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Dirty Kanza gravel race has a new name: Unbound Gravel

Published October 29, 2020

EMPORIA, Kan. (BRAIN) — The biggest event in gravel racing has a new name.

Race organizer Life Time announced Thursday that the Dirty Kanza will be renamed Unbound Gravel, with Garmin remaining the title sponsor. 

"The word unbound most literally means to be free," said Michelle Duffy, director of off-road events marketing for Life Time. "It represents the free-range cattle, wild mustangs and native bison in the prairie of the Flint Hills (Kansas), who move freely and live wild. It's synonymous with our participants who experience a sense of freedom on the gravel roads outside of Emporia, in those moments unbound from anything else. Just the rider and the tire-shredding, sun-baking, breathtaking Flint Hills gravel."

In June, Life Time said it was contemplating a name change following the dismissal of its founder, Jim Cummins. He was fired by Life Time for making insensitive comments on his personal Facebook page concerning the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in June.

Cummins, who founded the race in 2006, sold ownership of the event to fitness chain Life Time in 2019. Following the sale Cummins, stayed on as an official with the company, which also operates the Leadville Trail 100 MTB.

The decision to change its name comes after the Dirty Kanza dismissed a call for a name change by the website Cyclista Zine. In April, the website circulated a petition calling for Life Time to change the name, saying that by prefacing Kanza with the word "dirty," the race connects itself to anti-indigenous violence.

The word Kanza is associated with the Kaw Nation, an indigenous tribe in Oklahoma and Kansas.

In support of the new name and branding, Life Time established a task force composed of Emporia business and tourism leaders, representatives of the cycling media, members of the cycling community — including a past champion and a two-time podium finisher — alongside its internal brand and marketing leaders.

Additionally, other members of the gravel cycling community, along with partners and athletes, and a survey of members of the Dirty Kanza community played a role to validate that Unbound Gravel meets the event's future vision.

The Emporia-based events team went to Kaw Nation, Oklahoma, to visit with members of the Tribal Council to discuss the renaming and share the planned path forward.

In keeping with the establishment of its Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Coalition, Life Time said it is committed to providing access and education to all individuals, while initiating industry shifts around inclusiveness at events. The organization has pledged to impact change across the industry, using its 30-plus events as a platform.

The 2021 All Things Gravel Expo kicks off June 3, with race day on June 5. Deferral registration will launch for participants with entry from the cancelled 2020 event on Nov. 16. For more information, go to Unbound Gravel merchandise is available, and Life Time will contribute 15% of all proceeds toward its DEI initiatives.

Topics associated with this article: Racing & Sponsorship

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