This will be a shakeup of gravel racing in 2023… starting this year UNBOUND Gravel has banned “any kind” of aerobars or bar extensions from the elite field of pro racers in the name of rider safety. That’s quite notable as all four eilte winners in 2022 won racing with aerobars. Elite racers will also get new starting slots. But don’t worry amateurs, Unbound organizers have your comfort in mind too..
all photos c. Life Time & Wilier
The headliner of Life Time’s shakeup of elite gravel racing was actually that the Unbound 200 distance will newly separate a staggered start for the Elite Men & Elite Women – 2 minutes apart, and 10 minutes ahead of amateurs for everyone’s safety. The idea is to get the fastest ultra-competitive riders out on the gravel roads first, so the 4000 amateurs can have the more classic experience like in those early DK200 days. And those pro riders who are racing for their job don’t get tangled up with overly-ambitious amateurs in the early miles.
Life Time also explains that the staggered starts will help them provide better & more fair media coverage for both the men & women, and make it easier to see which riders are really racing against each other.
Elite Aerobar Racing Ban
The aerobar ban was almost treated as a minor side issue, aimed also at improving racer safety “by mitigating the risk for crashing at high speeds”. Aerobars are certainly a contentious topic in gravel racing, as the aero advantage is real at race pace but also a much-needed alternative hand/arm position to alleviate fatigue and even nerve damage over long and exceptionally long events.
Yet, it is also clear that pretty much all mass start racing events ban them, as you really don’t want unfamiliar riders next to you in a bunch with their hands away from the brakes in a position that also compromises their ability to steer.
Important to note though, amateur & age-group racers are still free to use aerobars, across everything from the 25-mile through 350-mile courses. Only the most popular 100- & 200-mile races officially have Pro categories for both women and men. And while the XL features Open categories where elites & professionals can race, aerobars will still be permitted for this 350-mile course.
The rationale is that these amateur and longer distance races are contested by more spread out fields, and at a generally lower pace, so there is less of a danger of riders tucked into a compromised aero position in fast-moving groups.
Want to know more? Kimo Seymour, President of Life Time Events and Media and Kristi Mohn, Unbound Marketing Manager, sat down with Ian Boswell on his Breakfast with Boz podcast to chat more about the updates.