The inaugural Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda adventure race series kicks off on Saturday, April 9, in Monterey, California with a cast of 60 hand-selected international elite competitors.
Over the course of next six months, these riders will travel across the U.S. to contest six gravel and mountain bike events in pursuit of a $250,000 prize purse.
The series’ goal is to increase cycling fandom in the United States, and showcase some of the best and unique off-road events throughout the country.
With the extreme distances, challenging terrain, high altitudes, and a variety of racing disciplines to master, those who’ll emerge as the winners come October will have to be very well-rounded cyclists indeed.
As mentioned, 60 elite riders were handpicked to contest the series — 30 in the men’s category and 30 in the women’s category. Riders had to submit an application to be considered for this series, detailing not just their race resume and why they wanted to compete, but also what they’re actively doing to grow cycling in the U.S.
The final selection includes some of the best elite cyclists in the US and beyond, including retired and current WorldTour roadies Lachlan Morton, Laurens ten Dam, Ted King, Logan Owen, Kiel Reijnen, Peter Stetina, Ruth Winder, Emily Joy Newsom and Amber Neben. There are also mountain bike pros like Keegan Swenson, Payson McElveen, Erin Huck and Lea Davison, and a host of gravel experts.
April 9: Sea Otter Classic 80K Fuego XC MTB Race
The series opener will take place at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. The Sea Otter is the largest bicycle expo in North America with a long history of hosting professional road and mtb races. The Fuego 80K is an endurance cross country mountain bike race on a fast and sandy course.
June 4: UNBOUND 200-Mile Gravel Race
UNBOUND, formerly known as the Dirty Kanza, takes place in Emporia, Kansas, and is perhaps the world’s marquee gravel event. With 200 miles in the Flint Hills to conquer, this race will test the endurance, self-sufficiency and equipment of the riders.
July 9: Crusher in the Tushar
Touted as being one of the hardest 70-mile races on the planet, this race is 60 percent gravel, 40 percent tarmac. Some riders may opt for a cyclocross race bike on this course to overcome the relentless climbing in the Tushar mountains.
August 13: Leadville Trail 100 MTB
A grueling 100-mile XC mountain bike course at very high altitudes, the Leadville 100 is one of the most iconic races in North America for mountain bikers and ultra runners alike. The Coloradan race takes place almost entirely above 10,000 feet (3048m) above sea level, and goes up as high as 12,516 feet (3815m). The course also boasts a whopping 13,129’ (4001m) of climbing.
September 17: Chequamegon MTB
The shortest race of the series, the 40-mile Chequamegon mountain bike features varying terrain as it meanders from downtown Hayward, Wisconsin over the famed American Birkebeiner Ski Trail and into the town of Cable.
October 22: 100-mile Big Sugar Gravel Race
The final event of the Life Time Grand Prix is mandatory for all and will serve as a tiebreaker in the event of a tie on points. This event is another rugged and remote gravel race, this time showcasing some of the best unpaved roads Arkansas has to offer.
The series contestants are joined by thousands of other riders at each individual event. While these other riders aren’t contesting the series, they can still contest the individual event in which they’re entered. Meaning, a non-series competitor can still win Unbound or Leadville, etc. In fact, there’s no saying where the series contenders will end up at each individual event and it’s their overall performance throughout the season that matters. At each individual race, the series contestants will be treated like any other entrant, which means they are responsible for their entry costs into each event. Likewise, they are eligible for overall prizes and awards at each individual event.
While not a UCI or USA Cycling regulated event, the rules state that all athletes are subject to random doping controls at these events, and those riders serving a current doping ban are not eligible to compete.
As this series takes place on a variety of terrain — pavement, gravel and singletrack — riders will be using a variety of bikes. What's more, these long endurance events are often remote and will require the riders to be self-sufficient when it comes to fueling themselves as well as fixing any mechanical issues. This means you’ll see riders wearing hydration packs or frame bladders as well as carrying a frame bag of some kind with emergency tubes or tires, tire plugs and other tools.
The sharp flint rocks in the Unbound event are particularly notorious for ruining a rider’s podium dreams, as such, gear plays a key part in a rider’s success in the series.
Former WorldTour roadie and Tour de France Top 10 finisher, Laurens ten Dam, told Cycling Weekly that he will have a quiver of Specialized bikes at his disposal for the series, including a full suspension S-Works Epic, a hardtail S-Works Epic, the S-Works Diverge and S-Works Crux.
Pro triathlete Rach McBride, however, said that they’ve a simpler decision to make ahead of each event: mountain bike or gravel bike. They will be riding the Diamondback Haanjo 8c gravel bike and the yet-to-be released Diamondback Yahweh carbon XC bike.
We'll be reporting on the gear as we get a closer look once the series gets underway.
How to Watch
It should be noted, however, that FloBikes does require an annual subscription and that some coverage may be regionally restricted.
UPDATE: August 8, 2022: After encountering various course access issues and technical difficulties, FloBikes and Life Time terminated their contract for the remainder of the season.
- Don’t miss our interview with former WorldTour pro turned pro adventurer, Laurens ten Dam, who’s the only European contesting the series.
- Canadian pro triathlete, Rach McBride, will see if they, with their Ironman-winning endurance, can give pure bike racers a run for their money.
- Track world champion, Ashton Lambie, is taking a break from velodrome racing to switch his focus to gravel racing, one of his first loves in cycling.
- 'A world away from the Tour de France’ - Pro cyclists are finding solace off-road, but why switch from WorldTour to gravel?
- Gas stations, hallucinations and a good cry in a field: A brutal untold story from Unbound Gravel 2021.
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