Rally Cycling’s Robin Carpenter joins pros headed to Unbound Gravel

'Like anyone, I’ve been watching the growth of that race with a lot of interest.'

Photo: Gomez Sport

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That Mauna Loa KOM that Robin Carpenter just snagged on the big island of Hawaii?

OK, so there was an ulterior motive.

“It was kinda a big test, to make sure the legs are still there,” Carpenter told VeloNews. “Training for a 200-mile race, it’s just too taxing. So, you have to make sure your legs are there for most of it and that’s all you can do. So, with the heat and trying to ride hard for a good portion of it in the middle, it was a pretty good training ride.”

Training in the heat for a 200-mile race can only mean one thing: Rally Cycling’s Robin Carpenter is headed to Kansas this week. 

Carpenter at the 2021 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana Stage 3 . Photo: Photo Gomez Sport

Unbound Gravel will be the 28-year old’s first gravel race, but he says it’s been a long time coming.

“Like anyone, I’ve been watching the growth of that race with a lot of interest,” Carpenter said. “I’ve been curious, it seems that’s where a lot of the attention of the U.S.’ cycling media is. There just aren’t any American road races anymore. So I’ve been looking at it with the expectation of — at some point someone’s gonna want me to go, or I’m gonna have to.”

Carpenter, who considers himself an all-rounder, feels that he has as good a shot as any at the podium this weekend. By no means does he attest to having the experience on gravel that someone like Ted, Pete, or Payson, but he feels that where he excels in road racing — in a breakaway — could set him up well.

“I’ll be going for it, for sure, but I don’t want to presume anything,” he said. “My hope is to latch on to one of the guys that’s experienced and motivated and see how it goes.”

He’s also been doing the research. In addition to the big burly Mauna Loa training ride on Hawaii, Carpenter has been schooling himself on the nuances of gravel racing, in particular, those unique to Unbound.

One of those nuances is aid station strategy.

“There’s all sorts of advice about aid stations and how to handle them,” he said. “I listened to a podcast with Stetina, he showed up to first to an aid and had a sandwich ready, he was taking his time, and then someone was like ‘Yo dude, everyone’s gone,’ and he had to chase for 20 minutes to get back to the front. I would hope not to make any fatal errors like that.”

Furthermore, Carpenter anticipates the race in Kansas to have at least one characteristic not so dissimilar to a particular European race.

“It’s like Paris Roubaix,” he said. “I think a lot comes down to being able to ride calmly on gravel, not smashing into things. Save your tires and have your plug ready.”

As for tires, Carpenter will roll on rubber designed for the Flint Hills of Kansas. He’s planning on 40mm Kenda Flintridge tires to ensure enough clearance if conditions are muddy.  He’ll prep two Camelbak hydration packs to swap out at aid stations. His nutrition plan? “Still a work in progress,” he said.

“I’m just coming into this with eyes wide open.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.