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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.

Lael Wilcox’s Trans Alaska Pipeline Time Trial Gear List and Introduction

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Lael Wilcox’s Trans Alaska Pipeline Time Trial Gear List and Introduction

I was born in Anchorage, Alaska, as was my mother. My grandfather was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, as was his father.

Alaska became a state in 1959. It’s a complicated and very beautiful place. It’s home.

In 2017, I rode all of the major roads in the state— about 4,500 miles, a mix of gravel and pavement. By land, Alaska is huge— twice the size of Texas. The road system is very limited, many places are isolated. I wanted to ride my bike to connect as much as I could. I set out in a series of trips— riding for a week or two at a time and hitching back to town to work at The Bicycle Shop to fund the next leg. For the most part, I rode alone. It was a lot of freedom and I had the time of my life.

Reflecting on my rides later, I wanted to go back to share my experience. Both with Rue, the love of my life, and with the public through photos and videos. This is something I have thought about since the fall of 2017.

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!

“Lael Rides Alaska” 2021 Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship Winners!

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“Lael Rides Alaska” 2021 Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship Winners!

Please see Part 01 here: Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 01
and Part 02 here: Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 02
and part 03 here: Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 03

Design a 1,000-mile route in Alaska, tell me your plan, about yourself and what you need to make it happen. We’ll supply the bike, gear and a travel stipend and then you get to go do it this summer.

I am blown away by the honesty and ambition of this year’s applicants. They told true, sometimes hard, stories and hopes for the future. This has been a difficult year for everyone and I am deeply inspired by all who applied and shared openly about their experiences and their drive for adventure and challenge.

With the help of Cari Carmean, Natsuko Hirose, Kailey Kornhauser and Abigale Wilson, we narrowed the 126 applicants down to 11 finalists. I am beyond excited to announce that Dorothy O’Donnell and Olivia Juarez are the two recipients of the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship…

Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 01

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Top 11 finalist for the 2021 “Lael Rides Alaska” Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship: Part 01

Top 11 finalists for the “Lael Rides Alaska” 2021 Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship

Design a 1,000 mile Alaska bike adventure, tell me about your plan and yourself and how you’ll make it happen this summer.

With the help of Cari Carmean, Natsuko Hirose, Kailey Kornhauser, and Abigale Wilson, we’ve selected 11 finalists from the 126 applicants. It has been extremely encouraging to read about women from around the world that want to take on this challenge and have so many unique approaches. I am honored to share a few of their stories. This has been a hard year for everyone. While highlighting positivity, there’s always an undercurrent of endurance and reflection. These are bold stories of perseverance, of finding connection, learning about ourselves and what truly matters.

I’m thrilled to share that we have the capacity to give out two full scholarships this year to outfit two different adventures this summer. Thank you so much to our generous and thoughtful sponsors.

The winners will receive either a complete Specialized Diverge with Easton carbon wheels or an adventure bike built up by SRAM, Revelate Designs bikepacking bags, Big Agnes camping equipment, PEARL iZUMi apparel, a premium subscription to Komoot, a Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM GPS, a $300 gift card for Competitive Cyclist, Rene Herse tires, an Ergon saddle, a year subscription to Bicycle Quarterly, Trail Butter, Hydro Flask hydration, and a $1,500 travel stipend provided by Easton, and the Radavist will also kick in a $500 travel stipend for one of the finalists.

Now’s the really hard part– we have to choose two winners. Announcements to come later this week.

Read on below for the first of three posts showcasing the 11 finalists…

Rapha Sponsors Sarah Sturm and Lael Wilcox and Launches Women’s Instagram Channel

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Rapha Sponsors Sarah Sturm and Lael Wilcox and Launches Women’s Instagram Channel

Rapha is growing their support for women and not just professional cyclists. Today the brand announced its sponsorship of two charismatic personalities, Sarah Sturm and Lael Wilcox. Both of these women are great representatives of the gravel/adventure/touring market and we couldn’t be more stoked for them. Rapha also launched a women’s Instagram, so keep an eye on that for more updates as events warrant.

