Unbound Gravel 200 Men: Emporia - Emporia
American Ian Boswell used a locomotive-like power surge in the closing metres to steamroll Dutchman Laurens ten Dam at the line and win the Unbound Gravel 200 on Saturday. The duo had been part of a dwindling lead group, which had included seven riders mid-race, and with 10 miles to go had been reduced to the two-man train, working together through strong winds.
Boswell, retired from pro cycling to work full-time at Wahoo Fitness, said he had not trained a great deal leading up to the race. He pulled off a surprise win in his inaugural appearance at the Emporia, Kansas event and takes over as the king of gravel.
“Honestly, just surprise,” Boswell said at the finish to reporters about his immediate reaction. “I haven’t won a bike race in a really long time. I mean, to just keep making splits and in the last 10 miles I knew it would be between Laurens and I.
“My first time here and I wouldn’t say I’m under-prepared, but I’m somewhat under-prepared I have less expectations on myself. Yeah, man, I couldn’t have come to the finish with a better person to sprint against. We’re both a little slow on the sprints, but it’s pretty incredible.”
Ten Dam, who won the recent Gravel Locos, has the same time at the line. Third place was also decided in a sprint in then narrow finishing chute in downtown Emporia, Stetina taking third and King fourth. Defending champion Colin Strickland (Meteor X Giordana), who suffered a flat tire earlier in the race, finished fifth.
“I think the biggest thing was just no expectations,” Boswell added. “I really did come here to perform, but there’s no pressure. And early on I was lucky, all those technical sections I was the last person to make it every time. I’m not willing to take risks like other people.”
At the finish line, Boswell likened his win to a Toby Keith country music song that includes a chorus of, “I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was.”
How it unfolded
Halfway through the 206.8-mile dirt adventure in the Flint Hills of Kansas, a lead group of seven took shape as it raced across Little Egypt Road, the same place in 2019 where another significant break took place to ignite the pace.
Strickland looked strong with companions in the group that included two-time Unbound Gravel champion Ted King, 2019 runner-up Peter Stetina, Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling), 2015 US Pro criterium champion Eric Marcotte, former WorldTour riders Boswell and Ten Dam.
At a neutral water oasis near Alta Vista at mile marker 125.2, Marcotte had been dropped from the group, then later Carpenter.
Boswell, King and Ten Dam entered the second checkpoint town in Council Grove together, but didn’t seem in a hurry as they allowed Strickland and Stetina, who were within sight, to rejoin the group. The five-some had built a 17-minute advantage over a chasing group of four – Carpenter, Reid Foster, Dennis Van Winden and Jeremiah Bishop.
The battle heated up as a sustained headwind slowed the pace a bit under the hot, Midwestern sunshine. Stetina was the first to attack, using an aerodynamic position to push through the wind near the mile 185 mark, opening a gap by the time he rode past Kahola Dam.
The solo mission back to Emporia only lasted a few miles, as Boswell, King and Ten Dam worked together in the strong wind to catch, then pass Stetina, who did not seem to have enough power to catch a wheel and follow.
With King no longer in the battle with 10 miles to go, Boswell and Ten Dam steamrolled into a strong wind toward the finish in downtown Emporia. King hooked up with Stetina, riding almost a minute down, but only lost ground, as did Strickland, riding solo in fifth.
“We said, OK, we’ll go to the line together. It was a headwind sprint. I’m not a snappy guy at all. I was on his wheel, but I couldn’t get over it. It was one-two for Specialized, and I told him at least I won my age group,” Ten Dam, 10 years older than Boswell, said after the finish.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|2||Laurens Ten Dam|
|7||Dennis Van Winden||0:31:56|
|14||Andrea De Silvestris||1:06:06|
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