Dan Hughes is a fan of the sport, a participant in the sport, and a facilitator for getting others into the sport. He is the longtime owner of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike in Lawrence, Kansas, which recently added on a ‘gravel experience center’ in partnership with Specialized to offer demo bikes and route suggestions. (Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas started right outside Sunflower’s door.)
Hughes has won the biggest gravel race in the world, Unbound Gravel, more times than anyone, beginning with the first one in 2006. You can check out the Steelman he used in 2006 in this gallery.
The Independent Fabrication he used to win the 2011 and 2012 editions of Unbound Gravel hangs upstairs in the back of his two-story shop.
But most of the history hanging on the walls of Sunflower are relics from professional riders, whether an autographed world champion jersey from Johan Museeuw or an Eddy Merckx from Flavio Vanzella.
Check out some of the cycling history in Hughes’ shop below, as well as some current American cycling figures who were hanging out in his shop during race weekend for Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas.
Are you experienced?
Dan Hughes is. And he’s happy to put you on a bike a bit more modern than this.
Specialized has a few experience centers, where demo bikes can be taken out for full-day or multi-day rides, instead of just a 10-minute toodle around a parking lot. (Photo: Jake Orness)
Dan Hughes is a four-time winner of Unbound Gravel, and the longtime owner of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike.
Remember the Tour of Missouri?
Sunflower’s vehicle mascot sits outside the shop in downtown Lawrence.
VW bike buddies.
In Morgan Hill, California, an old VW bus serves as an icon of sorts for the early days of Specialized with founder Mike Sinyard. In Lawrence, Sunflower sells bottles with the Sunflower VW Beetle and the Specialized VW bus.
Behold, the Specialized RockCombo, circa 1989, in all its triple-ring, 7-speed, bar-end shifting glory.
Fine magazines are available at Sunflower.
On this cover, Ian Boswell is shown winning the 2021 Unbound Gravel on a modern Specialized Diverge with the paint scheme from the original RockCombo.
Hughes has long been a fan of Belgian racing. Johan Museeuw’s world champion and Tom Steels’ Belgian champion autographed jerseys are among the many on the walls of Sunflower.
It’s not all past names at Sunflower, of course. Here, American cyclocross pro Raylyn Nuss shows off a Steve Tilford Foundation t-shirt.
After doing a shakedown ride on her new Crux, Nuss hung out at the shop to run a Steve Tilford Foundation fundraiser.
(VeloNews initially reported that Nuss won the women’s Wafer, as she was presented as the winner at the podium ceremony. But she had accidentally gone off course and was later disqualified.)
Hughes won the 2011 and 2012 editions of Unbound Gravel on this Independent Fabrication.
Unlike his Steelman that could easily fit 40mm tires, the titanium IF could only take 35mm tires.
“Stay out of the ditches!” — Bob Roll
A mid-90s Caloi Eddy Merckx was raced by Motorola’s Flavio Vanzella. “Motorola never rode Campy but I was a Campy guy when I bought them,” Hughes said.
Greg LeMond signed yellow jersey? Check.
Period-correct parts on a mid-90s Merckx.
Hughes has finished the Leadville 100 four times. “Fastest I ever went was 8:16, which wasn’t too bad for a fat flatlander,” Hughes said. These are signed 2011 jerseys from Todd Wells and Rebecca Rusch, who both won that year.
Sunflower has a cafe with a nice espresso machine and beer on tap.
Gravel Worlds, of course, is a longtime grassroots gravel race in Nebraska named as playful jab at the UCI. And now the UCI will be hosting a gravel world championships. What does Hughes think?
“I don’t think the UCI understands what gravel is about. There are like 10 people in the world that will care who the UCI Gravel World Champ is. Everyone else wants to toe the line, challenge themselves, and live to tell the tale over beer. That’s the real spirit of gravel.”
Molly Cameron was hanging out in Sunflower the day before Belgian Waffle Ride, handing out transgender pride wristbands from her RIDE advocacy group. It’s hard to see, but Boswell is wearing one of these wristbands in the VeloNews Unbound Gravel cover above.
Veteran race announcer Dave Towle dubbed Dan Hughes the ‘Mothra of gravel racing’ — and 2015 Unbound winner Yuri Hauswald the ‘Godzilla of gravel’.
Specialized followed up on this Mothra vs Godzilla theme with a Mothracrux, an S-Works Crux EVO custom painted for Hughes.
The Crux platform began as a cyclocross line, and morphed into gravel friendly with the EVO. Now, Hughes says, the new Crux is a gravel bike that’s ’cross-friendly.
Robidoux Quick n Dirty race director (and Specialized employee) Aaron Raines was in the mix for Belgian Waffle Ride.
While you won’t find Bill Marshall dressed as an angel every day (hey, it was Halloween when this picture was taken), you can demo Specialized gravel bikes any day at Sunflower in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo: Jake Orness)