All Photos: Bruce Buckley

Unbound was a tough race as always! Coming off a solid battle at 24HR Worlds in Italy 6 days prior to Unbound meant it was going to be a wildcard how the body would respond to another pretty big effort so soon. The recovery and travel after Italy went pretty well with a brief stopover in New York city before hopping a flight to Kansas Tuesday evening. Marco was waiting at the airport to give me a lift to his house for a couple of nights to relax at his house. Marco and his crew from Velo + in Kansas City have always been great and offered some amazing support getting the Libre race-ready and looking after all the feed zone and support duties for the weekend!

Race-wise I woke up at 4:30 Saturday morning, ate some overnight oats, had a Kenyan coffee, then proceeded to the start line in downtown Emporia to join 1200 racers to take on the 200-mile event which also made up the 2nd round of the Lifetime Fitness Grand Prix. I knew this was going to be a tough part of the schedule with the two biggest events of the year back to back. That’s the way the cards were dealt this year so you try to make the most of it, hoping for some sort of miracle. At 24-hour Worlds, I had a hand full of aces, played it well, and came home with the W. At the Unbound start line I probably had a couple of deuces and jokers in my hand but I was going to bluff my way as far as I could, and who knows, sometimes the legs can surprise you when you least expect it.

The first 80 miles of the race were hard as the lead group was whittled down to around 20 riders by the first feed zone. This was a good sign as I was still at the front of the race, my body was feeling ok and generally, the longer a race gets the better it turns out. Unfortunately, on this day the tank of diesel ran empty soon after the first feed zone as I went to chase back up to the lead group and quickly ran into trouble. Ian Boswell and a few other heavy hitters rode by me as I tried to cling to their wheels but the engine was starting to sputter. Soon after the body hit a full shutdown and it was turning into a long trudge to the finish line. Trying all the tricks in the book to wake the system back up, nothing worked as the body was apparently KO’d for the day. For the next 110 miles, riders would cruise by as I rolled along on fumes. The heart rate wouldn’t go over 110 bpm, mostly sitting just under 100, which is not the way you want to race. It was a beautiful ride through the Flint Hills of Kansas and I did get to meet some riders I normally wouldn’t meet, but deep down I was pretty bummed to not be fighting it out closer to the front.

Racing 24HR Worlds to the last lap was a tough battle, requiring some solid adrenaline surges, and I’m guessing the body wasn’t quite ready for another 10-hour effort so soon after. I have had some of the best races of my life two weeks after a 24HR race, but one week is questionable. Equipment and support wise we nailed Unbound with the Libre running flawlessly with its Shimano GRX drivetrain and wheels, while the Maxxis Rambler tire on the front and a tougher, Maxxis Re-Fuse on the rear were bombproof over the tough terrain of the flint hills.

Weather-wise it couldn’t have gotten much better with temperatures in the mid-’70s and lots of cloud cover. The course headed south this year into some gentler terrain and we had a solid tailwind for the finishing 30 miles back towards Emporia. We were hit by a 45-minute shower mid-race but otherwise, the conditions were great outside of the 1 mile stretch from hell, full of some horrendous mud. Thankfully there was a creek at the end of this section to wash the Libre and get her re-lubed with some Squirt wax lube for the last few hours to the finish line.

Huge shout out to Marco and his team at Velo+ for the great support, Jordan Sembler for being rad and helping out, Andy Holmwood for driving my Libre down from Canada (and the post-race lift to Colorado), as a well as Shimano, Maxxis, Julbo, and 7Mesh for the onsite support!

One day It would be nice to nail a good race down at Unbound but for now, it’s time for some recovery and to reset for the rest of the season as theirs still a pile of racing and adventures ahead!

Over and out from Breckenridge, CO. – Cory Wallace