Unbound Gravel 2023

Yesterday was my first Unbound. I did the 200 and for me had a solid day and a Top 20 age group finish. A few thoughts:

There was an empty passenger train at the start that crossed the course a very short distance after the start line. I lined up in the 12 hour group and about half of this group went through and the other half waited. Many went through after the crossing guards were down. I waited, but then it started a bit of a chase once the train passed. You’d think the train right at the start could have been avoided…

I did the preride the day before with Alex Howes and he pointed out the muddy section as we rode past it and said it would likely be in the race tomorrow. What I didn’t realize was how long it was. 3+ miles of walking so early on was not ideal but at that point I wasn’t going to let it get me down. I just kept pushing until the end of the section and then used the plastic paint scraper I had taped to my bike to get it cleaned up and went on. Ultimately I would have preferred it not be in the race, but if they wanted it in there, a shorter distance would have been a lot better.

The second mud section was just as bad from a mud standpoint but as noted above was way shorter. Alison Tetrick was walking right next to me, so she provided not stop entertainment so it actually made that section kind of fun. There was also a hose that a local farmer set up at the end of the section where Alison and a few of us were able to spray off our bikes.

During the first half of the day the temps climbed pretty steadily. I used some pantyhose ice packs down my back at Aid 1 and this helped cool me down. However as the day rolled on and the clouds rolled in the temps dropped, especially as the rain fell. I heard it hailed on some riders but the rain that hit me was never enough that I needed to put on a rain jacket. I just kept riding and that was enough to stay warm. From my perspective the rain made the race easier since there was no longer the heat to deal with. Other than the two mud pits, the rest of the course remained rideable and wasn’t really impacted much by the water hitting it.

I opted to run the Pathfinder Pro 42s with inserts, Orange Seal, 27 psi on G23 rims. These felt great all day. The terrain varies a fair bit but there is a lot that is pretty smooth and fast rolling. When it does get chunky, the segments are fairly short. The 42s cleared the mud pretty well, but I definitely needed to scrape the tires clean after the two mud sections. No flats, and other than the mud rode, through everything such as the creek crossing and any big puddles etc.

I ran an Eagle 1x mullet set up that also felt perfect for the course and I think not having a front deraileur was a benefit with the conditions. The chain was prepped with Silca wax. At Aid 1 I gave my drivetrain a quick spray down with WhiteLighting drivetrain cleaner and the chain a wipe with a microfiber. I then applied Rock N Roll Gold. This turned out to work perfectly. I applied Rock N Roll Gold twice more, once at Oasis 2 and a third time at Aid 2. Chain ran quiet right to the finish. I had prepped a second chain for a swap just in case but never needed it.

Overall I had a blast. Yes it was a tough day but, similar to @grwoolf, I felt pretty good all day long and it was a thrill to finish. One thing that helped me was having done Leadville three times. Pushing your bike up the goat trail and the steep part of Powerline is pretty rough. I was thinking in my head as I pushed on the muddy grass that this did seem easier than the walking at Leadville, so maybe wasn’t so bad…

Would I go back for another? Honestly that I’m not sure about that. It’s got a bit of the “one and done” feel to it, but we’ll see. When the going gets tough in the future, I’ll likely reflect back on Unbound 200 2023 and think about how I got through that so maybe the current challenge isn’t so bad.

Gratz to everyone that participated.