When U.S.-based WorldTour team EF Education First announced a partnership with apparel company Rapha late last year, it was announced as going beyond just apparel. EF and Rapha detailed plans to blend gravel and mountain bike races into the team’s conventional pro road race schedule.
Now there’s confirmation that EF will send riders to Dirty Kanza 200 and the Leadville 100. This is big news for the team and for cycling fans.
EF intends to use mass-start events as a way to cultivate new fans (especially those who don’t pay attention to pro-cycling) but as a long-time pro cycling fan I’m intrigued and excited by the move as well. These are races I’ve done or that are accessible to me, watching the pros ride them will be great.
The four-race schedule also includes the Three Peaks Cyclocross and Taiwan KOM Challenge.
Pro road cyclists have a history of racing Leadville, Lance Armstrong won in 2009. Levi Leipheimer in 2010 and EF’s Joe Dombrowski was second in 2016. And retired pro road cyclist Ted King won the Dirty Kanza twice since his final pro season with Cannondale-Garmin in 2015. But for the most part, these events are virgin territory for the pros. Certainly new in terms of being events pros will train for specifically as opposed to being relegated to their off-season or post-retirement.
Dirty Kanza 200 takes place June 1, 2019. Leadville Trail 100 will be August 10, followed by Three Peaks on September 30 and Taiwan KOM Challenge on October 25.