The Unbound gravel race is undoubtedly becoming one of the most prestigious one day-ish cycling events in the world. It’s claimed the title of “the world’s premier gravel event” and the hallmark is its 200mi event, which is now part of the Lifetime Grand Prix. However, they offer shorter options and an additional XL version: 350mi of pure joy.
Fueling for an event of this magnitude requires planning, diligence, and practice. Failing to “hit the mark” in hour numero uno may lead to true failure in hour 5, 6, 7 +. “Early and often” is vital to improving your ability to maintain the performance you desire for the full event.
Our guide will be targeted at that standard 200mi option, however all of these principles apply across the board!
June 4th, 2022
It is likely to be hot and dry, placing an even higher importance on being hydrated. While water is readily available, taking on electrolytes with your fluid will be key to maintaining asm much homeostasis as possible with regard to fluid levels.
All of the resources available show an average temperature to be expected between 84ºf – 87ºf for that time in June. During the 2021 edition when Ian Boswell won, it was bouncing around the 90ºf + mark...making a long day even more brutal.
This event racks up over 11,000 ft of vertical due to constant punchy climbs. There’s no consistent mountain pass by any means, meaning an undulating power profile and probably harder efforts than you’d expect (or want) over the route.
About 65% of the route is said to be “normal gravel road” that is relatively smooth and not technical. That being said, any sort of “unfocused glaze” that comes over an athlete may lead to mistakes.
The route will feature TWO official checkpoint locations where Riders will be allowed to meet their support crews. In addition, the event will provide TWO neutral water oasis. NOTE… support crews are NOT allowed at the water oasis. Water ONLY will be provided at the Oasis, so plan accordingly with the food and supplies you carry. -taken from Unbound’s website*
Essentially you have access to water every 40mi but only full support stations every 80mi. That is KEY to know. Carrying enough water for a 40mi stint is manageable but know you’ll need to be self-sufficient on the food and fueling side of things.
Your mode of fueling should be, well, all of them. While this event does have aid stations, carrying weight in liquid means the security of constant fuel and hydration. Having a hydration pack in addition to bottles is certainly recommended.
Our revised Feed Fueling Formula (FFF) is a simplified, cleaner version of our recommendation for athletes. Let’s review before we get into your plan for a gravel event!
It's all about Carbs per Hour.
Forget about calories – focus exclusively on how many carbs per hour you are consuming. You will see a massive performance improvement, especially in multi-hour workouts.
Most athletes training above zone 1 & 2 are burning around 3g of carbs per minute. Many female athletes may be burning even more. This is an average of 180g of carbs per hour you are burning. That’s a lot.
Your goal: consume 80g of carbs per hour.
It's easier said than done. You'll be amazed at how you are constantly eating/drinking, but remember you are replenishing less than half of what you are burning.
The Feed Fueling Formula (FFF) uses a ⚡️ icon to signify how many carbs every product has.
Gravel events are typically longer in duration and place a heavy emphasis on endurance. While the terrain can vary by event and location, most require a lot of time in Zones 3 where you are burning a lot of carbohydrates.
Additionally, with the roughness of gravel and the need to keep focus on your bike handling, this plan is tailored towards half of your per-hour fueling coming in the form of liquid.
If you are tackling a longer event, such as Unbound 200, then in this case your average pace might be a bit lower. You are likely burning less than 3g of carbs per minute. If so, think of dropping down to ⚡️⚡️⚡️ per hour.
Start line: One Gel (or half chew pack)⚡️⚡️
Want to stick to liquid calories only? Then a bottle of Maurten 320, Skratch Superfuel, or Neversecond C90 will get you all four ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️ in the ease of one bottle.
Pro Tip: bring sachets of Maurten 160/320 or NeverSecond to refill your bottles with when at feed/aid stations. That also eliminates about 2 Gels from your pockets, per hour.