29.05.2024 , ,


Tiffany Cromwell will face one of her biggest challenges on Saturday, 1 June. The Unbound 200 gravel race is a gruelling test of physical and mental strength. It’s 200 miles or 320 kilometres and around 12 hours of all-out racing from start to finish.

“Unbound—It’s the OG of gravel events in my eyes. It was one of the first events, at least that I know of, that created the concept of gravel racing/riding. The word spread, and people got curious and started making the trip to Emporia in the middle of Kansas to find out what it was about. It made mainstream media, Lifetime GP took over, and the event grew. They were one of the first gravel races to offer big prize money, and naturally, then, the ‘gravel pros’ started coming.”

“The course is unforgiving with the sharp rocks and peanut butter mud you find in the Flint hills surrounding Emporia. Then, as the race grew, it also became a true test of equipment and an opportunity for brands to showcase their equipment at this pinnacle event when all the eyes were watching.”

“These days, there are more and more gravel races of all lengths on the calendar. Some races can rival Unbound for the physical and mental tests. For some reason, gravel races like to go up against each other, but who can be more epic? You have Trakka in Girona that has a 350km or something like this distance. SBT GRVL and some of the BWR’s can be more than 250km days and long hours on the bike.”

“It will be the most demanding physical and mental gravel race I’ve ever done as I try to avoid these silly race distances. I can make it physically. Years of cycling endurance in my body will help me. It will be the mental side of spending that long on the bike as I’ve never done this kind of distance before. My back, neck, and feet will be aching by the end. I won’t want any more race food by the end. As it’s a lot of fuelling, you have to do. And just the countdown of kilometres on the long straight sectors of gravel will be a solid mental test. They say it can be pretty brutal out there if it’s hot. And hopefully, I have luck, too, as punctures are very common here. Hopefully, I can avoid it. But if not, hopefully, my rusty skills of fixing them are quick.”

“I still can’t say why I signed up for the 200. Peer pressure? A dare from a friend? I said I’d never do the 200, so I’m still questioning my decision! I wouldn’t say I like riding my bike that much to spend so long on the bike in one day. But I thought, you know what. If you want to play with the big kids. Then you’ve got to do the big one. I’ll do it this once, and I might never do it again. It’ll be a good challenge. If I can contest for the win or even a podium, it’s a massive achievement in the gravel world. So let’s see.”

I will fly into Kansas late, so I’m jet-lagged for the early start. Pre-race days, I’ll dial in the best setup with gearing, tyre pressure, size, and some plugging training. Then, I need to have an excellent fuelling strategy and focus on it throughout the race. We do have two pit stops where I’ll have support. So ideally, carry more fluid for the earlier part with bottles and a hydration pack. Then, I lose the weight later on as I get more tired. I don’t have a pacing strategy. I aim to play it smart with the other girls and save energy so that I can keep something in my legs early for later on when everyone is tired. It’s a women-only start, which means the start shouldn’t be as mental as when we start with the men, and it’s a game of last one standing. I plan to watch the girls I know who are good at these longer gravel races. I play the game against them and see how far or what I can do.”

“My goal is to fight for the win or podium. I know I’m going completely into the unknown, and finishing will be a personal achievement.”

Follow the race on the Instagram page of Unbound Gravel and with the live tracker for the Elite Women’s 200 race here:


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