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Turns out Alison Tetrick didn’t need the bourbon.

Tetrick, 32, had set up a care package of doughnut holes, pink-and-white Mother’s Circus Animal cookies and a little splash of booze at checkpoint No. 3, a little more than 130 miles into her day on the Kansas plains last weekend.

But perhaps leading an epic bike race was the only salve she needed, because she kept the bourbon for later.

“Really, I just wanted the doughnut holes and circus animals,” she said.

It turned out to be a good call, as Tetrick rode herself into the record books of the Dirty Kanza, a race that is quickly establishing itself as one of the genre’s biggest, most gruesome and most popular.

Tetrick, who lives in Petaluma and rides professionally for Cylance Pro Cycling, was the first woman to finish the 200-mile race June 3. She broke the course record by 30 minutes, likely with a little help from a furious finish by two-time winner and defending champion Amanda Nauman.

After 11 hours and 41 minutes on the gravel roads of Kansas, Nauman finished just five seconds behind Tetrick.

“We provided the entertainment value,” she said of the 300-meter battle that ended with Tetrick earning the coveted “Queen of Kanza” belt buckle.

“I asked my mom, ‘Who sprints at 206 miles?’” she said. “And my mom’s response was, “A desperate person.”

The Dirty Kanza hasn’t had a finish like that since 2015 when yet another Petaluman, Yuri Hauswald, won the race by a bike length.

Must be something in the water in Petaluma.

Grit is a popular word in sports, but the Dirty Kanza seems to be all about it, literally and figuratively.

First off, the Dirty Kanza, or DK200, should actually be DK206.

Race organizers give riders a map of the course they can upload onto their bike computers. When Tetrick loaded it a few days before the race she was none too happy. The route? 206 miles, not 200.

“They were like, ‘Oh yeah, ha ha,’” she said. “I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s not funny.’”

The race is self-supported, meaning riders have to follow the route according to their GPS and, aside from three aid stations in 200-plus miles, riders must stock their own food, water, bike repair tools and whatever else one may need on lonely fire roads in eastern Kansas.

The racer’s guide is emphatic about the realities of the route:


The all-caps are real and it’s even in bold face.

They also list four area hospitals. Four.

It makes sense that the state motto of Kansas is “Ad astra per aspera,” or “To the stars through difficulty.”

Tetrick said she was nearly seeing stars.

While fit and just a month removed from racing in the Amgen Tour of California, Tetrick is an admitted “roadie” who doesn’t have a ton of experience in dirt — and zero experience riding her bike more than 120 miles.

“I was in very uncharted territory,” she said.

“I think the hardest section for me was probably around 135 to 165,” she said. “I had run out of water and I was by myself for a really, really long time. You start doubting your capabilities.

“The crazy started coming out,” she said. “You are not just talking to yourself internally; you are saying it out loud.”

And remember, she had not imbibed the bourbon.

“I knew the first 100 miles would be very good for me, and the second 100 I had no idea,” she said.

She and Nauman rode side by side or wheel to wheel for perhaps the final 20 miles, each likely sussing out the other’s strength level and ability to make a charge for the line.

“I knew I had to be very, very smart,” she said. “She has won this race two times and is a tenacious competitor.”

But Tetrick, who had been eyeing this race for some time, wanted to win. It’s a bullet point on a cyclist’s resume that even a roadie can covet.

“This race has a ton of cachet,” she said.

“I have medaled at the world championships and done a lot of cool things on my bike, but I have to say, this gravel culture is really unique,” she said.

Greeted at the line by former winner Rebecca Rusch, who saw her course record obliterated, Tetrick said seeing nearly 200 women come across the finish line behind her was moving.

In 2007, 43 riders started the race, and 19, including just one woman, finished.

This year, 828 finished, including approximately 200 women.

“200 women doing 200 miles?” she said. “Every time a woman came across the line it was so powerful.”

And despite the pain and the crazy talk around mile 150, Tetrick said she’ll be back.

“I’m hooked.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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