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Unbound Gravel part of six-race US series offering $250,000 prize purse to exclusive field

Unbound Gravel
Unbound Gravel (Image credit: Wil Matthews)

A new off-road racing series was unveiled Monday, with the Life Time Grand Prix offering a $250,000 prize purse with equal payouts for select fields of 20 elite men and 20 elite women. 

The Unbound Gravel, Crusher in the Tushar and Big Sugar Gravel gravel races will be combined with three mountain bike events to create the new series. Ther organisers said the six events named for 2022 will continue to operate individually and will continue to offer their own prize purses in addition to the $250,000 Grand Prix prize purse. 

The six races are part of a collection of 30 events owned by lifestyle brand Life Time, beginning with a new marathon mountain bike race, tentatively planned for a distance of 75 miles, at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterrey, California in April. The series will conclude in October with the second edition of Big Sugar Gravel held in Bentonville, Arkansas in October.

The application process for series spots, limited to just 20 for women and 20 for men, opens today and closes December 6. 

According to a press release issued by Life Time organisers, riders will be selected based on a range of criteria which include race resumes and results as well as feedback from the applicant on how he or she is “helping to grow cycling in the U.S. through their activities.”

“Life Time is proud to play a part in the changing landscape of professional and recreational cycling in the US.  After many years of declining participation, we’re experiencing a groundswell of growth, in both amateur and professional field sizes, especially in our gravel and mountain bike events,” said Kimo Seymour, president of Media and Events at Life Time. 

“Through the Life Time Grand Prix, we are excited to offer an opportunity for professional cyclists to achieve their potential domestically, and for fans of cycling to be able to engage with those athletes.” 

A points system will determine the individual standings for each gender category, with a final tally after Big Sugar based on the best five scores. With this format, organisers said it provides flexibility for riders to skip an event if needed without being penalised. The riders with the most points from their top five events at the end of the series will be the winners, and payouts will be awarded to the top 10 riders in each category. 

The Life Time Grand Prix is expected to name a new list of events in future editions, with some events rotating in or out of the calendar. 

The Sea Otter Classic has been the most recent acquisition by Life Time, which purchased the 30-year-old multi-discipline event in August. The four-day cycling festival, which has offered various downhill and cross-country mountain bike races in the past along with road and gravel competitions, will add the marathon mountain bike race to the schedule at Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterrey.

The Chequamegon mountain bike race, which Life Time acquired in 2011, and has been held in north-west Wisconsin since 1983 and is the longest-running event that is part of the inaugural series. 

Life Time, which owns fitness centres across the US, also owns and operates running and triathlon events such as the Verizon New York City Triathlon, Chicago Triathlon, Leadville Marathon & Heavy Half,  and Life Time Miami Marathon. 

The company has been adding a variety of cycling events over the past 10 years to its portfolio. In 2019, after purchasing Unbound Gravel, it launched Big Sugar Gravel as a ground-up event, the first edition taking place in 2021.

2022 Life Time Grand Prix Series lineup:

  • April (tbd) - marathon mountain bike race at Sea Otter Classic,  Monterrey, California 
  • June 4 - 200-mile UNBOUND Gravel, Emporia, Kansas 
  • July 9 - 70-mile Crusher in the Tushar, Beaver, Utah 
  • August 13 - Leadville Trail 100 MTB, Leadville, Colorado 
  • September 17 - 40-mile Chequamegon MTB, Cable, Wisconsin 
  • October 22 - 100-mile Big Sugar Gravel, Bentonville, Arkansas
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Jackie Tyson

Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in  Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).