Unbound Gravel 2024 – the lottery is open for a chance to ride the world's toughest gravel bike race

Gravel riders at Unbound Gravel
Organizers Life Time Events are expecting a record number of riders attempting to grab a spot (Image credit: Unbound Gravel)

The Unbound Gravel lottery is open and the best gravel bike riders will be rushing to grab their place in this year's 'big boss' of gravel race weekend, which takes place in Emporia, Kansas on the weekend of June 3rd, 2024.

Unbound Gravel has cemented its place as the world's best gravel bike event and from its humble beginnings of just 34 riders in 2006, Unbound Gravel, now in its 17th year, has grown year on year and attracted over 4,000 registered riders across its five distances for the 2023 edition. 

Organizers Life Time Events and the Unbound team are expecting a record number of riders attempting to grab a spot, and the scramble for the much sought-after lottery places went live today January 5th. It remains open until January 20th, with the final results of the lottery announced on January 25th.

Unbound Gravel has five race distances to choose from, with the massive 350-mile Unbound XL being the biggest distance. Gravel riders also have choices of 200, 100, 50, and 25-mile options that all roll out of Emporia and into the Tallgrass Prairie and Flint Hills at various times over the Unbound Gravel weekend. We had looked at what each distance offers the lucky few who manage to grab a much-coveted spot.

Keegan Swenson winning Unbound Gravel 200 in 2023

Keegan Swenson won last year's Unbound 200 Gravel (Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

Unbound 200

Unbound’s 200-mile race is the premium distance at Unbound and the 2023 race saw the gravel maestro duo of Keegan Swenson and Carolin Schiff taking the wins in the Men's and Women's events. The Unbound 200 is a renowned test of endurance, self-sufficiency, and equipment, and that was evident last year as Kansas rain storms created chaos, and turned much of the course into sections of 'peanut butter mud' that claimed countless victims, with riders forced to run as their bikes became clogged with gunge.

Entrants will be hoping there isn't a repeat of 'mud year' in 2024, as the course even in dry conditions is tough enough. Featuring 2,700 meters of elevation and around 11+ hours of self-supported racing, with aid allowed only at the official checkpoints, so for the uninitiated fueling strategy is crucial to success in Unbound 200. 

The Unbound 200 is also part of the LifeTime Grand Prix Series, where the best gravel racers race with handpicked WorldTour roadies, track world champions, and MTB Olympians all compete for a $250,000 prize purse across seven gravel and mountain bike races. So to say the field is stacked with top pro riders is an understatement, and the defending champions, Keegan Swenson and Carolin Schiff will have their work cut out to retain their titles.

Gravel riders at Unbound Gravel

The Unbound XL will have 24+ hours of self-supported racing (Image credit: Unbound Gravel)

Unbound XL

The Unbound XL was added in 2018 and this 350-mile epic is the ultimate challenge in Unbound gravel distance. It has been won in the past by riders like ultra-endurance rider Lael Wilcox and Rebecca 'the Queen of Pain' Rusch, and sees the field tackling over 4,100 meters in elevation and over 24 or more hours in the saddle. Supply stops come in the form of local gas stations and stores, and with one less store this year it means the resupply opportunities are roughly 75 miles apart. The XL riders also get a unique course for the first 225 miles, before they join the 200-mile route in Eureka.

Peter Sagan at the start line of Unbound Gravel 2022

The Unbound 100 has featured many top pro riders like three time world road champion Peter Sagan (Image credit: Unbound)

Unbound 100

While the 200-mile course is the most famous route and the 350-mile is perhaps just crazy, the 100-miler has grown increasingly competitive over the past few years, with some star appearances like former three-time UCI road world champion Peter Sagan and his teammate Daniel Oss, who lined up in 2022. Last year, Canyon-SRAM rider Tiffany Cromwell who won the Scottish Unbound equivalent, the Gralloch, also took the win on her Unbound 100 debut. The 100-mile will feature some fast racing with the same rules applying as in the 200 with support crews only allowed at the mid-race checkpoint, and 1,330+ meters of climbing.

Unbound Gravel 2023 Women's Elite race

The Women's Elite Unbound 200 rolls out at the start of last years race won by Carolin Schiff  (Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

Unbound 50 and 25

For those not fancying the challenge of the bigger distances the 50 and 25-mile routes are a taster of everything Unbound and the Flint Hills have to offer, and will have riders back in Emporia to enjoy the festivities all day with hundreds of vendors and the All Things Gravel Expo to enjoy before cheering home the winners.

This year's Garmin Unbound Gravel promises to be the best yet, and whatever the distance is chosen, the notorious tire-shredding sharp flint rocks are waiting...

For those wishing to join the Unbound Lottery you can throw your best gravel helmet into the mix at Unboundgravel.com and be sure to follow updates via social media on Instagram @unboundgravel.

If you're lucky enough to grab a spot then you may feel like a brand new gravel bike for the Unbound start line in June. Over on our New Year bike sale bargains article, you'll find some massively discounted bikes, including the Impulso Pro GRX 600 from Italian legends Bianchi and the Specialized Diverge with a better than half price reduction.

There are also loads of January sales deals including the best gravel bike clothing, helmets and footwear, with one of our favorite gravel bike shoes the Specialized Recon with a massive $55 discount.

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.

Current rides: Marin Alpine Trail 2, Ribble 725, Cube Stereo 160

Height: 175cm