Keegan Swenson wins Unbound Gravel 200 men's race in tight sprint finish

200 miles of gravel, mud and grit comes down to a seven-man sprint

Keegan Wins Unbound 2023
Keegan sprints to the win ahead of Petr Vakoc
(Image credit: Future)


Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) won the 2023 Unbound Gravel 200 in a tense seven man sprint finish. The American rider - last year's runner up - was at for the duration of the ten hour race, keeping enough reserve to take the win by out-sprinting the rest of the leading seven man group. 

Czechia's Petr Vakoc (Canyon Northwave) finished second while Lachlan Morton (EF-Education-EasyPost) held on for third after going for the early sprint. Former WorldTour pro Laurens ten Dam came in fourth, while 2021 winner Ian Boswell finished fifth.

It appeared as though the front group hit traffic as they caught riders finishing the shorter races and several of the front riders may have been hampered in the finish because of this. 

Swenson, the 2022 Lifetime GrandPrix overall winner, finished lost out to Dutch rider Ivar Slik in a sprint last year, so he flipped the script and came out on top. The lead group had been together for over 100 miles and it took until the final 500 meters for any separation to occur.

Swenson's winning time of 10:06:02 was almost 45 minutes slower than last year's winning time, showing the impact of  grim conditions in Kansas on the riders this year. With rain turning the roads into treacherous mud pits and wreaking havoc on bikes the peloton was split from the start. 

The top 15 or so of the men were scattered in ones and twos by mile 15 but would come back together to form a larger group by mile 21.

This lead group would change up by the Eureka aid station and at mile 78 the  consisted of seven riders, Paul Voss, Morton, Peter Stetina, Petr Vakoc, Swenson, Boswell and Russell Finsterwald with ten Dam chasing solo behind them.

Ten Dam caught the lead group at the halfway point of the race with the next group, consisting of consisting of Adam Roberge, Jasper Ockeloen, Kyle Trudeau, and John Kariuki already nine minutes back.

At mile 145 the front group remained steadily working together - albeit with the loss of Paul Voss due to a flat tire - and increased its gap to the smaller chase group to over 16 minutes. 

The chase group saw some changes and contained Jasper Ockeloen, Adam Roberge, Zach Calton, Matt Beers and Alexey Vermeulen. Kyle Trudeau, Carter Anderson and Jan Bakelants rounded out the top 15 as they came through three quarters of the race.

As the lead group of seven hit the Judge climb, Boswell started the attacks with Ten Dam starting to lose contact with the group. Stetina and Morton would both throwing down over the top of the climb. 

The lead group held together over the climb and went through the Madison checkpoint together with only 35 miles of racing left. Finsterwald took advantage of a quick pit stop to get out slightly ahead of his compatriots as they headed for the finish in Emporia. 

With the front seven still together at mile 193 ,a sprint finish was looking more and more likely. With only a couple miles and one final hill left ten Dam was not content to wait for the sprint and went on the attack multiple times. He gained  a small gap but was pulled back as riders bridged. 

As they hit the pavement for the final climb surprisingly no-one attacked, when Morton finally made the first move Swenson was stronger and took the hard-earned win. 

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Henry Lord

Henry Lord is a Cycling Weekly Intern. He grew up in southern Maine and was introduced to mountain biking by his dad. Lord grew up racing mountain bikes and cyclocross across the East Coast as well as downhill and XC skiing. He moved out west to Durango, Colorado to start college at Fort Lewis, where in the last two years he has focused on road racing in addition to studying Communication design and marketing.