Ventum Pro Cyclists and Life Time Grand Prix Athletes offer expert advice and insider tips from their past experiences at Unbound Gravel. We asked for concise yet practical guidance on how to tackle the 200 mile gravel race in Emporia, Kansas. Ventum is driven by the belief that the world becomes more vibrant when seen from the seat of a bike. We firmly believe that actively participating in this sport has the potential to transform lives.
Ventum Pro Cyclists and Life Time Grand Prix Athletes offer expert advice
and insider tips from their past experiences at Unbound Gravel.
We asked for concise yet practical guidance on how to tackle the 200 mile gravel race in Emporia, Kansas.
Keep a 'race' mindset all day and push to the finish, the day isn't over until you cross the line.
Eat and drink more than you think you should, once you get behind there is no catching up.
Practice eating on bumpy surfaces and remember to open chews, bars, and snacks before getting on the bike, so that when you reach into your pocket or bag, you can grab the snack easily.
Have confidence in your process and avoid last minute changes or second guessing your equipment, fueling strategy, etc. It can become unproductive, like cramming for an exam to the point of no returns. You have to draw a line and stop stressing. Be proud of the work you have done to get to this point, rest up and save your energy for the big day.
It's almost as much of an eating competition as it is a bike race. On the 9+ hour races, there's nothing you can do if you get behind on your nutrition.
It's super important to always be taking in calories and to aim for at least 300 calories per hour (I tend to push it to 400-450/hr) but it all depends on what your body is able to handle. Once you get behind, there's not really any "catching up" as your body can only digest at a certain rate, but your constantly burning through your energy stores at a faster rate.
1. Be Patient and stay positive. It's a long day. Everyone goes through dark spots.
2. Focus on things you can control: like your nutrition plan.
3. Never Panic when $h&T happens. Most situations can be solved if you stay calm.
For me, there are two major issues that I try to avoid during these long events and Unbound Gravel is one of the longest and hardest events of the year. If you can prevent these two common mishaps, you'll have a successful race.
First is in regard to my body. I want to make sure that my nutrition and hydration is dialed in and my stomach is able to absorb as many calories as possible. It's really hard to eat solid foods on these rides so this year I've been focusing on consuming 80% my calories via liquid. This is through high calorie sports drinks, gels, and liquid shots. The goal is not to "bonk".
The second is my choice in tires. I DO NOT want to flat or really have any mechanical issues during the race. My choice of tire this year is the Continental Terra Speed 45c tire with a ton of sealant in there. If I do get a puncture I will have easily accessible plugs and a CO2 to quickly fix the leak.
1. TIRES. Bigger is better, tubeless 42c or larger with some sort of stepped up extra durable casing and at least a minimal amount of tread. Go knobbier if you are less confident in your handling skills. Those sharp rocks are no joke! And, at a minimum, carry plugs, extra CO2, hand pump, tire boots, tube(s), tire lever, a chain tool, and know how to use them!!
2. FUELING & HYDRATION. Bring a variety of food. Eat early and often. But, after 10-12+ hours on the bike, flavor fatigue is inevitable. Some sort of savory or salty snack later in the race is crucial. And so is hydrating properly, early and often, with appropriate amounts of electrolytes. Drink before you get thirsty and eat before you get hungry!