Heading to Unbound

Hitting our stride

Though Unbound has been an important race on the gravel calendar for many years, it has recently emerged as probably the most important race – gravel or road – that takes place in June.

On Saturday, June 1, the best gravel racers in the world will arrive in Emporia, Kansas for the 18th edition of Unbound Gravel. For the first time in two editions, the route will head north, which should promise it will be a chunky slog over very technical gravel.

LDC’s advantage

Factor-athlete Lauren De Crescenzo is excited.

“The last time it went north, I won. That’s a better route for me because it doesn’t get so peanut buttery mud because it is rockier and chunkier,” she said. “Overall, I think that route is slower because the year I won, I did it in like 12 hours, but the year I got second going south, I did it in like 10.5 hours. The gravel is slower going north, and requires more power. And it probably doesn’t favor group dynamics as much.”

Since one of Lauren’s superpowers is to be able to put out like a million watts for extended periods, she likes the idea of a course that will favor power output over drafting advantages. This season, she has made a habit out of dropping all competition and soloing in for her wins, as she did at Mid South Gravel Race and Levi’s Gran Fondo. So focusing on her bike fit and aerodynamics has taken precedence this season.

“I’ll be racing the OSTRO Gravel with all Black Inc Aero Integrated Barstem and the THIRTY FOUR wheels with Maxxis tires. I’m riding the THIRTY FOURs because they are so durable, but still offer a perceptible aero advantage. Aero is most important,” she said. “I realized I needed to get more aero after taking 2nd behind Kasia Niewiadoma last year at Big Sugar. I saw pics and she looked so incredibly aero compared to me. Now I am working on getting the perfect 90° angle at my elbows. I’m more slammed and I feel more aero. Still comfortable, but I was way too upright last season. Looking for all the free speed I can find.”

What’s Lauren riding?


OSTRO Gravel by Factor Bikes


Black Inc Integrated Aero Barstem


Factor, 0mm setback






Maxxis Reaver 45 Silk Shield Edition 60psi (or maybe the Refuse, or maybe the Ramblers)

“I have multiple options for my Maxxis tires because it will be a gametime decision depending on the weather and gravel conditions,” Lauren explained. “My normal weather condition tire is going to be the Reaver that I have been riding a lot. The 45s and they are running a special edition silk shield which offers the most sidewall protection. At 60 psi if it’s normal weather. If it’s not normal weather, I’m thinking of running a slick, which is crazy. The Refuse 40s. For really wet weather. That’s one option. And then if I am a big chicken, my safety choice is just to ride the Ramblers. They can handle anything.”

Pre-race prep

US Road Nationals? As a training ride? Well, that’s what Lauren has on her schedule for this weekend. So much for tapering, right? Actually, two weekends before Unbound, it makes perfect sense. Unbound is 200 miles on gravel. And the US National Road Race is 78 miles on the road and 7500 ft. of climbing. Easy. “Yeah, I’m kinda looking at it as a great training ride; it’s a 90-rider group ride,” Lauren jokingly said

“But really, a good result would be cool. I took 2nd the last time I raced it. And the field is really strong with riders who have been winning WorldTour races in Europe. My training has definitely been leaning more towards Unbound. But I’ve been mixing in VO2 workouts into the long training weeks. I am definitely focusing more on Unbound. But Nationals will be a nice 3-hour boost.”

Lauren frequently says that she is a roadie with a heart full of gravel. This year she has already taken emphatic victories at the elite gravel race Mid South Gravel Race and the newly minted most important US one-day road race at the Growler of Levi’s Gran Fondo. In both events she simply powered away from the competition to take long range solo victories. It doesn’t take looking into a crystal ball to see the possibility of that happening again.

Follow Lauren to keep up to date with her season progress and race updates:

Lauren De Crescenzo