"I got cramps, starting in the calf and ending in muscles I didn’t know existed" - Joris Nieuwenhuis encounters the cruel face of Unbound

Just like every year, the American Unbound Gravel wrote many stories. The mix of forgotten American roads, brutal gravel sectors, scorching sun and absolute fatigue at the end of the 200 miles race makes for an unforgettable experience. But also a painful one as Joris Nieuwenhuis found out the hard way.

The Baloise - Trek Lions rider had an excellent cyclocross season after his re-focus on the field discipline in 2022, after a four-year stint in the World Tour with Team dsm-firmenich. And so he thought: 'Hey, why not try the Unbound'. However the debut didn't go as planned, as you could imagine. Nieuwenhuis describes his experience in an Instagram post on his team's socials. "There are those days on the bike that you don’t easily forget. This was definitely one of those days. The different emotions I felt cannot be counted on two hands," he begins.

For the runner-up at 2023/24 Cycloross World Championships, things did seem to be going in the right direction at the beginning: "The first 7 hours went very well, despite a few rookie mistakes I was still in front of the race." However the sun in Kansas added another variable into the equation - one that Nieuwenhuis wasn't prepared for - the high temperature. "Then the heat started to make things hard, I got cramps, starting in the calf and ending in muscles I didn’t know existed. The last three hours were grueling. The endless roads did add a new dimension."

Nieuwenhuis, who finished 38th, more than 33 minutes behind winner and another ex-pro Lachlan Morton, concludes with a brief summary and a bit of an advice for all the adventurers out there who would like to take on the American challenge. After all, how many can claim they completed a race longer than the spring monument Milano-Sanremo. "In summary: I can both recommend and discourage it to everyone."

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