UNBOUND Gravel 200: Lachlan Morton and Rosa Klöser Conquer the Flint Hills of Kansas

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Keegan Swenson retains the top spot of the men’s 2024 Life Time Grand Prix, while Haley Smith takes the lead of the women’s standings from Sofia Gomez Villafañe.

EMPORIA, Kansas (June 1, 2024) — An unprecedented nine-rider sprint finish resulted in a stunning debut win for German PhD student, Rosa Klöser, in the women’s elite UNBOUND Gravel 200. Australian fan-favorite Lachlan Morton (EF Education-EasyPost) took his first victory in the men’s race following a thrilling long-range breakaway alongside second-place finisher, Chad Haga (USA).

A couple of rain-free days allowed for the fastest racing ever seen at UNBOUND, with average speeds above 22mph (35kph) for the men’s race and 19.4mph (31kph) for the women. Following an overcast start to the day, blue skies and light winds characterised race-day conditions, with the dry, dusty dirt roads marking fears of ‘peanut butter mud’ as unfounded.

For the first time in the history of the race, the 2024 edition of UNBOUND Gravel saw the elite women’s field secure an individual start time a full 15 minutes after the elite men, and 25 minutes ahead of the amateurs.

Klöser’s victory followed an eventful day on the gravel roads North of Emporia, with a crash, flat tire and wheel change risking a premature end to her race. She worked hard to bridge a two-minute gap solo to contest the biggest sprint finish in the history of UNBOUND Gravel, beating high-caliber racers including SD-Worx’s Geerike Schreurs (Netherlands) and first American finisher Paige Onweller (Trek-Driftless) into second and third place.

Photo by Taylor Chase, www.chaseincolor.com, @chaseincolor, Life Time Grand Prix 2024, Unbound Gravel 200, Emporia, Kansas, June 1, 2024. Photo courtesy Life Time

In the men’s race, Denmark’s Tobias Kongstad attacked early, setting the stage for an 200-mile game of cat and mouse which pitted breakaways against enormous chasing groups. Big names including defending Life Time Grand Prix champion Keegan Swenson (USA), UCI Gravel World champion Matej Mohorič (Slovenia), Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) and Ian Boswell (USA) tested the pace for the of 50-strong packs of chasers, but Haga’s attack around 150 miles – with Morton in close pursuit – set the scene for the final hours of the race.

A final sprint for the line down Emporia’s Commercial Street saw Morton triumph over Haga, with Kongstad’s 6am efforts on Emporia’s asphalt rewarded with third place just three minutes after the breakaway pair.

Photo by Dan Hughes, Life Time Grand Prix 2024, Unbound Gravel 200, Emporia, Kansas, June 1, 2024. Photo courtesy Life Time

These results have triggered a number of changes to the Life Time Grand Prix overall standings, with UNBOUND Gravel 200 acting as the second race in the seven-race series.

Swenson’s 14th place allows him to maintain his place at the top of the men’s leaderboard with 59 points, Payson McElveen is now hot on his heels in second place (58 points) after crossing the UNBOUND finish line in 8th. Matthew Beers retains third place in the overall standings (56 points) following today’s 13th place finish.

Today’s racing has given the women’s Life Time Grand Prix standings a significant shake up, with Fuego XL winner Sofia Gomez Villafañe’s 15th place seeing her drop to third (55 points), while Haley Smith’s UNBOUND 4th place boosts her to the top of the overall podium (62 points). Hannah Otto has also taken a step up the standings to second (58 points), following her 8th place result, just two seconds behind today’s race winner. 

Reaction from the UNBOUND Gravel 200 winners

Men’s winner Lachlan Morton said: “It was a very fast and hectic start. After Little Egypt we got down to a small group but no one really wanted to take the pace up. When Chad went away I was like that’s the guy I want to be with. I managed to get across to him and I knew if we teamed up we’d both be committed. We didn’t need to say many words, we were both on the same wavelength.

“There was definitely a lot of unknowns with people feeling each other out today. The bigger the groups were, the harder it was to communicate and get the group working together, so I knew that was going to be going on behind us. You’re never really sure of the gap, but I knew we were moving fast and they would have to be really committed behind to catch us.

“Once we got back to town it was always going to be a bit technical, but I was lucky in that I’ve done this finish a couple of times and made those mistakes in the last races.

“To be honest I thought a win here was kind of beyond me now. The levels continue to get higher, and I’m getting older. I’m just really happy with how it went today. I went away by myself with 120 mies to go into a headwind, I just wanted to race hard and race with everything I had. I wanted to leave everything out there today, and in the end I did.”

Photo by Taylor Chase, www.chaseincolor.com, @chaseincolor, Life Time Grand Prix 2024, Unbound Gravel 200, Emporia, Kansas, June 1, 2024. Photo courtesy Life Time

Women’s winner Rosa Klöser said: “My day was definitely adventurous and very mixed. I was happy to make the decisive split and be in the front group with around fifteen women, but I think it was before the first feed zone that I hit a big rock, crashed and had a flat tire in the front. Luckily I was running inserts so I could try to keep going with the girls but they were really strong so it was very hard.

“We did a pit stop change on my front wheel and I only lost around two minutes to the leaders. I told myself I’m going to die trying to close this gap, but I made it! I got back, I was pretty cooked but in the end I was so happy that we had completely our own race that I decided I’m going to keep pushing and keep working, and give a lot of pulls because I want to show everyone how cool it can be that we have our own race. At the end I knew I had a pretty okay sprint after a long day out.

“This was my first UNBOUND. I only started cycling a couple of years ago and I’m still a full time PhD student, so I cycle part time. I still can’t believe I won!”.

Photo by Taylor Chase, www.chaseincolor.com, @chaseincolor, Life Time Grand Prix 2024, Unbound Gravel 200, Emporia, Kansas, June 1, 2024. Photo courtesy Life Time

Click HERE (men) and HERE (women) for the full race results. Extended highlights of the UNBOUND Gravel 200 will be available on the official Life Time Grand Prix YouTube channel.

 

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