Tradewind Energy in Lenexa, has been a competitive bicyclist for 14 years, racing professionally from 2006 to 2008. Today, he rides his bike six times a week, for an average of two hours a day.
Last year, he began training for the Dirty Kanza about two months prior to the race by taking long rides on gravel roads.
“I would go 120 to 150 miles on the weekend,” he said. “I wasn’t used to sitting on the bike for a long time.”
Other than a small cut in his bike’s back tire that was fixed with sealant, Jensen said he had no problems during last year’s race. He replenished his energy with sports bars and drinks.However, as he entered Emporia, he became somewhat disoriented and had a hard time finding the street where the race ended.
“My electrolytes were out of balance because I was drinking too much water at the end (of the race),” he said.
Jensen’s first-place winnings included a belt buckle and a painting.
Casey Woods, executive director of Emporia Main Street Inc., said the Dirty Kanza is one of the top 10 endurance bicycle races in the world, drawing riders from about 45 states and up to 10 other countries and bringing in “several million dollars on a yearly basis.”
Bicyclists, their families, crew members and spectators shop and dine in the city and fill its hotels, causing Emporia State to open their dorms to house the overflow.
“Emporia has positioned itself as the gravel grinding capital of the world,” he said, explaining how bicyclists now come to the community year-round to ride in the Flint Hills and buy bicycle gear and local residents have taken up bicycling to socialize and stay healthy.
“It’s really permeated our culture,” Woods said.
DIRTY KANZA 200
What: A 200-mile distance bicycling race on blacktop, gravel and dirt roads through the Flint Hills; 50- and 20-mile routes also offered.
■ Race starts at 6 a.m. May 30 in the 800 block of Commercial Street in downtown Emporia.
■ Kid’s bike ride and run at 3 p.m. at Kellogg Circle Drive at Emporia State University.
■ Finish-line party in downtown Emporia at 4 p.m.
■ Food, entertainment and merchandise vendors.
Photo by: Steve Tilford