Unbound Race Recap

Matt Tanner on June 3, 2024

By Matt Breeden

Race Review

  • 202miles of Flint Hills / 11,000ft climbing
  • 12:23 / 16.3mph
  • 213 watts NP
  • 132/1200+ Entrants & 904 Finishers
  • 9,300 calories burned / 4,500 consumed (360/hr)

It was a 6 month training block that went nearly perfectly and culminated in a badass day where I beat last year’s time by over 4.5hrs and my goal by 2+hrs. My Dad also pointed out I was 2nd fastest from Indiana… LOL Things just went right pretty much the whole way, from race flow/execution to nutrition to favorable weather. That doesn’t happen often and I’m keenly aware of it. It also doesn’t happen without the wholistic training program from Matt Tanner and Tom Danielson. The CINCH program flat out works, and having a good friend at each SAG stop was mega!

This year’s course went north from Emporia instead of south and was substantially more technical and featured chunkier gravel than last year. It also had 2,000 more feet of climbing. However, the ground was very dry and mud wasn’t really an issue, which made the flat sections very fast. It was not uncommon to be rolling at 25 on the flat sections.

The Open (0-70miles):
I knew things would start off pretty quick and that I should be prepared to go deeper than would seem advisable. That’s exactly what happened, as I went through the 50mile point with averages of 20mph and 256NP. I could also see the front of the race through 50ish miles, so I knew I was mixing it up.

After mile 50, the pace settled a bit and groups began to form. I jumped around from group to group from 50-70miles, as I didn’t want to sit in if there was another group slightly ahead that I could jump to relatively easily by surfing some hills.

The Suck (70-112miles):
Tanner met me at the 70mile SAG and I was feeling good. As expected, he was ready and had all my nutrition in hand. I was in and out in about a minute. Coming out of the SAG I felt like the temps were going up. Also, I found myself alone. This was the point where the mental game starts. You’re not yet halfway there, you’re not in a group and you need to settle into something you can maintain. This part sucks and my mind went very dark for a bunch of miles, but I got a text from Tanner telling me to “Stay in the mental game”. It didn’t snap me out of it, but it did let me reframe things. I told myself that everything was going perfectly, I was going to smoke my goal time and that all I had to do is ride my bike for another 100ish miles and I never had to do this race again. Those concepts went through my mind in various forms the rest of the day…. Just give it everything you’ve got and you never have to do it again, but if you don’t, you’ll second guess yourself forever. It worked and by the water stop at mile 112 I was in a little better mindset.

The Chunk (112-148miles):
The organizers said most of the chunky stuff was between miles 20 and 120, but for me I found the technical sections from 112 to 148 to be the toughest. There were a number of minimal maintenance roads with ultra-steep pitches and loose chunky gravel (3-6inch rocks). With the heat in the 80s, the cloud cover gone and some fatigue in my body and mind, these were quite difficult. I focused on keeping my cadence up and being very deliberate on line choice for both the climbs and descents. I was no longer just bombing the descents as I had early in the race, as I knew my reaction times and judgement were impaired. I actually walked a couple hundred feet on one the steepest and loosest sections, as I felt myself overheating and knew I was going to topple over if I kept going.

The Flow (148-183miles):
The second SAG was at mile 148. Tanner had a cold water ready to pour over me, as well as a mini-Coke. I spent longer at this SAG than the first, but still less than 3mins. This cold water and Coke reinvigorated me, and I came out of the SAG feeling pretty good. The terrain from here on out was not nearly as chunky. There were some longer climbs, but they weren’t technical and for the first time all day I found myself enjoying the view. The Flint Hills in the sun are awfully pretty and I was glad there was a period where I was able to appreciate them. It was pretty much cruise control in this section as I did the math over and over that I was going to break 13hrs and might even break 12.5. Again most of this section was solo or bouncing between another solo rider. You find that after about 100miles everyone has their dark moments every few miles and has to sit up to stretch. It would be wonderful if you could just have a completely consistent pace, but the body doesn’t work that way after such a long ride.

The Close (183-202miles):
From 183 to the end the roads are relatively flat and generally well maintained. Think Michigan Gravel without the sand. At this point I’m swinging between elation that I’m going to break 12.5hrs and terror that something is going to break and I’m not going to finish. Whatever the emotion of the moment was, I just kept on pushing. At mile 193 I found myself in a group of 7 that included one of the Women’s Elite racers. We were moving at a friendly and smooth pace and all taking pulls. It was actually the best pace line of the day. I was content to sit in with this group until Highland Hill, which was less than a mile from the finish, where I planned to attack with everything I had left. Then, the only negative thing all day happened….

