You've heard about the athletes, and you've heard about the organizers, but what about the…
A Year Of Mud And Memories at the 2022 garmin unbound gravel presented by craft sportswear
Since 2006, UNBOUND Gravel has become known for three iconic features:
- The tire-shredding gravel.
- The breathtaking beauty of the Flint Hills.
- The welcoming community of Emporia, Kansas.
All three elements came to life this weekend in Gravel City, U.S.A.
For four action-packed days (June 2-5), thousands of cyclists and gravel enthusiasts descended on the beautiful Kansas Prairie for a weekend of shake-out rides, after parties and chunky gravel. Between our six events (Junior, 25, 50, 100, 200, XL) and the (world’s largest) All Things Gravel Expo presented by City of Emporia, 300 booths and nearly 4,000 riders from 38 countries and all 50 states came together for the World’s Greatest Gravel Event.
The weekend kicked off on Thursday with a day full of group rides, cycling camaraderie and unrivaled Expo activations. After an inspiring Friday morning sunrise ride in memory of Moriah Wilson, our united band of cyclists pedaled back to Emporia for Day 2 of the Expo, with plenty of ice cream, brews and free swag to go around. Friday afternoon, on the corner of 6th and Mechanic, the racing began.
After some rain added a minor course re-route, our fearless, lionhearted, somewhat-insane XL riders kicked off their 350-mile gravel-grinding journey to the tune of clear skies and evening rays. As the sun set on the sun-baked gravel — and the rest of the UNBOUND Gravel cyclists caught some pre-race Zs — our XL riders stayed in the saddle and kept those wheels turning.
On Saturday morning, the remaining riders rose with the sun and met us in downtown Emporia for the start of our Junior, 25, 50, 100 and 200 events. Despite forecasted thunderstorms, only cloudy skies, cool breezes and some light rain greeted our hungry off-roaders at the start line at 8th and Mechanic. Stirred by the rhythms of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” an UNBOUND wave of determined cyclists hit the Hills.
On course, the heavy rain held off for the first half of the day, but around noon, the clouds broke. Across the miles and miles of Flint Hills trails, sun-baked gravel turned into rain-soaked mud, pulling even our toughest gravel-grinders down into the peanut-buttery depths. Despite the obstacles, our athletes kept their spirits high, lent each other a hand and cracked plenty of jokes. Some walked, some stayed in the saddle, but all embraced the gritty, often-unpredictable UNBOUND spirit.
Our first round of young champions came through Emporia just an hour after they started in the UNBOUND Junior Race. In a sibling battle between 16-year-old Asa Child and 14-year-old Rowan Child for Rochepart, Missouri, the older brother took the crown with a time of 1:06:46. 14-year-old Luke Ozment (Golden, Colorado) claimed the third spot, finishing just a second behind Rowan. On the girls’ side, six young gravel-grinders finished within five seconds of each other, with another pair of siblings claiming the top two spots. This time, the younger rider took the cake, 15-year-old Alexis Jaramillo (Colorado Spring, Colorado) — beating out her sister, 17-year-old Makala, and 17-year-old Oona Nelson (Lawrence, Kansas) by a single second.
Just after noon, our first XL rider, William Harrison (Charlotte, North Carolina), crossed the finish line in downtown Emporia, shattering the XL course record with a time of 20:17:27 to claim the men’s XL title. Marius Karteusch (Plettenberg, Germany) and Ernie Lechuga (Springdale, Arizona) finished second and third, respectively. Two hours later, Cynthia Frazier (Lexington, Virginia) claimed the women’s XL title with a time of 22:25:15 — improving from her fourth-place finish in 2021 — followed by Scotti Lechuga (Springdale, Arizona) and Andrea Dvorak (Longmont, Colorado).
In the 100 event, first-time UNBOUND Gravel rider Ethan Overson (Longmont, Colorado), and 2021 third-place finisher Marisa Boaz (Waukee, Iowa) claimed decisive, multi-minute victories with times of 5:01:01 and 5:23:16, respectively. Canyon Emmott (Midway, Utah) and Ben Delaney (Boulder, Colorado) rounded out the men’s podium, and Marjie Bemis (Corona, California) and Jessica Cerra (Encinitas, California) filled out the top 3 women.
Race day drama hit the Hills in the highly-touted 200 — event #2 (of 6) in the newest North American cycling series, the Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda. On the women’s side, fresh off a second-place finish at the Sea Otter Classic in April (the first Grand Prix event), 28-year-old Sofia Gomez Villafane (Heber City, Utah) separated herself from the pack early — and stayed there. With a time of 10:27:40, Sofia dethroned 2021 champ Lauren De Crescenzo (Atlanta, Georgia), who finished second at 10:36:47. Emily Newsom (Fort Worth, Texas) found the final podium spot at 10:49:43.
On the men’s side, no single rider could find separation — at least, not for long. Midway through the race, dutchman and 2021 runner-up Laurens Ten Dam (Oudorp, Netherlands) distanced himself from the pack, only to have a group of Keegan Swenson (Heber City, Utah), Alexey Vermeulen (Boulder, Colorado), defending champ Ian Boswell (Barnet, Vermont) and fellow dutchman Ivar Slik (Duiverndrecht, Netherlands) leave him behind around Mile 150. After a late charge, Ten Dam made up the lost distance to catch the pack before the iconic Rocky Ford Bridge (Mile 188), setting up a five-man sprint to the finish. In the end, it was Slik who pedaled out the one-second victory over Swenson (second) and Boswell (third).
Beyond the rip-roaring competition, we also saw our fair share of history made this year at UNBOUND Gravel 2022. In the 200, we had a FULL non-binary podium (and 17 competitors across all our events!). Rach McBride (Vancouver, Canada), Matt Regan (New London, New Hampshire) and Apollo Leonard (Bellingham, Washington) claimed the top three spots with times of 11:56:07, 13:23:37 and 14:23:29, respectively. A group of 32 incredible gravel-grinders also completed their fifth UNBOUND 200 this year, earning them a coveted spot in the UNBOUND 1,000-Mile Club (and a nifty goblet to boot).
The finish line stayed open (and POPPIN’) well after the Saturday sun set, but 200 rider Michael Rice (Odawara, Japan) didn’t wait that long — pedaling across the finish at 8:56 p.m. to become the last rider to “race the sun.” The official cut-off time came six hours later, at 3:07 a.m. Sunday morning, but our final gravel-grinder didn’t need the extra minutes. At 2:45 a.m., after 20-plus hours in the saddle, 200 rider Joe McWiliams (Alpharetta, Georgia) rolled over the line to a sea of (sleepily) cheering fans and a refreshing champagne shower, rounding out an epic weekend of beauty, community, and sweet, sweet gravel.
Results from Garmin UNBOUND Gravel 2022 presented by Craft can be viewed here. Thanks to our wonderful staff, volunteers, sponsors, Emporians, and all of you incredible gravel-grinders and cycling enthusiasts who make the World’s Greatest Gravel Event possible. We’ll see you next year!