terrain May/June 2021
If there's one event that establishes the Midwest as a gravel riding mecca (see page 16), it's this one. The six-distance Unbound Gravel, formerly known as Dirty Kanza, draws up to 4,000 athletes in a normal year (limited to 2,500 this year) and as many as 12,000 spectators at the finish line. Marketing Manager Kristin Mohn has experienced the rush of the race from both sides of the barrier fencing. In 2018, she was the 10th female finisher in the 200-mile field; this after breaking down just 13 miles from the finish in 2011. "I was the only person on the [Unbound Gravel] team who hadn't finished the race," Mohn said. "I trained my butt off to make sure I didn't waste the opportunity. Both race experiences were phenomenal, but coming down the finish line chute was definitely rad. Not many athletes get the chance to pull into a finish line like that." Bring your climbing legs if you plan to attempt the event, says Mohn, or expect to be humbled. "There's not a lot of big climbs, but we like to say it's death by a thousand paper cuts. The hills just keep coming at you," she said. "With people coming from mountainous states, they think this will be no big deal, but thousands of feet of elevation change that never stops is not the same at one big climb and then one big downhill." Another important consideration? Flat tires are a big reality. "You're riding in the Flint Hills, on flint rocks. Literally, it's the same material that Native Americans used to make arrowheads with, and they're notorious for slicing tires open," said Mohn. The remoteness and roughness of the course, as well as the temperamental Midwest weather - especially high wind and heat - can also factor into your day, she adds. Unbound Gravel starts on Thursday with the All Things Gravel Expo, an open-air, market-style expo with more than 150 exhibitors from around the globe. On Friday, the first race kicks off with a 350-mile, completely self-supported and navigated event. The 200-, 100-, 50-, 25-, and Junior races all begin on Saturday. The final element in Unbound Gravel's enormous success? "Our support from the city is so strong, they're right there by our side helping pull it off, and we see that through the outlying towns as well. Kids go with their parents to checkpoint towns, and these have been taken over by families that come back to see each other year after year," said Mohn. "The community just brings it."
Emporia, Kan. June 3-6, 2021
Photos courtesy of Unbound Gravel.Previous Page