Mud, dirt, rivalries and camaraderie - if the first few episodes of season two of Call of a Life Time are any indication of what the rest of the season chronicling the 2023 Life Time Grand Prix holds, viewers are in for a wild ride.
Arguably the hottest contest in the U.S. at the moment, the Life Time Grand Prix features a cast of handpicked elite athletes, including WorldTour roadies, gravel privateers and a former elite rower, all competing in the toughest off-road cycling events in the U.S. in pursuit of a very large prize purse.
Debuting at 6 p.m. CT on YouTube, the six-part docuseries are made up of five videos: one episode capturing the 2023 Sea Otter Classic, and two episodes apiece (one for the women’s race and one for the men’s race) covering Unbound and Leadville. The docuseries aims to drum up some excitement as we get ready for the start of another Lifetime Grand Prix season at the Sea Otter Classic in April.
Coverage this year not only includes side-by-side camerawork, but also content captured from e-bikes, motos, drones and, even, a helicopter.
“I can’t believe anyone signs up for this for fun - this is my job, but I can’t believe anyone would do this for fun," commented the mud-caked 2023 series champ, Sofia Gomez Villafañe.
Speaking of fun, Call of a Life Time depicts the different attitudes riders bring to race day. Some resist too much media coverage and have their game face on from the moment they arrive at the venue, while some take a more relaxed approach.
In the Unbound women’s episode, top female pro Sarah Sturm arrives in Emporia via a school bus-turned-hippy-bus. She’s lighthearted and easygoing as she pulls to a stop, but shoots the camera a quick side eye and says, “I’m not going to name names, but it’s a pretty low bar to have more fun than some of the other bikers.”
Sturm went on to finish as the fourth female at Unbound.
Despite the cornucopia of personalities that saddle up on race day, everyone is in it for the win or a chance at the podium. Epic drone and helicopter footage along with roadside cameras make this season of Call of a Life Time feel cinematic, and turn a generally spectator-unfriendly sport into one we feel part of from the comfort of home.
The footage captures the race tactics in action and highlights just how much thinking goes into a race that extends for five hours or more.
“[Racing] is like a game of chess,” male pro Russell Finsterwald says in the Leadville episode. “To have a perfect race so many things have to line up - equipment, tactics, nutrition and just a little bit of luck.”
Finsterwald would go on to finish fourth overall in the 2023 Life Time Grand Prix series.
The docuseries clearly highlights the admiration - and at times, the frustration - that other pros have toward the series winners, power couple Keegan Swenson and Sofia Gomez Villafañe, capturing breakaways from their respective chase packs and crossing multiple finish lines without another contender in sight.
Male pro Alexey Vermeulen is complimentary of Swenson’s prowess in the Leadville episode, but notes that he thinks “cracks in the armor” are coming for Swenson and that he “is not unbeatable.”
At the closing of each race, though, it’s clear most riders share tremendous camaraderie with each other, sharing hugs, pats on the back and words of congratulations to teammates and competitors.
Female pro Ellen Campbell sums it up best: “We’re a community and we need each other. This [sport] would not be what it is without people sharing their stories across these challenges.”
THE 2024 LIFE TIME GRAND PRIX
The Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda kicks off at the Sea Otter classic in April 2024. Next year’s series features 60 elite athletes, seven domestic races and a $300,000 prize purse up for grabs.
Returning riders on the women’s side include 2023 Life Time Grand Prix series winner Sofia Gomez Villafane, Unbound Gravel XL winner Kristen Legan, Sarah Sturm, U.S. National Gravel Champion Lauren Stephens and Emily Newsom.
For the men, Leadville Trail 100 MTB course-record holder and 2023 Grand Prix series winner Keegan Swenson, Lachlan Morton, Peter Stetina and Matthew Beers are all returning for their chance at fame - and the prize purse.
The series begins next April in California at the Sea Otter classic and runs through October, finishing with Big Sugar Gravel in Arkansas.
Athletes will have the option to drop up to two events, entry fees will be covered by Life Time and there will be random doping controls conducted at any round.
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