On 4 June 2022, after 200 miles—or 322 km—and 9 hours and 22 minutes in driving rain, Ivar Slik took the win in the final sprint of the Unbound Gravel, brilliantly taking home his most ambitious goal for the season. Ivar is the first not-American rider to win this amazing race that since 2006 equals gravel and racing.
“I’m so happy… this was my big goal for this year. It’s amazing to win such a long and tough race, with opponents of such a high calibre. Every win I took this year, including the one in Girona was part of my plan to compete in an important Unbound Gravel. But even though I’m telling you now, I still can’t believe it.”
The photograph immortalising Ivar’s final sprint and victory is worth a thousand words. At the finish line at the end of Broad Street in Emporia, Kansas, Ivar outpaces Kegan Swenson by one bicycle length and Ian Boswell by two.
His training partner and friend Laurens Ten Dam is only thirty metres back, and we can just see the other riders far behind.
“What makes me happier than anything is that the Unbound Gravel is the Tour de France of gravel racing. All the best racers in the world look forward to this day, and the front group of five’s 20-second lead shows just how high the racers’ level actually is. A mere twenty seconds after a day of rain and mud that, in our speciality, are truly the main selection factors in the group. It’s a dream. It’s a real dream.”
In addition to Ivar’s victory, the photo finish clearly reveals every gravel racer’s true grit: the first three riders to cross the finish line are plastered with mud, yet there’s something else so expressive in that photograph: Ivar Slik’s scream of joy and Kegan Swenson’s grimace of vexation.
Creating yet a further parallel with road cycling, this latest edition of Unbound Gravel also shares all the iconographic significance and charm of the Paris – Roubaix. Indeed, Unbound Gravel is defining itself as the great classic on the world’s gravel scene.
It’s easy to share in Ivar Slik’s great joy, and, why not, it’s also understandable the satisfaction of those who saw the Rave SLR come in first—albeit hidden under a thick layer of mud.
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