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Alex Howes to ride 355-kilometer ‘ode to Dirty Kanza’

U.S. national road champion to ride from Colorado mountains to Kansas border with former VeloNews web editor Spencer Powlison.

While there may be no Dirty Kanza this weekend, U.S. national champion Alex Howes isn’t going to let that stop him getting his gravel fix. The 32-year-old will be grinding 355 kilometers from the Colorado mountains to the Kansas border Thursday in a tribute to the postponed gravel fondo.

“This is sort of an ode to Kanza,” Howes said. “I’d go as far as to say that it [Dirty Kanza] was probably the coolest thing I did last year and one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. So to have that postponed is a huge bummer. So this is what we’re going to try and replace it with. This is just lighting a little sparkler here for Kanza.”

Howes rode Dirty Kanza last year as part of EF Pro Cycling’s “alternative calendar” alongside teammate Lachlan Morton, taking fourth place. This year’s event is postponed from May 30 to September 12 due to coronavirus.

Howes’ route will see him take an almost arrow-straight line through eastern Colorado. While the second half will be largely unknown territory to the Nederland-based rider, he is hoping for a mostly stoney ride.

“Again with the sort of ode to Kanza, I was shooting to find as much dirt as I could, and that was sort of a combination of wanting to grind the gravel, but also trying to find the quiet roads,” Howes said on his team’s website. “Obviously I don’t know the whole route by heart, but based on Google maps, pictures and stuff, I think roughly 60-70 percent of it is going to be gravel. So certainly most of the stuff out on the plains will be gravel.”

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Plotting a long bomb. #diygravel #dirtykanza

A post shared by Alex Howes (@alex_howes) on

While Howes has got the gravel, he may not have the wind at his back, and he’s expecting Colorado’s gusts to turn against him Thursday. “Unfortunately, I think it’s actually going to be a bit of a headwind all the way there, but we have the time, so I thought, ‘You know what? Why not? I’m going to ride to Kansas,'” he said.

Howes will have company on what he expects to be “a big day in the saddle” from former VeloNews web editor and Dirty Kanza veteran Spencer Powlison.

“I’ve got a buddy here in Colorado who is basically at the same level of training I am, which is not a high level of training at the moment. The guy’s a wildcat. His name is Spencer Powlison,” Howes said. “We’re just going to go out and swap turns into a headwind for probably 12 or 13 hours.”

The pair are planning to ride unsupported and not rely on stores to resupply food and water. Instead, Howes has mapped out water crossings to use and will be carrying a frame bag on his Cannondale SuperX packed with Skratch nutrition, and of course, cookies and snickers.

Howes and Powlison will be getting their grind on from 5 a.m., Thursday May 28, and fans can track them via this link.