The 2022 Unbound 200 gravel race produced a thrilling finale in Emporia, Kansas, on Saturday, with Ivar Slik the fastest in the four-rider sprint finish to win the men’s race.
After 206 filthy and furiously ridden miles, the Dutchman outpaced Keegan Swenson and 2021 champion Ian Boswell. Another former WorldTour pro, and last year’s runner-up, Laurens Ten Dam came home five seconds later.
European beach racing champion Slik rode a Wilier Rave SLR to a provisional winning time of 9:22:04, a course record despite the gloopy conditions.
Sofia Gomez Villafane took a resounding breakaway victory in the women’s 200-mile edition on a Specialized S-Works Crux. The 2022 Cape Epic mountain bike race winner finished in 10:27:40, good enough for 45th overall out of more than 1,000 entrants.
Lauren De Crescenzo was 10 minutes behind, dropping down a place from last year, while Emily Newsom rounded off the podium.
The developing discipline of gravel racing throws up a variety of bikes, so we’ve rounded up an appropriately eclectic selection of machines ridden at the 2022 Unbound.
Ivar Slik’s Wilier Rave SLR
The Wilier Rave SLR is the brand’s all-out gravel racer with near road-bike geometry and impressively low weight. And for Slik, the bike’s Profile Design aero bars made the already speedy bike faster still.
Wilier has built them into the integrated one-piece Filante cockpit. This features 440mm-wide bars and 140mm-long equivalent stem.
Aero or TT bars are an example of road and triathlon tech being adopted by long-distance racers and bikepackers for aerodynamic and comfort purposes. At a staggering average speed of 21.37mph, Slik must’ve felt he stood to gain from reduced drag on the open expanses of the Unbound course.
We tested the Campagnolo Ekar-equipped bike, which has a 13-speed 1x only groupset. But Slik requested a mix of road and gravel drivetrain components in a 2x setup.
He opted for road-inspired Shimano Ultegra 50/34 chainrings paired with an 11-34t cassette in order to have larger gears to push on the flat.
In previous gravel races this season, Slik rode with a Shimano Di2 GRX 46/30t crankset, which has easier gearing for hillier days, and the same ratio cassette.
The brakes, rotors and shifters are Shimano GRX Di2, the brand’s electronic gravel groupset. A Prologo Dimension AGX saddle was Slik’s perch of choice for the day.
A set of freshly-released carbon Miche Graff Route wheels shod with Schwalbe G-One R tyres set up tubeless complete the build.
The new Miche wheels weigh a claimed 1,565g and have a 36mm-deep rim and 24mm internal width.
The fast-rolling Schwalbe G-One R tyres are a gravel racer’s favourite but must have been on the slick side for the sloppy surface in the Flint Hills.
Ian Boswell’s Specialized ‘Stumpjumper’ Diverge
Ian Boswell didn’t retain his Unbound title, but the podium finisher did once again ride a retro-themed custom Specialized Diverge in a hot pink colourway.
Along with other Specialized athletes on ‘Team Diverge’, the former Team Sky climber’s bike riffs on the pink kit and bikes of the brand’s Team Stumpjumper mountain bike outfit from 1984.
SRAM-sponsored Boswell opted for the company’s wireless and electronic Eagle AXS shifting with a massive single 50t X-Sync chainring and a colossal 12-speed SRAM Eagle 10-50t cassette.
This amounts to a road-sized chainring for the high speeds gravel racing requires in tandem with the wide range of mountain bike cassettes.
The combination of the iridescent sprockets and SRAM’s 12-speed Eagle chain add bling to an already striking build.
Boswell swapped from the Coefficient RR handlebars he won on last year to a more conventional-looking set from Roval – Specialized’s in-house components brand – without adding TT extensions.
Roval Terre CLX wheels roll on 42mm Specialized Pathfinder Pro tubeless tyres. Boswell secured a tubeless repair kit to the underside of his Specialized Mirror saddle.
Whitney Allison’s Ibis Hakka MX
Whitney Allison was fourth place in the women’s Unbound 200 and 66th overall aboard this Ibis Hakka MX, an all-road bike specced with mechanical Shimano GRX, wheels from her sponsors ENVE and WTB tyres.
The hoops are ENVE SES 3.4s fitted to 42mm WTB Resolute tyres with SG2 puncture protection. A Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is mounted on ENVE SES AR carbon handlebars.
Although the Ibis Hakka MX frameset is compatible with electronic drivetrains, Allison favoured mechanical GRX shifters and GRX brakes.
An Ultegra crank turns Shimano 105 50/34 chainrings and Allison used a Stages powermeter.
Alexey Vermeulen’s 3T Exploro Racemax
Alexey Vermeulen rode his 3T Exploro Racemax to fifth place in this year’s edition of the race.
His bike was fitted with a Shimano GRX Di2 groupset in a 2x arrangement. This was paired with a conventionally sized 11-32t cassette.
The off-road version of Pro’s Stealth saddle – a favourite among the BikeRadar team – was Vermeulen’s saddle of choice for the day.
Unusually, Vermeulen opted to not use the top-tube mounts, instead employing a small frame pack mounted just behind the head tube.
A pair of Kenda Alluvium tyres, which feature a slick file-tread centre, finish off the build.