Road to Kanza: Rebecca Rusch, the Seasoned Veteran Returns

Rebecca Rusch, a three time winner of the Dirty Kanza, sat down with us and talked about her return to Emporia, Kansas, this time to take a shot at 100 miles of gravel. Watch the video and read the accompanying interview with even more information and insight from the Queen of Pain. (Click for more video tips from Rebecca about Dirty Kanza.)

NINER: Why ride the Dirty Kanza?

REBECCA: Gravel is what I consider the great equalizer for mountain bike and road cyclists. It’s the perfect middle ground meeting place and requires physical and mental skills from both types of riding. You have to be good riding in a pack, have the technical skills to navigate all types of terrain, be solid riding alone into a headwind for hours, have the mental toughness to be alone for hours on end and the experience and smarts to know how to fuel and pace for something this long. It’s a true test of a riders skill and ability and there’s no hiding. Dirty Kanza has a way of exposing weakness and also forcing you to rise to the occasion.
NINER: Up to this point, what’s the longest ride you’ve ever completed in one day?

REBECCA: Well, 24 hr solo mountain bike racing means riding the whole entire day. So, the longest I’ve ridden in one day is for the whole day. I did a bunch of that and won a few world championships on the way. I think the top mileage was something like 250, but that was also on single track mountain biking, so it’s a bit slower than riding gravel.

NINER: What bike will you ride?

REBECCA: I’m super stoked to ride the brand new Niner RLT 9 RDO this year with Zipp303 wheels, Maxxis Rambler tires, SRAM CX1 Force and WTB Deva saddle.

NINER: What is your training plan?

REBECCA: Due to my work/travel schedule launching a film with Red Bull Media House, I’m not on the bike as much as I’d like. This means running when I don’t have a bike with me and sometimes hitting the stationary bike in a hotel gym. It’s not ideal, but we all juggle many commitments. I try to stick to a schedule of 2 interval days per week and at least one long ride per week. The rest is filling in with what I can.

NINER: Will you ride the DK as a race or just to finish? If race, where do you hope to finish?

REBECCA: I’m riding the DK100 this year instead of the DK200. I’m a competitor, so since I’m not in top form, I’m racing the 100 as a training ride and part of my road to get back into fighting shape. The 100 will be a great training day and is more realistic for me right now with my work schedule. I’ll be racing with the goal to be right up with the front riders in the 100.

NINER: What is your biggest challenge mentally for this event?

REBECCA: My biggest challenge for the Dirty Kanza this year is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). As a 3x female winner of the DK200 it’s hard for me not to be stepping up to the line to throw down. The desire is there, but the training is not. Standing by my decision to race the shorter distance and not asking “what if” will be my biggest mental challenge.

NINER: What is your biggest challenge physically?

REBECCA: Physically, 100 miles is still a big day on the bike and it’s no walk in the park. However, I’m super excited to be able to be on my bike for a good part of the day, so I’m actually really looking forward to the physical challenge.

NINER: How many organized bike events have you ridden in?

REBECCA: Too many to count over the last 10 years or more.

NINER: What do you eat when you’re on the bike?

REBECCA: I’m a big fan of GU Nutrition for racing and training. I’ll plan out my ride based on a set number of calories, fluid , electrolytes and branched chain amino acids per hour. Nutrition is one of the biggest areas where athletes blow it. It’s a pretty simple formula that you can calculate here. I personally like to get about half of my calories from GU Roctane because everything you need is mixed in one bottle, so it makes fueling really simple when you’re tired or breathing hard. I alternate with GU Chews and some other solids, just for variety. And always, always when finishing, I drink a GU Brew Recovery drink BEFORE beer!

NINER: What’s one piece of wisdom you can share about riding in an all day event?

REBECCA: Start slow, finish fast.