Cyclocross

UNBOUND GRAVEL: THE BIKES, FACES, & DRAMA OF THE WORLD’S BIGGEST GRAVEL RACE – Road Bike Action

The 2022 Unbound Gravel 200 is in the books and just as it has in every year previous, it was a barn burner of a  weekend with no shortage of fun and drama. With 4000 entries heading out starting at 6:00 am in the morning, a familiar drama kicked-off the day when the pro start was held up by a passing train!

Soon enough the riders were off under dry skies – but not for long!

HERE IS THE UNBOUND 200

Other than the pro race, riders’ start position is based on the honor system and when each rider’s expectation is of their finish times…the cards go back as far as 20 hours!
One hour before the start Peter Stetina was inside his camper while his mechanic went over the last minute pre-race details. A previous UB200 winner, Stetina  (unofficially) finished 6th.
There has never been as much attention given to the start of the 100 mile race than this year with the arrival of Daniel Oss (l) and superstar Peter Sagan. Sagan was not with an intent to race, but to have fun, stay safe and pose for six-million selfie requests.
Up close with Peter Sagan’s Specialized Crux and his Shimano GRX drivetrain.
The best looking bike in the whole race had to be the Colnago G3-X of Nathan Haas (c). The former WorldTour  pro riders ended up in 18th at race end.
While the Unbound 200 started off in perfect, cool conditions, within a few hours it was pouring rain.
Here’s a fun fact…if you like Hostess Twinkies, Emporia is the town for you as this is where they are made.

WHAT ABOUT THE BIKES?

No, BMC does not sell a URS gravel bike with a Fox 32 fork, but the idea is tempting…and catching on.
Bianchi R&D rider Brian McCulloch’s Bianchi Zolder Pro was running a “mullet” tire set-up with a 42mm IRC Double Cross tire up front and 40mm  Double Cross in the rear.  Like Peter Stetina, Brian runs a  Shimano Dura-Ace  2x crank with a GRX rear derailleur.
Ridley teamed up with Apidura bags and Hunt wheels to create this Kanza Fast project bike that uses integrated Apidura bags which were claimed to increase the bikes aero efficiency in the wind tunnel by 17 watts.
Chapter 2 is a small brand our of New Zealand and this one was loaded to bear for the flint rock roads of Emporia, Kansas.
Cynthia Frazier was the women’s Unbound XL winner – 350 miles aboard her 3T Exploro with Hunt wheels, SRAM drivetrain and Schwalbe tires.
Although the question on Cynthia’s Wahoo was left unanswered, you can bet that after almost 24 hours of riding she was ready with an emphatic – YES!
Just as they did at the Sea Otter Classic, the Muc-Off crew was in full effect following the 50 and 100 mile events with a line stretching longer than the pre-race porta-john line.
Fifth place finishedeAlexy Vermeulen was understandably exhausted after a 9+ hour duel.
After finishing in 2nd place last year, former WorldTour pro rider Laurens Ten Dam came up three spots short to finish a hard fought 4th.
Although not many people knew anything about Ivar Slik before the race, they knew one thing about him at the end – he was the winner of this year’s muddy, fast Unbound 200. Silk’s win also gave the German tire brand Schwalbe their second win of the day and Italian bike brand Wilier their very first.
Sofia Gomez Villafane was mobbed at the finish. The long-time mountain bike racer has been on a winning tear this year after winning the Cape Epic mountain bike race. At the finish the ebullient winner said, “I was glad to finish under 11 hours…my next goal is the e-bike world championships.”
Cinch Coaching founder and former pro road racer Tom Danielson hands a needed Coke to women’s 2nd place finisher (and last year’s winner) Lauren De Crescenzo
Seems like a terrible way to treat a Colnago, but then the Italian marque has been enduring similar abuse over decades of cyclocross racing.
Battered and mud-filled as it was, De Crescenzo’s SRAM drivetrain was still making  the shifts to finish in 2nd place.

BUT, MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL….TWO THINGS

Don’t even think about visiting Emporia without stopping in at Casa Ramos – the best Mexican place in town. From the carne asada to the huevos con chorizo, it’s all good!
Whether it’s for the 25, 50, 100, 200 , or (gasp) 350 mile event, the essence of Unbound Gravel is is for anyone and everyone to jump in and bring some solid adventure to their life and end the day with a smile.