Lael Rides Alaska 2021 Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship

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Lael Rides Alaska 2021 Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship

In the summer of 2017, Lael Wilcox rode all of the major roads in Alaska, totaling 4,500 miles on mixed pavement and gravel. Lael is fourth-generation Alaskan. This is where she began endurance riding and her goal to get to know her home state.

In 2020, Lael went back to Alaska with her girlfriend Rue, a photojournalist, to ride together and document her project of riding all of the roads.

This scholarship is intended to enable another woman to design and ride her own 1,000 mile Alaskan adventure in the summer of 2021. This scholarship is open to a woman (including femme, trans and non-binary) of any age with any level of bicycle touring experience. We are looking for positive energy and a strong desire to experience the remote roads of Alaska and have some fun.

The recipient of the scholarship will receive a Specialized Diverge bicycle, Revelate Designs bikepacking bags, PEARL iZUMi apparel, a premium subscription to Komoot, Easton wheels, a Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM GPS, Big Agnes camping equipment, Rene Herse tires, a year subscription to Bicycle Quarterly, Trail Butter, and a $1,500 travel stipend provided by Easton.

Prepare a digital application based upon the questions on the following page and send to Lael Wilcox and the selection team at laelridesalaska@gmail.com no later than February 6, 2021. Provide your responses as the text of an email. The recipient of the scholarship will be announced April 5, 2021.

The scholarship selection team includes Lael Wilcox, previous scholarship recipients Kailey Kornhauser and Brooke Larsen, Abigale Wilson from PEARL iZUMi, Cari Carmean from The Radavist, and Natsuko Hirose from Bicycle Quarterly.

Head to LaelWilcox.com to apply for this scholarship!

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Lael Rides Alaska

After we featured various Lael Rides Alaska stories last year, PEARL iZUMi has sponsored this wonderful video project by Rue!

Lael Wilcox is a 4th generation Alaskan and an ultra-distance cyclist. In 2014, she began pushing her limits in her home state and dreamed that one day, she’d ride all of the major roads in Alaska– connecting the dots and traveling under her own steam to places she’d heard of but never seen. In 2017, after her first year running Anchorage GRIT, Lael spent the summer riding all of the roads, some 4,500 miles. She had the time of her life but rode mostly solo, and that experience was all her own. In reflection, she wanted to share more–to show people the beauty and truth of Alaska and inspire more people to ride there. The global pandemic of 2020 provided a unique opportunity to revisit this project–ride from home, spend time with her family, bring them along, and encourage others to pursue their own adventures.

Riding roads is feeling topography and weather, seeing history and reality, and experiencing everything along the way. If the finish line is home, how much farther can we go? If we bring along our loved ones, how much more will it mean?

This project is in support of the Anchorage GRIT project and the “Lael Ride Alaska Women’s Scholarship Program.”

Lael Rides Alaska: End of the Season

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Lael Rides Alaska: End of the Season

Alaskan summer energy, at its height, seems endless. You don’t need lights because the sun never sets. Schedules are mostly irrelevant— ride late, sleep in, take breaks, or never stop. It’s all possible.

Then the dark starts eating into the day. In late August, we start losing minutes that cumulate into hours over weeks. It’s hard to adjust. Night returns. And maybe that’s part of what makes it so special. That fleeting feeling of freedom that leaves, but not forever.

Lael Rides Alaska: Alaskan Island Time

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Lael Rides Alaska: Alaskan Island Time

We continue our Lael Rides Alaska series with a beautiful story from a series of rides on some of Alaska’s islands. Check out more from this series in the ‘Related’ column below when you’re done reading this entry. Enjoy!

Staring at maps in 2017 on my mission to ride all of the major roads in Alaska, I was drawn in by a few remote destinations with more extensive road networks, specifically Nome, Kodiak Island, and Prince of Wales Island. In that summer, I made it to Nome and rode the three roads out of town— to the native village of Teller, to the river that leads to the historic gold mining town of Council, and to the active mining road that ends at the Kougarok River for a total of 230 miles.

