A profitable Unbound Gravel requires many issues and many individuals. Only for one particular person like myself to complete requires gallons of liquid, buckets of meals, a reliable bike with tire reinforcements, and rather more. However essentially the most vital factor shouldn’t be a factor; it’s individuals.
At Unbound Gravel this 12 months there have been two checkpoints the place you might meet your crew and tackle extra provides and get mechanical assist. Outdoors of those spots (mile 68 and mile 156), you have been by yourself.
Assist crews tackle many varieties. Some are skilled mechanics, like ‘Large Tall’ Wayne Smith, who works for Pete Stetina. Some are family and friends, like 2019 XL third-place Kristen Legan, who crewed for her husband Nick Legan. I used to be fortunate sufficient to get on board with the crew from BluBird Communications, who in flip had people from Enve, Wahoo, and Ventum bikes pitching in to assist with the multi-day effort.
Additionally learn: Unbound bike and gear test
Assist crews kind pop-up villages within the checkpoint cities, full with color-coded signage by neighborhood to assist harried racers find their individuals shortly.
The evening earlier than the race, these of us on the BluBird practice loaded a labeled bag for every checkpoint. What’s going to you want on the one-third and two-third factors of a 12-hour race? What meals will sound good at that time? And what number of tire plugs, tubes, CO2 cartridges or new tires will you want? Who is aware of!
My fundamental plan was three comparable units of stuff: a CamelBak Chase vest and two tall bottles to start out with, after which the identical set-up for every checkpoint. I packed my jersey pockets with meals and my top-tube bag with GU Liquid gels, and replenished at every checkpoint. On the second checkpoint I additionally had issues like a spare tire, a strong headlight, and a pickled sausage.
Large due to Tim LeRoy of BluBird and the remainder of the checkpoint crews. And likewise due to the volunteers on the water stops and people who handed out bottles at random spots by the facet of the street. Grabbing a chilly bottle on the fly from a child I’ve by no means met encapsulates the spirit of this occasion for me. Thanks, Kansas!
Here’s what I used, and the way it labored — or didn’t!
Clothes and kit
Giordana FR-C Pro bibs: Our CEO Robin Thurston is a hardcore bike owner, and he insisted on getting Giordana’s top-shelf package for each VeloNews and Outdoors. The chamois on these is right; no seams or ridges or every other nonsense. I used to be driving two days later with no pores and skin points, if you already know what I imply. I want to see a model from Giordana with a pocket or two.
Velocio Radiator Mesh jersey: Our black VeloNews and Outdoors jerseys look candy, however, properly, they’re black. And Kansas was bloody scorching. The Radiator is my favourite hot-weather jersey, so I went with that. It felt finest after totally submerging in a stream, or dunking myself beneath a spigot. I want it had a zippered pocket for my telephone, although.
Specialised S-Works Evade helmet: My buddy Spencer Powlison instructed that I retire this circa-I-don’t-even-know Evade helmet. It’s fairly ugly. I prefer it, although, and so long as you or the wind are transferring, the airflow is nice for an aero helmet. It’s additionally a DK/UB custom for me at this level.
De Ft Regulator socks: The world’s quickest socks! I obtained an e-mail from DeFeet a couple of days earlier than the race touting their boundary-layer-tripping tall socks, which they wind-tunnel examined for WorldTour use. I joked with DeFeet founder Shane Cooper about how, if a pair can save 8 watts, that I’d put on 10 pair for an 80-watt enhance. I cracked as much as see my buddy Nick Legan sporting the identical socks on the beginning line. Whereas I might have definitely used 80 watts on the finish of the day, I appreciated the compression of the tall socks.
Specialised S-Works 6 XC sneakers: Circa 2017? I like how these match and really feel. Tremendous stiff for pedaling, however light-weight and cozy for hour after hour. They’re beginning to odor horrible. I put new cleats on every week earlier than the race, and realized it wasn’t my pedals that had been squeaking.
KOO Demos sun shades: I picked these for the vast lens and the truth that they keep on my face. I had a pair of POC glasses drop off when wanting down on a earlier super-sweaty journey, and didn’t need to repeat that.
Elastic Interface Race gloves: The corporate that has been making chamois pads for biking clothes manufacturers the world over now has a couple of choices for padded gloves. You may get them aftermarket from DHB, Giro, and a pair others. These have been a nonbranded pattern. I usually journey with out gloves, however race with them, and I want super-thin gloves. These, for having such thick padding, have been surprisingly comfy. And the padding feels gentle and compressive, as an alternative of heavy and hulking like gel. Fairly cool.
