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358 Hard Miles: 26 Hours, 55 Minutes – Lael Wilcox at the 2021 Unbound XL

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358 Hard Miles: 26 Hours, 55 Minutes – Lael Wilcox at the 2021 Unbound XL

“You just dance up those climbs. It’s amazing to watch.”

“Thank you.”

These are some of the only words we’ve exchanged, despite riding together for the past ten hours. It’s a few more hours before I learn that his name is Dave. That’s ultra-endurance. Sometimes you talk and sometimes you don’t, but it’s still great to have company riding through the night. I later find out that Dave is in his 50s and from Wisconsin. He must outweigh me by a good 50-80lbs and most of it is muscle. He’s a powerhouse on the flats and I’m light up the climbs. He groans and says “shit” a lot, but when the lady at the gas station asks if we’re having fun, he says, “we’re having the time of our lives.” And we really are. It’s hot and humid and hard as hell, but there’s so much beauty out there. Beauty in the sunset and the sunrise and the warm night— the cows and the fields, the open expanses.

Four Gravel Stages in the Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve: the 2021 Migration Gravel Race Recap

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Four Gravel Stages in the Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve: the 2021 Migration Gravel Race Recap

A week ago, 61 contestants battled it out over 4 stages through the Masai Mara wildlife reserve, during the inaugural Migration Gravel Race in Kenya. While an epic adventure in itself, there’s more to this race than meets the eye. The MGR is one of the prongs of the Amani project, aimed at creating more race opportunities for East African cyclists to measure themselves with the best on an international level.

What better way to do so than to bring in the very best? With the attendance of 2021 Unbound-winner Ian Boswell and runner-up Laurens ten Dam (who claimed the victory at MGR), the bar has been set for future editions. Sule Kangangi, Kenyan pro cyclist and coordinator of Amani’s activities in Kenya, and 2021 Unbound winner Ian Boswell share their thoughts on this unique first edition.

Here’s to Failings and Revenge: Riding the N230 Route in Portugal

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Here’s to Failings and Revenge: Riding the N230 Route in Portugal

Here’s to failings and revenge, wet feet, cold meals, big appetites, and desperate measures, here is to the losers, to giving up, the fear and the panic, here is to the hopes and resets, the rest and restart, the loneliness and misery, the conquering or coming back, here is to the revenge, the salute, the lost goal, the drive and emptiness, the stomach and the guts, the brain, and the balls, here is to the brave heart and lost souls. Here is to the step back and rebound. Here is to the cold beers at the end and the diners that taste better.
Coming home was the hardest part.

Ride the Gamut: A Massive Unbound Gravel Gallery

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Ride the Gamut: A Massive Unbound Gravel Gallery

Last weekend the town of Emporia, Kansas hosted the world’s largest gravel race, Unbound Gravel. When the event started in 2006, it only offered the milestone 200-mile route. With the growing popularity of gravel racing and in an attempt to make the race more accessible to all cyclists, Unbound Gravel now offers a total of six racecourses. Participants can now choose between 25, 50, 100, 200, and the big, bad 350-mile course. There’s even a High School event! While the 200 is still the marquee distance for the event, Unbound has something for everyone looking to get dusty out in the Flint Hills.

Congrats to Lael Wilcox for Winning Unbound Gravel XL!

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Congrats to Lael Wilcox for Winning Unbound Gravel XL!

With gravel races attracting more and more professional cyclists from road racing, being able to hold onto consecutive wins is becoming more and more difficult. Not for Lael Wilcox, however, who took on the XL at this year’s Unbound Gravel. The XL traverses 358 miles (576km) of the Flint Hills out of Emporia, Kansas, all self-supported and just as hard as years prior.

We’d like to congratulate Lael, who finished in 26 hours, 55 minutes; the first woman and 10th overall. Check out her Instagram page for more wonderful moments captured by Rue!

Go, Lael! GO!

Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part IV – A New Record, 12 Years in the Making

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Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part IV – A New Record, 12 Years in the Making

This is the fourth and final part of an ongoing series:
Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part III – A Cyclocross Specialist Turned Ultra Racer
Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part II – The First Modern Bikepacking Race
Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part I – Trail Visions Ahead of Their Time

2020, the year that virtually nothing has panned out as expected, delivered an unexpected opportunity for me to return to the Grand Loop. I flew home to Arizona in late March after an aborted tour across Alaska as the Covid-19 pandemic worsened. My body was exhausted from winning a 4-day-long Iditarod Trail Invitational – conditions were challenging enough that the race took twice as long as it does in “good” years. After the race, I continued touring farther along the trail for another 250 miles before Native villages began closing to visitors. When I returned home, my body was worn out. The next month was devoted to recovery as I watched in awe as the world as we knew it ground to a halt amid the worsening pandemic.

The Open Road: the Orbit 360

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The Open Road: the Orbit 360

2021, March 14th, 5:16 pm Runa, Portugal

Runa is a small village that looks like it was supposed to become a town, it just never happened. Not much to see around here.

Traversed by a fast road right through it, longing a deserted train station that never felt so vain.
All along that single file highway, tiny factories, warehouses, abandoned, emptied in a rush. Nature is invading, reclaiming those empty spaces, plants, and trees through the cracks and walls.

I press on the pedals.

A bit further down the strange fast route, a tiny park and one big tree, one massive tree, an old man walks around, talking to himself, or rehearsing what seems to be a speech or sermon, rehearsing those words while mastering their hand choreography.

Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part III – A Cyclocross Specialist Turned Ultra Racer

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Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part III – A Cyclocross Specialist Turned Ultra Racer

This is the third part of an ongoing series:
Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part II – The First Modern Bikepacking Race
Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part I – Trail Visions Ahead of Their Time

Back in the late 2000s, I was a geology Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado and a devoted cyclocross racer. I got up early and did intervals in the dark before class and I raced around in little circles every weekend from September to December, chasing other skinsuit-clad guys hopping on and off their bikes for rather contrived reasons. I flew around the country to some of the biggest race weekends, chasing UCI points and top-20 finishes. I was infatuated with the sport until I rather abruptly became bored of those little circles.

Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part II – The First Modern Bikepacking Race

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Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part II – The First Modern Bikepacking Race

Read part I here:  Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part I – Trail Visions Ahead of Their Time

With the ambitious origins of the Grand Loop being shared in Part I of this series, let us now dive into the impact the route had on the evolution of bikepacking, and more specifically, bikepacking races. After all, the Grand Loop Race (GLR) was arguably the first of the modern bikepacking events and is responsible for creation and evolution of some of the most popular and longest-running mountain bike ultras in the United States – the Colorado Trail Race and the Arizona Trail 300. The Grand Loop was also the first long and particularly difficult off-road route to become a notable draw for bikepackers.

Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part I – Trail Visions Ahead of Their Time

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Full Circle on the Grand Loop: Part I – Trail Visions Ahead of Their Time

“It took 18 miles of new trail to get around that 800 feet,” Paul Koski explained to me, shaking his head incredulously. “18 miles for 800 feet! I couldn’t believe it. It took years to make that happen, but I really think it was actually a huge improvement for the Paradox Trail.”

I stood leaning against a table saw in Koski’s woodworking shop in a massive quonset hut in the tiny town of Nucla, Colorado. He was sharing stories spanning several decades of history related to the Grand Loop and the Paradox Trail. Folks like Koski rarely receive the recognition they deserve for years upon years of dedication to mountain bike advocacy. The afternoon before, I had finished riding for 53 hours straight to set a new record on the Grand Loop, and although my mind was still a bit foggy from the effort, I was excited to finally have the chance to meet Koski. Whether he realized it or not, his efforts and those of others like him in the area had literally changed the trajectory of my own life years before.

Race the Oregon Timber Trail: Register and Join in on July 10th

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Race the Oregon Timber Trail: Register and Join in on July 10th

700 miles in 5 days? Sounds crazy to us but some folks think it’s possible. Since we launched the Oregon Timber Trail (OTT) in 2016 one of the most common questions is “How long does it take?” Most folks spend 2-3 weeks riding the almost 700 miles, but we’ve heard there’s been a few in the 11 day range.

