Unbound Gravel is known for its demanding nature. It’s a true test of tenacity, strength and equipment as riders battle challenging weather conditions, rough terrain and a remote locale. No matter what race distance one signs up for, a certain degree of self-sufficiency, bike-fixing-know-how and sense of adventure is required. Organizers even demand that riders in many of the race distances bring or hire a support crew to get them back to Emporia, should something go awry.
These epic conditions have been building the legend of Unbound for years, and every year the event sells out. In fact, the demand is so high that a random selection process determines who will be allowed to participate in the event as organizers are unable to accommodate everyone. Going into race week, approximately 4,000 riders were registered for the 2023 Garmin Unbound Gravel presented by Craft Sportswear across its five race distances. It was the event ‘s largest field size yet and a far cry from its humble beginnings of just 34 riders in 2006. Many of these riders would never see the finish line, however.
Thunderstorms and downpours led to some horrendously muddy sections on the already challenging 100-, 200- and 350-mile courses. For the 100- and 200-mile courses, the mud came as soon as 11 miles in. This sticky clay mixture clogged bikes almost immediately, rendering the mud sections unrideable. Worse than losing a race position or two, there were riders crashing, derailleurs being ripped off, broken frames and all-around carnage. For […]