Villafañe solos to comfortable win at Unbound Gravel in epic conditions

Defending champion Lauren De Crescenzo comes in second, Eily Newson third for a second year in a row

Sofia Gomez Villafañe after winning Unbound 200
(Image credit: Life Time)

Sofia Gomez Villafañe was unstoppable Saturday, soloing to victory in the women’s Unbound Gravel 200 after taking charge early on.

Villafañe, who's coming off of victories at Cape Epic and Rule of Three, took the women's Unbound Gravel 200 by storm when she built up an early advantage on her rivals and never looked back, finishing with an incredible time of 10:27:41.

"It’s a true testament to the hard work that’s put in," Villafañe said. "I didn’t ride any gravel in the off-season and was training on my TT bars on the road, never trained for more than five hours, so to put it together was really special.

“This proved quite a lot," she said. "It was a good day and I'm really glad we finished under 11 hours. I have big goals this year, first was Cape Epic, now it's Unbound and my next is actually E-Bike Worlds."

The 2020 Olympian finished over eight minutes ahead of defending champion Lauren De Crescenzo, who was forced to chase not only Villafañe, but also Heather Jackson, who leapfrogged De Crescenzo mid-race. De Crescenzo pulled her back in the latter part of the race to come into Emporia as the first runner up in 2022. Emily Joy Newsom finished third on the day. 

 Villafañe snuck free from the women’s peloton by using other riders, to her advantage, riding in groups of male riders out there racing their own race. Unbound, like most gravel races and Gran Fondo is a mixed gendered field in which men, women and age categories are scored separately. 

As gravel has gotten increasingly more competitive, more professional and more lucrative, there has been a lot of criticism around women racers latching on to men for an advantage. Katie Keough and her husband received a rather large amount of critique when they rode together to help Katie win the 2018 event.

But with the rules being what they are, Villafañe  used this tactic  with purpose and to great result. 

In a post-race interview, Villafane said she’s been working on her Vo2 efforts specifically to be able to keep up with the men’s surges.

With some male racers for company, Villafane rode ahead of the women’s field by several minutes all the way up to Teeter Hill.

“The guys were super stoked to have me there for a while,” she said. “Thanks to the men out there who kinda helped me get this win.”

The win also puts Villafañe into the lead of the Life Time Grand Prix series. 

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Clara Beard

A former pro, Clara Beard has been rooted in the cycling scene for more than 20 years. After working as a newspaper reporter for several years, her love of the sport prompted a full-time return as a journalist in 2011. Since then, Clara has reported on more bike races than she can count, both domestic and international.