Dirty Kanzelled Part 1

With 2020 bringing the cancellation of many different cycling events and by now our riders would be mid way through their summer seasons.

A lack of racing has led to people thinking up interesting ways to try and help take the edge off of being away from the races. So, the weekend before last, riders across the world rode the ‘Dirty Kanzelled’ which took the place of Dirty Kanza, which is an increasingly popular Gravel event held in America. Riders had to make up their own 100 mile route with as much off road as possible. The team had 4 different ‘additions’ of the event, with Nat riding solo, Phoebe, Di and Scot further up country, Neil riding with his son and then also Stu and Scotty heading to the Ridgeway for their big day out.

Here is Phoebe’s account of their day…

This summer was meant to be filled with adventures. The rides we had planned and races we had entered were designed to fill our hearts with trepidation, our legs with lactate and our souls with the great outdoors. And then Covid arrived, that dirty great big global pandemic, all fun was cancelled. Priorities shifted and those of us working in health care like myself spent our spare time covering extra shifts and rewriting hospital policy. Others were furloughed, looking to fill their time with constructive activities. As the future and our current landscape shifted as did our focus. Our world became smaller and adventures, which are always needed, had to be found closer to home.

An event appeared on the horizon, the Dirty Kanza race in America, sad news it was cancelled but an evolution had occurred. Now we could all be included in a race that most of us wouldn’t get the opportunity to ride, flying to America to ride a gravel bike even without a global pandemic is a luxury many of us cannot afford. The format was simple, design your own Dirty Kanza route – 100 or 200miles, as much gravel/offroad as possible. Set off at 6am, 2 feed stops allowed, no competition just riding bikes for the love of riding bikes – the Dirty Kanzalled was born.

Thankfully for me I live in the Peak District which has some truly superb gravel routes. Fellow Magspeeder Scot Easter was currently on furlough and has been frantically exploring and researching sections of the route – linking them up into what promised to be a tough but picturesque 100miles. We managed to rope in another teammate – Diane Lee, who lives round the corner. Di is a super talented Ironman triathlete and Cyclocross racer – perhaps the ideal combo for an off road endurance ride. The rough descents were no problem to a women who won best newcomer at the Three Peaks Cyclocross a few years ago.

The map was plotted using Komoot (its up there if anyone fancies it). The bikes were cleaned and prepped. We wanted no mechnicals given the social distancing situation, we didn’t want to have to be rescued. Snacked were packed. Di and I both opting for the bumbag option to fit in all we could eat, a few pre rides G&T’s were drunk (medicinal to prevent any cramps) and the alarm was set for 5am.

6am we rolled out, a misty morning with a slight chill in the air. The heat we have been experiencing had lulled us into a false sense of security. It was still only May and the temperature was less than 10degrees. We rolled out along the tops hoping for some cloud inversion as we spotted an orange dot in the distance. Di had made it. We warmed up along the road before hitting the first and probably most difficult descent, loose, rocky, off camber – I felt a little out of my depth.

Having spent lockdown honing my MTB skills I felt out of place on a Gravel bike. The Diverge has big bars with a bit of a sweep, the future shock took some of the sting out of it and cautiously I bobbled down. Regrouping at the bottom we were all still fairly quiet. Up and up the route wound through the hills of Derbyshire and over towards south Yorkshire. The route blissfuly quiet so early in the morning.

Three hours in and we were ready for a break, perched on the “shore” of Ladybower reservoir, the sun just starting to burn through, feeling the warmth on our skin. Di announced she had been carrying three frozen Caprisuns in her bumbag to keep her tuna sandwiches cool. These provided the most wonderful refreshing cooling break and on we pushed. Over the years Diane Lee has got me out of a number of miserable situations on the bike and we spent the next couple of hours boring Scot to death regaling him with tales of how we first met, me laughing at Di’s yellow crocs as she stood on the podium at the Monsal Hill climb race, her dragging me out of the road when I crashed hard in our first road race, feeding me chocolate buttons at the Tour of Malta when I crashed again, endless cold and muddy ‘cross races, her helping me with Sabine’s first ever bath. The tales were endless, our friendship is a rich tapestry build around bikes. It felt so good after weeks of lockdown to spent the day rolling along the beautiful countryside thinking about nothing else but bikes, no virus, no hospital shifts, no politics, just sunshine, fresh air and bikes. The miles flew by.


The first third of the ride contained most of the rough tricky off road stuff, then a spin round Ladybower reservoir avoiding as many humans as possible. The very snazzy Chris King bell rang out as we whizzed round. We stopped to refuel at a petrol station we had tactically routed past. We weren’t allowed to eat the food on the premises so settled for a patch of grass across the road. As motorbikes razzed past we refilled bottles, before promptly moving on as a BMW pulled over and small child got out to vomit everywhere – I suspect this was due to the combination of a BMW driver and travelling over the Snake Pass.


The next big hurdle of the route arrived, a long slog of a gravel climb, just as the heat of the day really kicked in. I was lucky I had all the gears on my diverge so I just kept spinning and trying to enjoy the view. Then a couple of bone shaking descents before we were back on the fast trails of the Monsal trail and High Peak trails. These are disused railway lines that provide wonderful family bike trails cutting through the Peak District.

It was here we had our second refuel stop. My parents very kindly rode out with my mum’s e-bike laden with picnic goodies to deliver some socially distanced snacks and fresh water. Full to the brim with sausage rolls and some very fancy jam filled ice buns we were ready to tackle the final 30miles. This was the easiest bit. These trails are fast and fairly flat. Through and off we pulled along hitting 20-22mph, by this stage my legs were starting to burn and my shoulders were aching. Every direction we had travelled in seemed to be a headwind but at least it had kept us cool in the heat. Descending down the final hill before climbing to home we waved good bye to Di who had one more big climb up to her house , the infamous “Bank Road” (location of a previous National Hill Climb race). I didn’t envy her we had our own hill to conquer. Arriving home dusty and exhausted to cold cokes on the patio we reflected. It really had been a good day out. The weather, the company, the nature of the route meant at no point did it feel like 100miles.

I was apprehensive before we set off, the usual nerves will I survive, will I be too slow, will I get round? I reflected back on the rides we did last year and I had no doubt deep down I would be fine, I had done harder, this was on home turf and with all that has happened in the last 12months, I am a hell of a lot tougher. I couldn’t have asked for a better day or better friends to share it with.


If that didn’t get you inspired, I do not know what will! Sounded like a fantastic route around the Derbyshire countryside and a ride that wont leave their minds for a good while. See you in the next blog for Neil’s take on the Dirty Kanzelled with his son Finn…

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