Everything You Need to Know About the 2024 Unbound Gravel 200 (2024)

You know things are getting serious when more than a few European and WorldTour racers are making their way to Kansas for the 2024 edition of UNBOUND Gravel amid a busy season of events. For the last decade we’ve seen the pointy end of American gravel races populated by many former pros. But lately, it’s current pro riders—both privateers and members of teams—who are prioritizing gravel racing.

Life Time UNBOUND Gravel 200 is a 200-mile-long ultra-endurance cycling challenge held on the gravel roads of the Flint Hills region of east-central Kansas. The 2024 edition is scheduled to take place this Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Downtown Emporia.

2024 Life Time Grand Prix Leaderboard 2024 UNBOUND Gravel Startlist

Jump to:

  • Unbound Gravel History
  • The Route
  • How to Watch the 2024 UNBOUND Gravel 200
  • What Happened Last Year?
  • Riders to Watch
  • Riders Reflect on Unbound’s Evolution and Anticipate the Unknown

Unbound Gravel History

This now-legendary race started back in 2006 with just 34 riders (18 finishers) and only one distance: 200 miles. Now, the first weekend in June consists of five distances—everything from 25 miles to 350— and more than 5,000 people riding.

Unbound Gravel 200 Past Winners
2023: Keegan Swenson and Carolin Schiff
2022: Ivar Slik and Sofia Gomez Villafañe
2021: Ian Boswell and Lauren De Crescenzo
2020: N/A (race canceled)
2019: Colin Strickland and Amity Rockwell

Before 2020, the race was known as the Dirty Kanza 200, a name that was considered offensive to Indigenous peoples, specifically the Kaw Nation. After a petition, scrutiny over the event’s name, and the firing of a race co-founder for a racist comment, organizers consulted with the Kaw Nation and renamed the race to show respect for the land’s history.

The Route

The 200-mile route, unveiled last week, includes a taxing loop north of Emporia, which was last used in the 2021 edition and adds a significant amount of elevation to the course (2,750 feet). The 25, 50, 100-mile, and XL (350-mile) contests also feature new sections. The main course compromises a total of 202.9 miles (327 km) with 11,850 feet (3,600 m) of elevation gain across 92% of gravel surface.

The elite riders will depart from downtown Emporia and head into the heart of Wabaunsee and Morris Counties. The route includes two official checkpoints where support crews can assist riders. Additionally, there will be two neutral water oasis stops along the way, providing hydration without the presence of support crews. Competitors will need to strategically manage their supplies and equipment, as only water will be available at the oasis points.

The 203-mile course promises a rugged race with its single-loop format across the Flint Hills. It is mostly made of gravel and dirt roads, which are minimally maintained. Riders should be ready for all conditions, as these roads can transform into treacherous mud paths in bad weather.

How to Watch the 2024 UNBOUND Gravel 200

Subscribe to Life Time’s YouTube channel to be the first to see full extended highlights within 48 hours of the conclusion of each race. You can also follow along in their Instagram stories at @lifetimegrandprix for LIVE men’s coverage and @UnboundGravel for LIVE women’s coverage. The race starts at 7:30 am EDT.

What Happened Last Year?

Everything You Need to Know About the 2024 Unbound Gravel 200 (1)

The 2023 Unbound Gravel was marked by a record turnout and challenging conditions that led to a significant number of riders not finishing. Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) and Carolin Schiff (Canyon) won the 200-mile pro race. The edition was notable for its separate starts for elite men and women, the banning of aero bars for elite riders, and a mix of weather that included rain, heat, and humidity, testing all participants throughout the lengthy course. The race saw intense competition, with muddy sections forcing riders to dismount and run with their bikes while the leaders powered through the changing conditions to secure their wins.

Riders to Watch

Elite riders from across the globe, including countries such as Australia, Belgium, Italy, Spain, France, Uganda, and Norway, are converging to compete in the Unbound Gravel 200. The full start lists have been announced, and both the elite women’s and men’s fields are packed with heavy hitters. Unbound first announced its elite race category a few years ago, and it has now grown to 200 riders, including 70 from the Life Time Grand Prix series, now in its third year.

