Hours ago, BOO Bikes owner Nick Frey posted This article about his disqualification from the 2016 Dirty Kanza, where he would have placed 6th.
Nick Frey, for those of you who don’t know him, is a strong bike rider, a really strong one. He won two national championships, one for the U23 time trial in 2007, and one for the Collegiate Road Race in 2009. After this he raced professionally for the Jamis-Sutter Home road team. This guy knows a whole lot of things about road racing, and being strong on a bike.
What Nick does not know a thing or two about, is reading directions, or carrying more than 2 water bottles so a team car does not have to follow him around a course and save his unprepared ass.
Gravel events attract a wider range of participants than any single other type of cycling event. Nothing else has the ability to attract seasoned roadies scared of technical singletrack, and mountain bikers that are bored of pavement. You will see it all at the Dirty Kanza starting line.
One thing you will not see at the Dirty Kanza are team vehicles roaming the course, supplying their riders like a Tour de France road team. This is because the event is a self supported event where it’s not just the fastest rider that wins, but the fastest rider that is capable of supporting himself between checkpoints. This rule is clear and easy to read, unless you are Nick Frey of Boo Bikes.
It is quite simple. A rider needs to carry enough supplies to make it 50 miles between checkpoints. Did you run out of water 20 miles outside the next checkpoint? You failed.
You did not succeed in self supporting yourself along the route. Sure, leaving with two water bottles and nothing on your back, as we can clearly see in your photos, made you faster, but it made you incapable of completing the course under the given conditions.
Get off the course, see you next year.
That said, was there a farmer with a hose on the course you filled your bottles with? Ok, that is fine, that is part of the natural course terroir. All riders have the ability to enjoy the same benefits, and this “natural” benefit is both unpredictable, and poses no safety danger to the thousand plus field of riders participating in the event.
If someone was DQ’d from the Dirty Kanza based on an action such as this, there should be a plea to reason that the action should be rethought.
However, was assistance from a known source, such as a non-participating friend or team vehicle received outside of the confines of the checkpoint? You have not only received a tactical benefit that others did not, but you have created an unsafe environment for the thousands of other racers on the course. Imagine if all the racers had a car patrolling the course? Congratulations, you have just ruined gravel riding for everyone.
“At one point, my partner Drew was taking photos of the race, of the countryside, the epic nature of the event, of me racing my Boo gravel bike…and I screamed at him for water. He gave me gummy worms as well. My two compatriots passed the water around, shared the worms, survived for some more miles. We stopped again at the top of a hill to get more support from race volunteers from a local town. I literally told one of the men that without his bottle of water, I would not just have made it to the next aid station…” ~Nick Frey
In your own words Nick, you were incapable of finishing the event on your own without outside help. That right there is when you have failed to finish the race, and deservedly should have been disqualified.
The race rules clearly state this, it is no gray area that you have fallen into. What you have fallen into is projecting your past road experiences onto a scene that functions entirely differently, and expecting others to bend their will to your ways.
After attempting to create a grey area in the rules where none exists, Nick essentially goes on to write in his blog post how Gravel Racing should become more like the road racing he is good at. Road racing is what Nick understands, it is what he is good at, and I can understand why something different bothers him, especially the little things like a 3rd , or 5th, water bottle.
Nick fails to see what makes Gravel racing unique and special, and how all of his suggestions would strip it of those very things that make it so.
Those 50 miles between the checkpoints are the special part, those parts where you feel alone and isolated, knowing you only have yourself to rely on, and knowing there are no cars or outsiders to worry about. Just being immersed in the terroir of a special place. 50 miles is not a far distance, and if you can not support yourself for 50 miles, you need to reevaluate what you are capable of.
“I fear mainstream gravel racing could be maligned as yet another failed experiment to bring together competitors in a positive way.”~Nick
Nick’s closing comment just reinforces that he fails to understand what makes almost two thousand individuals attend the Dirty Kanza. Nick, of those 1,800 or so riders attending, probably 1,700 don’t give a fuck about the “race” aspect of the event, despite what those at the front think about hero worship. We are there to challenge ourselves, best our own prior times, do something we may believe is above our capabilities, become immersed into the countryside, and let effort and achievement be the spice of life that nothing else can compete with.
I hope you found something fulfilling outside of competition while in Kansas, the Flint Hills are a wonderful place, and the camaraderie second to few. Maybe we will see you back next year, better prepared and with an open mind to cultures outside your own.