Epic Racers: Katie Strempke

Next up in our quest to learn more about the brave souls tackling the 2018 Epic, we interview Kansas native Katie Strempke. She’s a natural when it comes to gravel, and in 2016 she made winning the 2016 edition of The Epic look easy (or at least the pictures appear that way). We’re excited to have her back!

Tell us a bit about yourself? What’s life like when you’re not crushing gravel?

I live in Olathe with my husband (who also likes crushing gravel). For my day job, I’m an occupational therapist where I get to support students with a range of abilities to participate in their school day. Some of my activities outside of riding bikes include volunteering at an English as a second language class, spending time with family, and hanging out with friends.

You’ve been doing this gravel stuff for a few years now. Tell us about how you got into gravel riding/racing?

I started riding gravel while I was training for road several years ago. I was in grad school and living with my parents on the edge of town so it was easy to get onto gravel roads and just go. Riding gravel took me back to the reason I started riding bikes in the first place, to get outside and go places I haven’t been before.

In 2016 you won the Epic. Can you tell us more about that day and how the race played out?

As most gravel races do, the 2016 Epic started out fast. Almost immediately, the group went up a monster climb, followed by a steep decent. After that, the hills didn’t stop for the whole 150 miles. The support every 25 miles broke up the race really well and I only allowed myself to think about getting to the next stop. My dad and uncle were supporting me and had bottles and food ready. 7 miles from the finish a rock sliced my tire. My hands were trashed- numb from the long ride and blisters from hanging on probably a bit too tight on the bumpy steep descents. I took entirely too long prying my tire off the rim, putting a tube in, and inflating the tire. The whole time I was looking over my shoulder, expecting to see the next woman blow by me. When I finally got rolling again, I had enough adrenaline to push to the finish.

Do you have any advice for others wanting to take on the Epic?

Bring your gears, gloves, and chamois butt’r!

How will you be preparing for the Epic this year? 

I’m planning to prepare for the Epic by going on long rides with people who will push me out of my comfort zone.