Everything You Need to Know About the 2024 Unbound Gravel 200 (2)

Lauren de Crescenzo, 2021 Unbound Gravel 200 winner

The roster features the women champions from the last four editions: Carolin Schiff (Canyon) from Germany, Sofia Gomez Villafañe (Specialized Off-Road) from Argentina, Lauren De Crescenzo (Factor), and Amity Rockwell (Pas Normal), both from the USA, all aiming to reclaim their titles. Sarah Sturm (Specialized Off-Road) from the USA is also among the competitors, setting the stage for a highly anticipated race.

In the men’s category, past winners Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) from the USA, Ivar Slik (Wilier Triestina Factory Racing) from the Netherlands, and Ian Boswell (Wahoo-Specialized) from the USA are returning, ready to take on formidable challengers such as the 2024 Cape Epic winner Matt Beers from South Africa.

Everything You Need to Know About the 2024 Unbound Gravel 200 (3)

Former Olympic gold medalist, two-time Tour de France stage winner, and Paris-Roubaix champion Greg van Avermaet (Last Dance) will make his debut appearance at Unbound alongside fellow Belgians Niki Terpstra (Felt), a former winner of both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, and Tour de France stage winner, Jan Bakelants (Pearl Izumi).

We’ll also be watching WorldTour fan favorite Matej Mohorič, the Slovenian pro currently riding for Bahrain Victorious, and Laurens Ten Dam (LSRF), who will be looking for a podium spot after two consecutive fourth-place finishes.

Mohorič said on social media that Unbound will be a “completely new experience” and that he’ll take it on “with big respect.”

Riders Reflect on Unbound’s Evolution and Anticipate the Unknown

As the dust settles on the starting line of this year’s Unbound Gravel, seasoned competitors and fresh faces alike share their thoughts on the race’s transformation and the unpredictable challenges that lie ahead. With the event's history of relentless conditions and fierce competition, riders reflect on their past experiences and set their sights on the new trials that await them in Kansas.

“Even those of us that have just done Unbound for the past five years or so have seen the front of the race go through incredible transformation. In some ways, I have to chuckle about the memories I have from 2018 or 2019 and how simple times seemed back then,” Payson McElveen, who currently sits in 6th place in the men’s Lifetime Grand Prix, told Bicycling.

McElveen said he appreciates the evolution of the race, “I know some folks lament how mainstream, aggressive, and serious the front of this race has gotten in the last couple of years, but personally, I am so thrilled by the opportunity. I grew up watching professional road racing and love following the World Tour very closely. That was never my path, but the childhood fan in me thinks it's so cool and special that, in some ways, I'm getting a taste of racing at that level anyway... just in a way I didn't quite expect.”

Sofia Gomez Villafañe, who won the 200-mile race in 2022 and is currently in first place in the women’s Lifetime Grand Prix, told Bicycling, “I honestly have no idea what to expect from this year's Unbound 200. It will be the first time that I am racing the north course, so that adds a new element of unknown to the majority of the field. There are only a handful of women who are racing in the event this year that also raced in 2021.

“This is my third Unbound and you would think I would have some sort of insight on how the race plays out, but each year the conditions have been different. Also, in 2022, we had a mass start, but in 2023, there was a small buffer between the elite women and the elite men. This year, there’s an even bigger buffer between the elite men and the amateurs.”

Villafañe also said the weather will play a role once again. “There seems to be a storm building, so it will be interesting to see how that weather develops and how those unmaintained roads handle the moisture.”

Hannah Otto, who is currently in third place in the women’s Lifetime Grand Prix, told Bicycling that this will be her first ever Unbound. “It’s not too often at this point in my career that I get to call myself a ‘rookie,’ so I’m wearing that badge proudly this weekend! It’s my goal to enter into this race with limited expectations and I’m hoping that will make me adaptable. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.”

Everything You Need to Know About the 2024 Unbound Gravel 200 (2024)
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