Sometimes, you just got to take the miles where you can get them. In Amber Neben’s case, that meant on a trainer inside a van while her husband drove the long miles to Emporia, Kansas, for the Unbound 200.
Neben, a two-time World Time Trial Champion, six-time national champion and three-time Olympian, has ridden her bike in many places in the world but even for her, this scenario was unique.
“I have always wanted to be able to ride my bike on my 10-12 hour flights to Europe,” Neben said. “How good would it feel to be able to move on those long hauls!”
Well this week, on her 22-hour drive to Emporia, Neben got the chance. Tackling the 22-hour drive in a borrowed Mercedes Winnebago Sprinter, Neben set up her trainer and got to work.
“I'm not good at sitting still, so finding a way to move was amazing. Plus, I needed to do a little work,” Neben told Cycling Weekly. “I always like to 'find a way,' and I had just enough room to squeeze my 38 bars and Saris H3 in there. For once I get a win for being petite!”
The 47-year-old Californian is part of the inaugural Life Time Grand Prix series, in which a cast of 60 handpicked WorldTour roadies, track world champions, triathletes, gravel privateers and MTB Olympians are competing for a $250,000 prize purse across six gravel and mountain bike races.
Neben is new to off-road racing and had a less than optimal experience at the opening race, the Fuego XC 80k in April. At the Sea Otter event, the time trial expert went over her handlebars and crashed into some trees. She ended up crossing the finish line in 16th, and looking somewhat worse for wear.
At Unbound on Saturday, June 4, 200-miles of rough gravel await the American with an incredibly stacked field of competitors to boot.
Now in its 15th year, Unbound will see its biggest rider attendance yet with 4,000 professional and amateurs competing across five distances. The famous 200-mile course is its marquee event and a true test of endurance, self-sufficiency and equipment. In addition to needing to fuel oneself for 11+ hours of riding, the sharp flint rocks are notorious for slicing tires and dashing podium aspirations. Along the way, riders also need to content with the undulating terrain, exposed sun-baked roads, headwinds and, if at all wet, tire-sucking mud.
“After my tree hugging incident, I'm feeling much better. I certainly am still raw at the gravel game. The Unbound distance will be a huge challenge, and the various 'obstacles' will certainly test me,” Neben said.
“The distance I feel like there will be more opportunities to settle in and 'just ride' than in previous events. I'm excited about that.
“I'm hopeful to have another positive experience. I want to keep building while withstanding the expected adversity. I know perseverance and patience will be key to the day.”
Unbound and the other Life Time Grand Prix events are broadcasted globally on FloBikes (opens in new tab).
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