Unbound Gravel is, arguably, the most grueling and prestigious gravel cycling event on the racing calendar. With the 2021 edition of Unbound Gravel taking place on June 7, we’re excited to shine a spotlight on the Felt athletes who will be rolling to the start line, as well as their preparation for one of the most unique cycling challenges in the world. Be sure to check out our pre-Unbound interview with fellow TWENTY24 athlete Shayna Powless. (Photo: Dennis Farris)
The TWENTY24 Pro Cycling women's team is an incredible proponent of gravel racing. They've even set up their 2021 racing calendar to include a host of exciting and unique gravel events so that the team's athletes can ply their trade in some of the most demanding bike races imaginable. But the biggest event of the year is, undoubtedly, the 200-mile Unbound Gravel. We caught up with TWENTY24 athlete Jen Luebke as she prepares for Unbound, to find out how she's preparing for this most unique of gravel races.
FELT: Have you raced Unbound Gravel before?
Jen: I have never raced in Kansas before, although this 200-mile adventure has been on my bucket list of races and adventures!
FELT: What will racing Unbound—widely regarded as the most prestigious and toughest event on the gravel calendar—mean to you?
Jen: I don't think many people know if they can physically ride 200 miles, let alone race it. I'm so excited and nervous to attempt the feat. I also feel extremely lucky that I have an entry into this race. It's hard to get into, and for that I didn't know if I'd ever have the opportunity to do it in my bike racing career. Like I said, it's been on my bucket list of races and adventures so loosely since then. Firmly, since the day I found out I was racing.
FELT: Have you ever raced or ridden 200+ miles on dirt?
Jen: Not even close! My longest road ride was about 160 miles, and the longest dirt ride was 112 miles with 12,000 feet of climbing in 10 hours.
FELT: How do you anticipate your body will cope riding such a distance?
Jen: I'm most nervous about the heat and humidity that will come with the 200 miles. I'm not sure how I'll cope, but I'm going to do my best to stay cool and prevent cramping by hydrating and eating salty things.
FELT: Have you modified your training in any way to prepare for Unbound Gravel?
Jen: I've been incorporating back-to-back long rides to simulate the 200 miles, such as an afternoon five-hour ride, then the next day a morning seven-hour ride. I do a smaller version of that midweek, as well.
FELT: Do you have any specific strategies in mind to help deal with some potential surprises out on the course?
Jen: I've done my best to be able to anticipate what the race will be like, so I'm not surprised by much. I really think the name of the game will be eating and drinking to the finish line. Also, Coca-Cola is kind of a super power for me, so I'll have some of that.
FELT: Speaking of that, what’s your nutrition and hydration plan look like?
Jen: I'll be trying to shovel in about 400 calories an hour, and 24 ounces of fluid an hour. Some of those calories will look like junk, candy, and Coke, but I'm confident that will get me to the finish line.
FELT: What would a successful showing at Unbound Gravel look like to you?
Jen: If I can minimize the bad luck that can happen, keep moving forward all day long, and get to the finish line, then that will be a good showing. If I can do all of that with good luck and fast legs and finish in the top five, then that will be a fantastic showing for me.
Jen Luebke (c) will be joined by her TWENTY24 Pro Cycling teammates Natalia Franco (r) and Shayna Powless at the 2021 Unbound Gravel race. (Photo: Dennis Farris)
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