Chilly bandana and towel: Volunteers on the first water cease have been passing out bandanas soaked in ice water. Hallelujah! I additionally picked up a small iced towel from our crew at checkpoint two. It felt nice instantly but in addition over the approaching miles as a swamp cooler of kinds.
Small top-tube bag: Other than my delicate roadie sensibilities, my predominant subject with prime tube baggage is that they usually hit my knees, whether or not a prime mount or a body bag. Apidura’s magnet-closure bag is slick, however is so tall that my knees hit it when out of the saddle. This one is sufficiently small to remain out of the best way however nonetheless match 5 huge liquid gels. You may function the zipper with one hand if you happen to use one finger to carry the bag in place. I don’t know what make or mannequin it’s! It got here with a Trek Checkpoint demo, and I’ve held on to it, however I don’t see it on the Bontrager website.
CamelBak Chase vest: I’d like a lighter, easy, extra breathable model of this. On the chest straps specifically, I don’t suppose you want a number of layers of zippered pockets, particularly in thick, nonbreathable materials. Perhaps subsequent 12 months I’ll take some scissors to the chest straps. That stated, having 1.5L you’ll be able to drink with each arms on the bars is important for Unbound within the first hour or two when the group is large.
CamelBak Podium bottles: The insulated bottles work okay for holding issues chilly for an hour or so. Principally the amount is what I’m after, and the lock closure on prime is nice, whether or not placing bottles in a checkpoint bag or your child’s soccer bag.
GU Roctane: 250 energy per bottle plus branched-chain amino acids and electrolytes. Yuri Hauswald gave me a bath of Strawberry Hibiscus after we have been clowning round in Arizona earlier this 12 months, and I like its not-to-sweet style. I put this in all three Chase vests.
Skratch hydration combine: That is what we use in the home, for soccer and biking. Usually Lemon Lime, however I went with the Summer season Peach in a pair bottles.
Skratch Rice Crispy bars: Prepackaged rice crispy treats from Dr Allen Lim and the crew? Sure, please. I scissored open the packaging on a couple of of those and jammed by pockets with them.
Large Mama Pickled Sausage: The final time I did the race I cramped horribly with 25 miles to go. As in, I walked for some time, as a result of simply pedaling at 40 watts would trigger my leg to lock up. I resolved to Do Extra Sodium. So I purchased a neon-red pickled sausage in a gasoline station someplace in Kansas. I took a chew and almost vomited, as an alternative spitting the factor out and chucking the rest on the street.
Pickle juice: Tim served up a full Solo cup of pickle juice at checkpoint two, and I knocked it again like a frat boy with a beer in such a crimson cup. Then I had one other half cup.
Ginger: Regardless of all of the Roctane, Skratch, water, and pickle juice, I nonetheless beginning cramping prefer it was my job within the final 20 miles or so. I rode from the second checkpoint largely alone for a pair dozen miles. Then Payson McElveen, Zack Allison, and Ryan Standish got here alongside, and saved me from myself. Other than an oh-so-welcome draft, Ryan additionally supplied up some recent ginger from his Chase pouch to beat back cramping. “Good for 20 minutes,” he stated. Positive sufficient, about 20 minutes later, I used to be seizing up once more. However the spicy chew was additionally a welcome change from all of the sweetness I’d been consuming all day.
GU Liquid Energy Gel: This was new to me and welcome – an simply drinkable gel as an alternative of a sticky, chewy mess. Suppose SIS gel, if you happen to’ve had a kind of. I had a minimum of three Lemonade and two Cola gels. They’re straightforward to get down, and are available caffeinated and non-caffeinated.
Bobo’s Oat Bites: Bobo’s Bars are good, however in my expertise if you purchase them from CostCo they’re somewhat stale and hard. The Bites have filling that appear to maintain them recent. I introduced two Apple Pie and two Strawberry. They really feel and style like meals.
Coke: Tried and true in the direction of the tip of lengthy rides and races. This 12 months a pop-up water cease at mile 104 had mini Cokes. I grabbed one, after which a couple of miles later Flavia Octivera handed me one other one as we had been driving collectively for some time.
Water: You merely can’t tackle sufficient of the stuff. And it’s exhausting to overstate how good chilly water feels to drink and bathe with on a 90-degree day after hours and hours of racing. Once more, one among my favourite issues about this race is how locals hang around roadside, handing out chilly bottles to strangers like myself. The truth that it’s sudden makes it really feel like a minor miracle. Right here’s to the kindness of strangers.