This article originally published on BikeRadar
Gravel racing is a burgeoning discipline in the US, and events such as the Dirty Kanza 200, a 200-mile road race through the Flint Hills of Kansas, are starting to draw big crowds and big names. Endurance racer Rebecca Rusch tried her hand last year, finishing third overall and setting a new women’s record in the process. She returned this year to defend her women's title. Her weapon of choice was a Specialized S-Works CruX Disc with a few touches to make it more suited to the rigors of gravel road racing.
Tire choice is key to surviving this event. The gravel in this region of the state is notorious for the razor sharp flint that can shred lightweight tires. Rusch ran a pair of prototype 700x38 Specialized Trigger tires — just enough volume to take the edge of the rough gravel roads. According the Rusch, her tires have an additional layer of protection to guard against punctures.
Her CruX was kitted out with SRAM’s new 11-speed Red 22 group. A 50/34t compact crankset paired with an 11-28t cassette provided enough gearing to power up the many climbs and endure the gusty headwinds. While Red 22 is available with a hydraulic disc option, Rusch opted to run the mechanical version with Avid BB7 SL disc brakes.
Many DK200 racers double-wrap their handlebars or add a layer of gel padding underneath the bar tape to reduce hand fatigue and numbness. Rusch suffered a broken finger while setting a new Kokopelli trail record five weeks earlier. The four-time Leadville Trail 100 winner was worried how her injured index finger would hold up. “The mechanics at Sunflower created a ‘finger couch’ so I could rest my broken finger,” Rusch said.
The injured digit didn’t appear to hold her back. Rusch clinched the women's victory for a second time, finishing the 203-mile race in 12 hours and 51 minutes.
Rusch broke her finger while setting a new women's record on the 142-mile Kokopelli trail a month before the DK200