I’m on the front of the group approaching a 90degree left. As I come through the corner I see that the ground ahead is darker colored and that there is a mom and daughter standing on the side of the road cheering with a sprinkler. My tired brain took a moment to react, but I finally realized they were spraying the racers to cool them off. Awesome sentiment, but spraying water across a dirt road turns the surface to mud. Unfortunately, I reacted with too much rear brake and I slid out. As soon as I hit the ground, the expletives started flowing and my left hamstring started cramping followed by a charliehorse in my abs that nearly brought tears to my eyes. I quickly stood up and did everything I could to stand up straight and get rid of each of the cramps. It took a bit, but it worked. As I got back on my bike, I apologized to the mom and daughter for my anger, but mentioned that while I appreciate their sentiment, it created a dangerous situation. They said they were going to turn it off, so I hope that no one else went down in that corner.

Fortunately, I wasn’t really hurt from the crash aside from a lightly scraped knee. For the next 8 miles I was pretty much alone. Then, as the race transitions from gravel to pavement for the final mile-ish, it passes through a short tunnel. As I get to it, I also caught up to another guy and knowing that I should attack in the slow to fast sections, I got on it in the turn coming out of the tunnel and he didn’t respond. I thought that was going to be it and I would just push a decent pace for the last mile and cruise across the finish line. However, as I make the left turn onto the finishing straight I see a guy about halfway between me and the finish, so I stand up a gave it all I had. After 202miles, I had 40seconds at 510wattsNP in me and I passed the guy a couple hundred feet before the finish line at 30mph+.

It was absolutely all that I had left. Tanner and the CINCH crew were there in the chute to meet me and I’m glad they were. As soon as I got off the bike my blood sugar dropped and I started to feel very faint. After a quick interview, I found myself laying on a curb trying not to pass out. Fortunately, an emergency Coke brought me somewhat back to life. Those few minutes in the chute at the end and sitting on the curb were some of the most proud moments I’ve felt in awhile. It really was the culmination of many months of training that came together in about the most perfect was possible, and to be able to share it with my friend and coach was just icing on the cake. What a day!

Pre-Race Plan


  • Friday
  • 4:30am wakeup
  • 8:30am Leave for Emporia
  • 10am shakeout ride.
  • Lunch / Registration
  • 2-3pm Team Meeting / Drop SAG crate
  • 5pm Dinner back at hotel
  • 7pm Bed
  • Saturday
  • 3:30am wakeup / breakfast
  • 4:30am on the road to Emporia
  • 5:30am – Emporia arrive, bike check, etc.
  • 6:00am – Stage
  • 6:30am – Race

Nutrition Plan

  • 5,000 cal – 350/hr
  • 2L water in USWE pack (swap packs at 70 & 148 sags)
  • 3 bottles w/ 900cal each. (600cal malto + 300cal fructose + Hydrate). Swap bottle at 70 & 148.
  • 1 spring (80cal) + 1 Amacx (120cal) per hour = 200cal gels/hr
  • Supplement with 2-3 protein bars.

Goal / Race Plan

  • Ride my own race. Don’t sit in with groups if I’m faster.
  • Settle into 210-220w. Start may be faster.
  • Surf where it makes sense; lots of time to be gained over the top on rollers. I found this to be very true last year.
  • Goal time is to beat the sun (14:30). Stretch is under 14hrs.
  • Win the race close. Beat whomever is in the group. Be ready to attack on the paved hill coming into town (3mins from finish).

SAG Plan

  • Water at 40 & 112
  • CINCH at 70 & 148
  • Wipe/wax chain
  • Swap USWE pack at each stop
  • Refill Spring & Amacx (5-6 each)
  • Swap malto/fructose bottle.
  • Eat protein bar at SAG. Would be great to have some real food at 148.
  1. Congrats, Matt! Great effort and write up

  2. […] Unbound Race Recap Tags: Tags: 200mi, cinch, cinch coaching, cinch cycling, rollfast, Unbound Gravel […]

  3. Great race report, Matt. I felt like I was appreciating the race from your perspective (minus the 12 hours of pain and suffering), and really appreciated the technical and strategy information along the way.

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