This year our curiosity has gotten the best of us—we’ve partnered with Laird Superfood and Rapha to track Fastest Known Times (FKTs) on the whole OTT route and each of the four tiers. Similar to the Colorado Trail Race, The Arizona Trail Race, and the Tour Divide; the Timber Trail 700 is a free, unsupported endurance challenge. Anyone can attempt a record at any time, though we have a suggested Grand Depart date of July 10th if you like company.

Dead Man Gravel Registration is Open for BIPOC and Women

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Dead Man Gravel Registration is Open for BIPOC and Women

In its first year, Dead Man Gravel is the newest race to join the gravel racing circuit. Today, the DMG registration is open for women and BIPOC participants – and general registration opening on March 23rd for everyone else. The event is scheduled for July 31, 2021 in Nederland, Colorado. This unique event strives to be both inclusive – as organizers believe everyone should feel welcome, regardless of experience, race, gender, or sexual identity/orientation – and challenging – as very few other races have as much climbing, technical sections, and sustained elevation.

To strike a balance between challenging and inclusive, Dead Man Gravel will feature three courses: the 66 mile Tungsten loop, the 41 mile Gold loop, and the 25 mile Silver loop, providing three distinct experiences for riders of all levels. 

DMG is also partnering with Ride for Racial Justice and Shark Tooth Cycling, two non-profits doing incredible work in bringing new, and typically disadvantaged, athletes into the sport by helping to increase awareness and reduce barriers to entry.

Register today if you’re BIPOC, or female at Dead Man Gravel.

From DUST to Ashes… Fixed Gear Drag Racing on the Verneuk Mud Flat in South Africa

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From DUST to Ashes… Fixed Gear Drag Racing on the Verneuk Mud Flat in South Africa

You know how a hashtag can fuck you? Well maybe not, but a few years ago my good friend Nic and I had this idea … we’d always been intrigued by the pans – or mud flats – of the Northern Cape here in South Africa. At the time we were really getting into riding fixed gear bikes and one day it hit us – let’s take our fixed gear bikes onto the pan! Why not? Surreal landscapes, super smooth surfaces good enough for world speed records! Sounds like a good adventure right? We did some research and found out that that year there was a South African Speedweek planned in September 2014 on the Hakskeenpan, coinciding with the launch of a planned rocket-propelled car land speed record attempt – the Bloodhound SSC. We decided to travel up in Nic’s old 1963 Porsche 356 – it seemed appropriate. Bikes on the roof, gear in the back.

Chasing Fabian Burri

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Chasing Fabian Burri

What’s a day, an hour, a few seconds, or a month?
What’s the point of time if it’s still and untouched?
Where are we now, and can it be then?

I woke up that morning from sweat and fears, dreams that fade away in the blink of an eye but a feeling that takes longer, lingers around, just for a while. I had a crash but it left no rash.
I met Fabian over a year ago, in Oman, at a race, he was wearing skinny black stuff and had a lot of tattoos, he had a mustache and looked a lot like bike messengers, or my friends from Brazil.

A Digital Preview – Of Crank & Chain: Cyclocross

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A Digital Preview – Of Crank & Chain: Cyclocross

Of Crank & Chain: Cyclocross is a 240 page photographic and written expression of domestic cyclocross in 2019. Both black and white and color images captured locally in the Pacific Northwest as well as at UCI events around the nation, the book is not organized by the events themselves, but rather by parts of a race day from the events spanning the season, blended together and presented as one continuous event. None of the images contain captions of the who and the where, because, in a way, a season is a singular event and also features images of amateurs and professionals and doesn’t draw a distinction between them. In the U.S., we are all just ‘cross racers suffering on the same track. In that respect, American cyclocross paints amateurs and pros with essentially the same brush. More than anything the book is about what it is to race cyclocross and what goes into it, as opposed to a year in review.