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Unbound rewound: Rob Britton on his 6th place

The famous gravel race lived up to every one of his expectations

Photo by: Rob Britton

There was a strong Canadian presence at Unbound Gravel on Sunday, with Rob Britton and Haley Smith coming in 6th in their respective categories in the marquee 200 mile event. Ivar Slik of the Netherlands won the men’s and Argentina’s Sofia Gomez Villafane took the women’s race.

Britton retired from road racing in 2021, but decided to keep competing on the dirt. Like Smith, this was his first go at the biggest gravel race in North America.

“This is by far the longest race I’ve ever done,” Britton said. “I think the 2018 world championships in Austria will be second now. I was really happy with how my body felt the whole day, the race played out more or less how I figured it would with a series of surges throughout the day to help whittle down the group to about a dozen riders and then on the long climb about 100 km from the finish Ivar put in a pretty big acceleration and split the group in half. After that I rode in with Russel Finstergard for a while and then inevitably solo for the last fifty or so kilometers.”

Q & A with Rob Britton: Retirement, best last place ever and givin’ ‘er

The conditions were epic: with rain creating a very muddy day. All racers had to give a good think over their equipment choices. Too slick, they may slide in the mud, too treaded and it may slow them down. “For this race I used my brand-new felt breed carbon,” the BC native said. “I had it set up with Shimano GRX one X with an 11–34 cassette on the backend. 50 tooth Easton chain ring on the front. That was made possible by using my Classified powershift hub. The tires I chose to run were Schwalbe‘s brand-new G-one RS tires(700×40). They were incredibly fast and perfect for the course even in the mud!”

For Britton, it was a pretty interesting experience. “There’s so many riders at the start line and the terrain is quite unique compared to a lot of things I’ve ridden,” he said. “As a whole, Unbound lives up to its status as the biggest gravel race on the planet.”

Nutrition was a key factor in riding 320 kilometers. Many racers were seen on social media deliberating what to bring. It’s a long day of riding, so fuelling is important more than ever. For Britton. who is used to riding six to seven hours on the road, getting enough grub was not a challenge both before and during the race. “Honestly, I can’t even remember exactly what I ate, but it was a lot. A lot in the days before, a lot the morning of, and lots during the race. And then I had a lot after the race. I think I burned around 9000 calories in the day so I think I’m still hungry right now actually!”