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Ivar Slik wins Unbound Gravel 200

Dutchman Ivar Slik won the men’s 200-mile race of the 2022 Garmin Unbound Gravel presented by Craft, sprinting to the line in downtown Emporia, Kansas ahead of Keegan Swenson in second place and defending champion Ian Boswell in third.

Laurens ten Dam, who was the runner-up last year to Boswell in a two-up sprint, rolled across the line in fourth, seven seconds behind this year’s photo finish for the final two podium spots. Alexey Vermeulen, winner of the 2022 Belgian Waffle Ride California, was fifth.

“I was so happy, it was my big goal this year. So much can happen, you need a little bit of luck. I came here in the best condition. It is super cool to finish it off in a sprint of five,” Slik said after the victory, just his third gravel race of the season. 

Slik finished second at Gravel Locos this year, then raced Rule of Three in Bentonville, Arkansas, a late puncture taking him out of contention in that contest. 

Swenson took maximum points to continue to lead the men's division of the Life Time Grand Prix series, having won the opening round at Sea Otter Classic in the Fuego XC 80K. The deep mud on the southern route of the 200-mile course proved to have no major obstacles for the 2021 men’s champion of the USA Cycling Pro Mountain Bike Cross-Country Tour, however it was the sprint on the pavement and the big kick by Slik that kept him from going two for two.

A quartet of riders had made separation with under 36 miles to go, just after the second checkpoint - Slik, Boswell, Swenson and Vermeulen. The four leaders worked together, taking turns at the front with some flatter sections of hard-packed dirt roads, passing a long line of riders headed to the finish of the 100-mile event. Peter Stetina and Rob Britton rode together in the chase with Ten Dam close behind. 

By mile 186, less than 15 miles to go, Ten Dam had worked his way back to the lead group, having passed Stetina and Britton. 

After nine hours of racing and a route littered with mud and puddles in every pothole, the men’s field came down to a five-rider lead pack across the final 24 miles and through the final paved section through Emporia State University into downtown Emporia. 

Slik raced in a special kit with large stars to pay hommage to the American stunt performer Evel Knievel and won in 9:22:04. It was a second appearance at Unbound for the 29-year-old Dutchman, who raced the past two seasons on the UCI Continental team ABLOC CT out of the Netherlands. He added custom aero bars to his equipment setup this time around and noted that was an advantage this time around.

“I’ve never been this dirty. That was awesome," Boswell said at the finish, covered in mud. "I think I’m more proud of this year than last year. Last year was for myself, it was smooth sailing, like I had no issues, no flats. There was no mud, no rain. This year I had a lot more go wrong, I guess. I had a flat really early and some other bike issues. I crashed in the mud. 

"Once it was four of us, and Laurens came back, and it was similar to last year, everyone in that front group rode a great race. Like I said this morning, my hope was that someone would win that was the strongest rider. Ivan, gravelmeister, he’s freaking strong. He’s got a lot more power than me in a sprint."

How it unfolded

The 200-mile riders departed downtown Emporia, Kansas under cloudy conditions, the course already soaked from heavy rain storms earlier in the week, prompting organisers to modify the far southern section of the course late Thursday by taking out a few miles of impassable roads. 

Riders encountered rain and wind on the middle section of the course, with the sun coming out to dry some muddy areas by the second checkpoint.

In opening 20 miles, a large lead group included Spain’s Freddy Ovett, Dutchman Thomas Dekker, Samuel Hunter Grove, Stefano Barberi, Brennan Wertz, Alexey Vermeulen, Lance Haidet and Keegan Swenson. Logan Owen launched a solo attack from the large lead pack at mile marker 41.3, and he was soon joined by Swenson. 

When the 200-milers began their stops at the first of two checkpoints, mile 77.3 at Eureka, Owen and Swenson were back in a lead group with about 18 other riders. Ten Dan was the next rider to move out front after the aid station transition, with Stetina part of the chasers behind.

By mile 92, Paul Voss took a turn in the lead, but 12 miles later Ten Dam and Matta De Marchi had pushed in front of him, leaving 13 riders behind to chase about two minutes back. Ten Dam took a solo lead with 120 miles to go, and held the lead for another 15 miles.

By mile 147 a new group of five formed at the front -  Boswell, Vermeulen, Stetina, Swenson and Silk. Ten Dam has fallen off the lead and was chasing one minute back. Just 30 laters Russell Finsterwald and Rob Britton followed.

After the second checkpoint at Madison, with just under 36 miles to ride, the selection of Slik, Boswell, and Swenson was made, who were joined a few miles later by Vermeulen, and then in the next dozen miles by a charging Ten Dam.

Pro Men 200
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ivar Slik 9:22:04
2Keegan Swenson 0:00:01
3Ian Boswell
4Laurens ten Dam 0:00:07
5Alexey Vermeulen 0:00:22
6Robert Britton 0:02:22
7Russell Finsterwald 0:06:18
8Peter Stetina 0:08:56
9Payson Mcelveen 0:09:10
10Adam Roberge 0:10:24
11Lance Haidet 0:17:26
12Innokenty Zavyalov
13Mattia de Marchi 0:19:48
14John Borstelmann 0:20:48
15Paul Voss 0:25:18
16Sebastian Breuer 0:25:19
17Freddy Ovett 0:25:23
18Griffin Easter 0:35:32
19Kiel Reijnen 0:36:06
20Jasper Ockeloen 0:36:07
21Logan Owen
22Brent Bookwalter 0:36:08
23Alex Howes 0:36:09
24Andrew l'Esperance 0:36:10
25Dylan Johnson 0:36:39
26Nathan Haas 0:39:49
27Brennan Wertz 0:40:08
28Mike Barton 0:42:01
29Chase Wark 0:47:56
30Christopher Prendergast 0:47:57
31Thomas Dekker
32Jeremiah Bishop 0:47:58
33Brian Mcculloch 0:48:02
34Stephen Mull 0:53:23
35Alex Wild 0:55:08
36Kent Ross 0:55:09
37Ryan Standish 0:59:11
38Bradyn Lange 0:59:16
39Brent Mattison 0:59:19
40Barrett Brandon 1:04:02
41Theo Gilbertson 1:04:26
42Tanner Visnick 1:04:53
43John Shalekbriski 1:18:34
44Marcus Spratt 1:20:44
45Jacob Rathe 1:27:33

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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. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp. She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times (not fast). Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France), and some mtb rides in Park City, Utah (USA).

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