Just a few days ago, Unbound 2022, one of the most important gravel races on the current scene, took place in Emporia. The event, located in the small town of the state of Kansas in the United States, is one of the most acclaimed by amateurs and professionals. This was the second round of the Life Time Grand Prix, and the longest of them all. Unbound is known for its toughness, basically due to the distance of the different courses, and its great atmosphere.
On this occasion, we were able to learn more about this race from María Ögn Guðmundsdóttir and Lydia Iglesias, both from Café du Cycliste (CdC). The CdC Gravel Team is the brand’s first official competition team, with a short but truly international squad. Danielle Larson and Annabel Fisher complete an all-female team in which each of the members comes from a totally different origin.
For both of them, it was their first participation in Unbound, and in Lydia’s case, it was also her official landing on the team. She won the 200 km version of The Traka, and that is when CdC got in touch with her to join the team and compete around the world.
Coming from Europe, a race in the United States is always a great show, with many events running parallel to the race itself, and everything was done in a big way with the whole local crowd to welcome the riders.
The distinctive terrain of Kansas is already familiar to any cyclist who competes there, so in the weeks and months leading up to the competition, all participants seek to prepare specifically for the conditions to be likely encountered on race day.
For Maria, her biggest concern was the heat, so her preparation for Unbound included sauna sessions to adjust to the change in temperature of the Midwest compared to her native Iceland. However, in this edition, the rain made an appearance, and the 40ºC that the participants had to face last year was not repeated this time.
With mud present for most of the day, the monotonous kilometric tracks became somewhat more technical terrain, something that Maria, with great experience as a mountain biker, was grateful for. Unfortunately, a crash near mile 80 put an end to his day and she had to abandon her attempt to finish the 200-mile race.
After participating in Unbound, Maria can say that she has competed in the place that many consider being the origin of gravel, and everything she has experienced on a sporting level has been complemented with new friendships and connections on a personal level since, for a week, Emporia had become the epicenter of this cycling discipline.
Lydia also felt the good vibe among the gravel community. Without much experience in this discipline, only a couple of races were necessary for her to realize that in gravel, most people prioritize having a good time, meeting fellow gravel enthusiasts, and enjoying the route.
Her incorporation into the CdC GT was unexpected but with open arms, and from the first moment everything was new opportunities for her present and future in this sport. After her victory at The Traka, Lydia finished in a totally well-deserved sixth place in the 100-mile version.
When asked about the differences compared to other events in which they had already participated, Lydia praises the atmosphere in the days before the race but also finds that the participants are forced to depend on themselves due to the lack of supplies or mechanical points. “If you’re unlucky enough to have a problem, you’re screwed,” she says.
The visibility that an event of this size brings is truly important for the women and Café du Cycliste. It is inspiring and motivating for other women and can encourage other brands to join and bet on a team like theirs.
After the long ride back home, the members of the Café du Cycliste Gravel Team are already thinking about their next meeting in Iceland for The Rift.