Ted King: The Groad to KANZA
Vermont has without a doubt benefitted from Ted and his wife Laura moving from Mill Valley, CA, to Richmond, VT. He has won Dirty Kanza twice, and just about every other gravel race on the map. Since he retired from professional cycling in 2015, after a solid 10 years in the trenches, he’s taken to the dirt and is increasing his involvement with community-centric rides and organizations. He just launched a new video series called “The Groad to Kanza”, which will highlight his lifestyle, training, and travels leading up to this years’ race on June 1st. We sat down with him after a solid day of filming and asked these questions. We hope you enjoy! Be sure to give him a follow, thumbs up and subscribe to his YouTube channel for the next couple videos.
What is it like to train in VT during the winter? You’ve spent so much of you cycling career training in warm climates for the upcoming season of racing, so how are you and Laura taking to the transition?
It’s funny, in my time away, I knew I loved New England — the weather, the people, the pace of life — but having now been fifteen years removed from truly living here, it was something of a leap of faith. Laura even more so having moved out of Seattle largely because of the crappy weather there, plus not knowing what the community would be like.
I keep coming back to my New Years resolution which is to train with Vermont rather than in spite of Vermont. It’s actually a really easy thing to do when outdoor adventures are so easily accessible right from home here in the 802. First and foremost, people don’t seem to realize that the roads are clean, safe, and dry the vast majority of the year here in Vermont. Yes, it snows. And believe it or not, they plow the snow and the roads are dry remarkably quickly. So that’s a decent baseline. Then beyond that, fat biking is a blast, there are exceptional nordic ski areas scattered throughout the state, there’s AT skiing that seemingly the entire population has gotten a hold of, alpine skiing is a hoot, I play hockey as often as possible, and throughout all that there’s a tremendous community of people ready to jump at the chance to head outside. Vermont is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise.
What was your inspiration behind The Groad to Kanza? What do you hope to accomplish with this video series? Do you see it becoming something more than just Kanza?
People keep talking about this being peak gravel to which I’m thinking, Are you kidding? It’s hardly had time to warm up! There are more events popping up all the time, the industry is entirely behind it, it’s the right atmosphere and energy needed in the sport, there’s a tremendous democratization and groundswell of ridership behind it, plus it’s oh so much fun! So with all the hype and hoopla behind it, with loads of pro riders, plus WorldTour teams toeing the line at a whole handful of races in 2019, I thought it would be a fun way to showcase this atypical approach I have towards Dirty Kanza. I have a decade long history in getting ready for professional road races with a professional road racer’s mentality. Now I have the benefit of that time and experience, plus a whole different perspective with my time away from traditional professional racing to get me ready for this coming season. Will the series continue after Kanza? Terrific question, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
Can you list all the events you’re going to attend this year? And if you’re so inclined to share, which are you most excited about?
The calendar is still a work in progress but I’m headed on a Canadian fat bike adventure riding 600km south along the James Bay… self-supported as a group of four... In February. So the #JamesBayDescent is a pretty wild kickoff to the season. Prior to that, I’m headed on my fourth edition of The Coast Ride, basically, a 300 person group ride spanning SF to LA that starts this very weekend that I’ll do with inGamba. In March I head to Oklahoma for my first go at LandRun100, I have the Epic 150 in Missouri in April which is new to my calendar. Obviously DK in June. In July I race The Rift in Iceland, plus SBTGRVL is Steamboat’s new gravel race in August, plus a definite return to the Overland at the end of the month. Plus you can start penciling in an event that Laura and I are concocting this summer. It’ll be very quintessential Vermont. Please standby...
What are your thoughts on more pro-teams and World Tour Teams than ever showing up at DK and other gravel events? How do you think their presence will affect the dynamic and feel of these gravel events?
It’s fascinating, that’s for sure. By pure horsepower, professional riders will always be the outright favorites. They eat, sleep, and breath the sport of cycling and ways to maximize their fitness potential. They don’t have other jobs and they don’t drink beer. But there are so many variables out on course in gravel — conditions, equipment choices, weather, and of course luck — so THAT is why we show up and race. Sure, if WorldTour teams sweep the entire season, then blah blah, yeah we get it, they’re all better cyclist. But people like cheering on underdogs, so it’ll be fun to add a whole lot of competitiveness to gravel to see how it all shakes out.
My only concern is if the pro teams show up with big numbers in the same jersey. Gravel remains a core event where people are stoked to be pedaling for themselves. Call it selfish, but teams really aren’t a thing. So sure, if teams have two, three, four, or even more options, then they’ll win the physiological battle at the start line and then win the tactical battle purely on numbers. Therefore, their presence will largely be felt in how they dictate the race with their tactics and how much they want to get to the nose of the race and really turn the screws.
If you had one tip for people training for the upcoming gravel season, what would it be?
Just freaking do it! I hear lots of folks who are nervous for reasons X, Y, and Z and therefore balk at signing up. But that’s part of the spirit of gravel is showing up only mostly prepared. Often at these events, no bike is perfect — you’ll want a speedy gravel bike at times and you’ll want a dual suspension at other times. But you just run what you brung, show up, and let it rip! Let’s be honest, whether you’re first or 301st on the day, you’re riding hard for that well deserved (root) beer, so just freaking do it.
Written and filmed by
Owner/Founder, Photographer and VTdirt Contributor