Life Time renames iconic DK200 race as Unbound Gravel – One of the biggest names in gravel racing gets a new name for 2021. It started with a COVID-postponement, before soon after moving to discussions of the offensiveness, or at the very least insensitivity of the event’s name to the native Kaw Nation. What at first seemed settled with Kaw Nation Tribal Council approval, further devolved at the same time that racial violence & systemic inequities boiled over across the US, bringing out both the best and worst in various people. After the dust settled, the DK race founder was ousted, the 2020 event was ultimately cancelled for health concerns, and the Kaw Nation decided it was best to leave the Dirty Kanza name in the past.
So that’s how we come to Life Time announcing their new name for the long-popular Emporia, KS gravel race. As Unbound Gravel, they hope to carry forward all the best of the 15-year history of the race that brings gravellers together from around the globe to face the dirt, gravel, mud & winds that dominate the iconic Kansas event.
“Our team agreed that we wanted a name, logo and colors that embody the Flint Hills of Kansas. This region, and the hilly, sharp gravel roads that accompany it, are what help make this event what it has become – known widely today as the World’s Premier Gravel Event. We know the life impact this event has on people and we wanted a strong brand that participants felt proud of, that we could tell stories around, and that tied literally and figuratively to the area,” said Michelle Duffy, Director of Off-Road Events Marketing at Life Time. “The word UNBOUND most literally means to be free. It represents the free-range cattle, wild mustangs and native bison in the prairie of the Flint Hills, who move freely and live wild. It’s synonymous with our participants who experience a sense of freedom on the gravel roads outside of Emporia, in those moments “unbound” from anything else. Just the rider and the tire-shredding, sun-baking, breathtaking Flint Hills gravel.”
The new name was the work of a coalition of Life Time staff, Emporia business & tourism leaders, members of the cycling media & general cycling community, and a past race winner – before presenting it once more to the Kaw Nation Tribal Council.
“This rebrand is the end of a chapter for us as the DK, but we’ll continue to embrace the history of the land on which we ride. We hope that each time riders touch the gravel roads in the Flint Hills, they take a moment to remember what has been,” said Kristi Mohn, Unbound Gravel Marketing Manager. “UNBOUND Gravel provides an opportunity to reimagine what an event can look like, and this rebrand is only step one in the process. So much is yet to come for the gravel community.”