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Organizers of the Dirty Kanza were concerned about growing pains this year.

On the surface, the concern was valid. After all, organizers wanted to expand the field from about 440 last year to 1,000 this year. For a town of 25,000, that’s a huge jump, and it isn’t limited to just the number of riders coming in. You also have to consider each rider was responsible for his/her/their pickup crews in case of trouble, the family and friends who want to make the trip, where you’re going to put everybody and — no small concern — how you’re going to entertain everybody.

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Well, there weren’t a lot of growing pains. In fact, by all accounts, things went about as smoothly as possible.

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I’m not speaking from a rider’s perspective, and I’m not sure I ever will. Checking some of the photos from KVOE staffers Scott Hayes and Kyle Thompson (including the shot above), that’s a feat I’ll always admire but I doubt I’ll put myself out there to try. The way it sounds, the race had pretty much everything, and the gravel claimed a lot of victims. One guy blew a flat tire within a block of the starting line. Riders had to hoist their bikes up past shoulder level to cross one river. Riders crashed. They didn’t burn, but one suffered early symptoms of hypothermia, thanks to cooler than normal conditions and a breezy north wind.

However, watching everybody at Saturday’s finish line party was impressive. The block party grew from one block to three and could feasibly have added a fourth.  Riders were warmly welcomed to the finish line well after dark, although there are always several who straggle in well after the block party ends. There were a ton of activities for the young, young at heart and young of liver and/or kidneys. Follow that up with a breakfast and Olympic-style awards ceremony, and Emporia gave the Dirty Kanza riders (and area residents) an event to savor.

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Click here and here to see exactly what the DK is all about. And come to Emporia next year. You could be rubbing shoulders with over 1,000 of the world’s best gravel grinders.

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The plan is to have 2,000 riders at some point this decade. Looks like that should be no problem to handle. Just make sure you book your hotel room early.

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