Last weekend was a big one for gravel racing in the U.S., and riders from the Giant Factory Off-Road Team were at the front of the action at both the Dirty Kanza 200 in Kansas and the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder in Northern California.
Dirty Kanza is the most highly anticipated gravel race of the year, with its grueling 200-mile distance, leg-sapping gravel roads, crushing headwinds and savage heat. This year, the Kansas race drew its usual masses of 3,000 plus entrants, plus a handful of UCI WorldTour pros chasing gravel glory in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
Leading the way for the Giant Factory Off-Road squad was Joshua Berry, who was there on his Revolt Advanced gravel crusher and gunning for a top spot. The former road pro joined forces with Giant last year and has been focusing on events like DK200 since then.
On a day that would prove to be the fastest DK200 yet, Berry battled at the front of the pack, eventually finishing seventh, an incredibly impressive effort against the deep, talented field.
“I gave more of myself than I realized I had,” said Berry, who also wore the new Giant Charge Pro shoes. “The result is not what I worked for, but I am very proud to have gone so deep that I completely ruined my body and brain for a day. I love how these events bring a whole energy as thousands arrive to take on a challenge together. I am so proud of my Liv and Giant teammates that joined in this awesome, wild, endurance event.”
After 10 hours and 38 minutes, Berry crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with Kiel Reinjen and 2018 DK200 winner Ted King, who were 6th and 8th respectively, about 40 minutes behind the record-setting time of winner Colin Strickland.
Also representing Giant at the front was Austin, Texas, resident Tristan Uhl. A mountain biker who has a BC Bike Race title to his name among other accolades, Uhl finished an impressive 10th. The team’s third member, Ryan Steers, came home in 98th.
Meanwhile, while that trio was in Kansas, Giant Factory Off-Road Team veteran Carl Decker was in Northern California for the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, an event that he has won twice before (2016-2017).
This 102-miler is the first of three races in the Lost Sierra Triple Crown, a series that also includes the Downieville Classic Cross-Country in August and Grinduro in October. Decker has won the Lost Sierra series title the past three years running.
The Lost and Found field was also stacked, with last year’s winner Tobin Ortenblad, cyclocross talents Jamey Driscoll and Cody Kaiser, and Lost and Found veteran Barry Wicks at the start.
Shortly after the start, Canadian Michael van dem Ham went hard on the first climb, a 10-mile, 3000-foot ascent. A lead group of nine formed on the climb. Before long, with van den Ham attacking the climbs and Wicks charging the descents, gaps formed and then closed until the lead was down to just four: Van den Ham, Decker, Wicks and Ortenblad.
There were several attacks throughout the day, until eventually it was just the two former winners, Decker and Ortenblad, battling for the win, which came down to a sprint.
Decker, racing on his Revolt Advanced, described the end-game to cxmagazine.com: “It’s hectic, when you wind up a sprint, off that hill, you come through a G-out, there’s slow traffic, nobody expects you to come at that closing speed. I didn’t want to be at the front, and I didn’t know how the finish would sort itself out, but [Ortenblad] wanted me at the front so he can come around.”
Ortenblad ended up edging him out, leaving Decker to take a strong second place, putting himself in a solid position to defend his Lost Sierra Triple Crown.