Lael Rides Alaska: Touring the Dalton Highway and Gear Breakdown

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Lael Rides Alaska: Touring the Dalton Highway and Gear Breakdown

Dalton Highway

We land in Deadhorse on the North Slope of Alaska in the evening under sunny skies and drag our cardboard bike boxes out of the single gate terminal. We’re the only passengers on the flight not starting a two-week work shift on the oil fields. The wind is ripping so fast, it’s hard to put the bikes together. We help each other. We velcro bags to our bikes and load up our camping gear. It’s cold enough that we put on all of our clothing layers. We cram days’ worth of food into every pack. The workers at the airport are kind and helpful. A woman gives us directions to the shop where we can buy a camping stove canister and a can of bear spray that we couldn’t bring on the plane. She asks us to leave our bike boxes in storage. They always save the big ones for hunters.

René Herse and Lael Wilcox: Oracle Ridge 700x48mm Tires

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René Herse and Lael Wilcox: Oracle Ridge 700x48mm Tires

The second collaboration between René Herse tires and Lael Wilcox has hit the stock shelves. The Oracle Ridge is road-centric knobby and a dirt-ready road tire, it’s up to you to decide. At 48 mm wide, the Oracle Ridge is between a gravel race tire (38 mm) and mountain bike volume (55 mm). If your gravel bike just barely won’t fit a 55mm tire, chances are it’ll fit a 48mm. There are three casings available now at René Herse.

The Standard casing is a more affordable option that also offers extra protection against sidewall cuts on sharp rocks. The Extralight casing takes the performance, comfort and feel of your bike to an entirely new level. The Endurance casing is reinforced for extra sidewall protection and puncture resistance, while retaining most of the speed and comfort for which Rene Herse tires are famous. See more at René Herse.

Lael Wilcox’s Kenai 250 2021 Specialized Epic Evo Pro with Hope Tech

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Lael Wilcox’s Kenai 250 2021 Specialized Epic Evo Pro with Hope Tech

The Kenai 250 is a 257-mile, self-supported mountain bike race in the Kenai peninsula, the only area in Alaska with a large network of singletrack trails maintained by the forest service. The race organizer, Michael Braun, stitched together a route that connects the trails with highway miles. It’s 60% singletrack and 40% pavement. The race has been going on since at least 2013. This year, with 36 starters, it’s a record setting year for participation. This will be my first time racing it. I grew up in Alaska. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to ride and race in my home state. A couple weeks ago, Rue and I went out to tour the trails– several of which I’d never ridden. In a single day, from my bike seat, I saw a moose cooling off in a pond and both a lynx and a grizzly bear crossed my path. Alaska is still very wild. I’m really looking forward to riding through the night and experiencing this full route in one go. It would make a great multi-day tour as well.

Back In Alaska to Share the Story of the Roads: Lael Wilcox Rides Alaska

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Back In Alaska to Share the Story of the Roads: Lael Wilcox Rides Alaska

My dream was to ride all of the major roads in Alaska and I did in 2017. I’m fourth-generation Alaskan. It’s where I got into endurance riding on my mom’s Specialized Ruby in between bartending shifts in 2014. Examining the map and fitting in the biggest rides I could on my two days off led me to the goal of riding them all, imagining what the 2D map could look like in real life and why the roads existed in the first place. Three years later, I had a wide open summer and I was ready for an open-ended adventure. Four thousand five hundred miles took me past Wiseman to the north slope at Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean, through Chicken to Eagle on the Yukon River, to the three hot springs north of Fairbanks, into Denali National Park and across the Denali Highway to Paxson. I used The Milepost, the local guidebook that chronicles every mile of Alaskan road with conditions and services. If the road is listed in The Milepost, I had to ride it. About two-thirds were paved and a third, high-quality dirt.