The 2023 version of Unbound Gravel was one for the history books. The event boasted the most significant field size in its history. Four thousand riders took to the Flint Hills to tackle various course lengths; 25-mile, 50-mile, 100-mile, 200-mile, and 350-mile XL distances. Though the competition is always fierce at Unbound, the most formidable opponent for this year was the mud and lots of it.
Let There Be Mud
In the flagship 200-miler event, the mud started around mile 11 and continued unrelentingly for several miles. The unrideable section caused riders to run, walk or shuffle — any way to keep momentum. Unfortunately for many — this muddy sector was as far as they would make it, with mechanicals a-plenty. For those that made it through the mud unscathed, the front groups were selective and filled with anxious riders, not letting anyone get up the road.
Elite Women’s 200-Mile Race
In the women’s 200-mile race, Jenna Rinehart opened an early gap of about two minutes. Unbound 2022 winner Sofia Gomez Villafane overtook Rinehart and gained about a minute by mile 40. Around mile 70, Carolin Schiff of Germany caught Villafane with Ruth Winder, Marisa Boaz, Sarah Sturm, and Alexis Skarda in pursuit. Schiff started to find her stride about halfway through, ultimately winning by more than 15 minutes.
“I realized that I could maybe make it,” Schiff said at the winner’s press conference. “My team from Canyon was just pushing me at the aid station. They told me, ‘, Okay, you have a gap, and keep on going,’ and I did.
Elite Mens 200-Mile Race
The mud took its toll in the men’s 200-mile race, but a group of 10 riders, including many of the race favorites, made a clear break around mile 20. The group included Kiel Reijnen, Keegan Swenson, Howard Grotts, and Russell Finsterwald. Early on, Lachlan Morton and Ian Boswell pushed the pace to establish the gap further, disheartening any would-be chasers.
Near the end of the race, the group was whittled down to seven. As the group approached Commercial Street, the riders began showing their cards. Keegan Swenson started his sprint early, beat out the chasing pack, and one-upped his second-place finish from 2022.
“It’s nice to win this race,” Swenson said at the press conference. “Second was a great result last year, and I was content with it, but to come up that short after almost 10 hours of racing is a bummer to lose it in a sprint.”
Dont forget the 350-Mile XL
The 350-mile XL event was a battle of attrition and willingness to survive, with riders spending over 24 hours on the bike. XL racers experienced all the rain, mud, walking, and darkness they could handle. The men’s winner Logan Kasper finished in 22:54:25, and the women’s champion Kristen Legan finished in 26:06:35.
Full results for all categories can be found here.