2022 UNBOUND Gravel

Everything You Need To Know For The 2022 UNBOUND Gravel

Everything You Need To Know For The 2022 UNBOUND Gravel

A handful of Life Time Grand Prix athletes will look to get back on track at 2022 UNBOUND Gravel, a race known for testing a rider’s equipment.

May 13, 2022 by Michael Sheehan
How The LTGP Pros Plan To Survive UNBOUND

The self-proclaimed “World’s Premier Gravel Event” is set to take the small town of Emporia, Kansas, by storm. On June 4th, the 2022 edition of the Garmin UNBOUND Gravel is expected to draw the event’s biggest attendance in its 17-year history, with 4,000 participants signed up to ride across the rugged Flint Hills of Kansas. 

What Is UNBOUND Gravel? 

UNBOUND Gravel offers multiple distances, from 25 miles all the way to the absurd “XL” 350-mile race. The event began as a 200-mile ride, and that distance remains the most popular, and the most competitive. 

Billed as 200 miles, the 2022 course finishes after 204 miles. The route heads south out of Emporia and will be similar to the course raced in 2018. 

The flint hills are unforgiving on a cyclist’s equipment. The race is notorious for sharp, jagged rocks that can ruin tires. If there is rain in the forecast, mud can pose an even bigger problem for riders. For this reason, the race is known as a test of a rider’s equipment, as much as it is a test of a rider’s endurance.

Professionalization Of Gravel Racing On Display In Kansas 

As the participatory base of UNBOUND Gravel has swelled in recent years, so too has the number of professional cyclists attempting to win the premier 200-mile distance. The 2021 edition was won by Ian Boswell in a two-up sprint against Laurens Ten Dam. Both riders have WorldTour careers under their belt, and are representative of the talent pool that UNBOUND Gravel has tapped into. 

While UNBOUND remains a participatory mass start event, the professionalization of the front of the field will be even greater in 2022 with the introduction of the Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda. 

UNBOUND will be the second event of the inaugural Life Time Grand Prix. The 60-rider competition includes six off-road events in 2022, three mountain bike races and three gravel races. Racers will compete for an overall prize purse of $250,000. 

UNBOUND Gravel is the longest race of the series, and presents an opportunity for road and gravel specialists to claw back from the points deficit that many find themselves in after the 80-kilometer Sea Otter Classic XC mountain bike race.

Life Time Grand Prix Adds Intrigue 

Many Life Time Grand Prix athletes will be under pressure to earn points at UNBOUND after lackluster showings at Sea Otter. Amity Rockwell, winner of the 2019 UNBOUND finds herself in 21st place in the series. Like Rockwell, Ashton Lambie entered Sea Otter with virtually no competitive mountain biking experience and now sits 23rd in the series. Lambie, who cut his teeth on the gravel roads outside his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, should be in his element in Kansas. 

Keegan Swenson, a mountain bike professional, surprised few by winning the Sea Otter Classic. While Swenson has never competed in UNBOUND, he is widely expected to take the challenge in stride. 

A similar picture is painted of the women’s series leader Moriah Wilson. The former alpine skier is relatively new to cycling, but she has shown virtually no weakness in her short time as an off-road cyclist. 

Former WorldTour riders Peter Stetina, Kiel Reijnen, Laurens Ten Dam and Ruth Winder all had experiences to forget at Sea Otter. Winder crashed out, while Reijnen and Stetina spent the day attempting to limit their losses after a crash in the opening mile. Stetina finished the race with a fractured wrist, yet managed to claw his way back to 15th place in the series. Laurens Ten Dam meanwhile, finished near the back of the field after mechanical issues. 

UNBOUND Gravel presents a clean slate for the Life Time Grand Prix athletes who suffered misfortune at Sea Otter, as racers are allowed to omit their worst race from the overall series points tally. Which means those near the back of the field will have to produce clean and consistent races for the remaining five events, and few can make it through UNBOUND without misfortune.