The inaugural Life Time Grand Prix presented by the Mazda Adventure Racing Series continues on Saturday, July 9 in Beaver, Utah. On the docket is a relatively short but brutal 70-mile (112 km) mixed terrain race with 40 percent pavement and 60 percent gravel.
The race is noted as one of the toughest 70-mile races he will ever do, mainly due to the brutal high-altitude climb.
Resuming at the Sea Otter Classic in April, the Life Time Grand Prix is a mixed-surface race series in which a hand-picked squad of 60 international competitors travel across the United States to compete in some of the nation’s premier endurance events. A purse of $250,000.
This season’s cast includes WorldTour road racers, gravel haulers, mountain bike Olympians, track world champions, a professional triathlete and even a former elite rower.
The goal of the series is to promote bicycling in the United States and showcase the best and most unique off-road events across the country.
With extreme distances, challenging terrain, high altitudes and a variety of racing disciplines to master, it must be very well-rounded cyclists indeed who will emerge victorious in October.
A series of rows
The series opened with a hot and dusty 80-kilometer XC mountain bike race in Monterey, California.
While it served as a confidence booster for the fat tire racers in the peloton, some roadies struggled to stay upright in the fat and loose conditions. Mountain biker Keegan Swenson won the men’s race, and Moriah Wilson won the women’s race. Unfortunately, Wilson was killed a month later while traveling to Texas for another race.
Round 2 of the Life Time Grand Prix Series took place at the world’s largest gravel race: the Unbound 200 in Kansas City. This 200 mile (321 km) gravel race is a true test of endurance, self-sufficiency and equipment. In addition to demanding fuel for 11+ hours of riding, sharp flints are notorious for tire-snapping and daring podium aspirations. Along the way, riders have to contend with undulating terrain, open sunny roads, headwinds and even wet, tire-absorbing mud.
Although Dutchman Ivar Slick won the men’s race, Svenson became the first Life Time Grand Prix competitor to finish, winning the second round of the series and continuing his climb to the top. rank order. Tailing Swenson is closely followed by mountain biker Russell Finsterwald and former WorldTour road rider Alexey Vermeulen.
In the women’s race, it was Sofia Gómez Villafañe, a mountain bike Olympian and serial racer, who won the muddy epic in under 11 hours. After a second-place finish in Monterrey and a big win in Kansas, Villafañe leads Canadian Olympian Haley Smith and xc skier-turned-cyclist Evelyn Dong.
A fighter in Tushar
Don’t let the relatively short distance fool you. This race is difficult even for the strongest contestants. Competing at an altitude of approximately 10,500 feet (3,200 meters) above sea level, riders will be gasping for oxygen as they tackle seriously steep slopes, white-knuckled gravel descents and an ascent of approximately 10,100 feet (3,078 meters).
The Tushars are among Utah’s tallest mountain ranges, with several peaks exceeding 12,000 feet. As well as offering challenging (g) tracks to race, those looking up their trunks will be treated to stunning valley views, snow-capped peaks and sparkling alpine lakes.
The race ends on the now famous Col d’ Crush with a final pitch of 12% to bring the riders to the finish at 10,344′ above sea level.
With a course that spans 28 miles of pavement and 48 miles of rough off-road terrain, the bike options get interesting. Some will prefer a cyclocross race bike for speed and light climbing on paved roads, while others prefer traction and safe handling and opt for an XC mountain bike instead. However, most riders will ride a gravel bike with wide but fast-rolling tires.
As mentioned, 60 elite riders were selected to compete in the series – 30 in the men’s category and 30 in the women’s category. This squad of 60 riders is one of the best elite cyclists in the United States and beyond.
Notable names include retired and current WorldTour riders Lachlan Morton, Laurens ten Dam, Ted King, Logan Owen, Kiel Reijnen, Alexey Vermeulen, Peter Stetina, Ruth Winder, Emily Joy Newsom and Amber Neben. There are mountain bike pros like Keegan Swenson, Payson McElveen, Erin Huck, Sofia Gomez Villafañe and Lea Davison, as well as a number of gravel pros.
The top end of the race at Crusher will again be full of talent. Pete Stetina will be looking to defend his crown, while Zach Calton will be looking for a rematch. The former winner finished second to Stetina in 2021 and will be looking to reclaim the bragging rights. Of course, many Life Time Grand Prix riders will be making their Crusher debuts, so it’s hard to say who will end up on the top step of the podium. But based on the first two rounds of the series, we were looking for riders like Laurens ten Dam, Vermeulen and of course the still undefeated Swenson.
In the women’s race, returning champion Villafañe will be hard to bet against. After wins at Unbound and the five-day Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder, she’s in incredible form and she’ll be the woman to beat. Other athletes to watch include former Tushar champion Evelyn Dong, US Pro Nationals silver medalist Lauren De Crescenzo and Unbound podium finisher Emily Newsom.
How to watch
All events of the first Life Time Grand Prix Series (opens in new tab) It will be broadcast globally on FloBikes. (opens in new tab)
However, it should be noted that FloBikes requires an annual subscription and some coverage may be regionally restricted.