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For her fifth Unbound Gravel, Alison Tetrick is ‘racing the sun’

The former champ of the race will guide a pace group to finish before sunset, raising money for Emporia's local NICA chapter.

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Alison Tetrick is among a few athletes who can say that winning Unbound Gravel changed her life.

In 2017, still a WorldTour pro, Tetrick set a course record at Unbound — then DK — and the win shifted the course of her life. Since then, she’s been on the podium two more times in 2018 and 2019, and last year she finished just outside the top 10. As she told VeloNews, she can’t not come to Emporia every year — in a way, part of her soul lives in the Flint Hills, Kansas town.

This year, for her fifth running of the race, Tetrick doesn’t have a podium or even a pointy end finish on her mind. Instead, she wants to help other racers reach a similarly lofty goal: to race the sun.

‘Racing the sun’ is a tradition at Unbound, and the goal of reaching the finish line in Emporia by 8:45p.m. (which means finishing the 200-mile race in under 15 hours) has motivated many riders over the years. Tetrick, of course, has always finished well before sunset, but her 2022 race is less about her time and more about others.

“Emporia is where I found gravel,” she told VeloNews. “These are my people and I want to give back. Now, this is the next step.”

On Saturday, Tetrick will facilitate a pace group for riders who hope to finish before sunset. She’s been teasing the concept via another project that she’s passionate about, which is raising money for organizations that increase kids’ access to bikes.

For a few weeks, Tetrick has been selling ‘AMTrain Bandanas’ through her Saga Ventures side project. Anyone can buy one, whether they’re racing the sun, racing the moon, or not even racing at all. 100 percent of funds will be donated to Outride and the Coyote Composite, Emporia’s local NICA team.

Tetrick will have bandanas on hand in Emporia and for those who purchase one this weekend, or have already purchased one and are picking it up, she’ll also have frame stickers with mileage and pace times for those that are racing the sun. Even if riders cannot locate Tetrick at the start, if they arrive at the water oasis at Texaco Hill by 8:30 and are ready to roll out by 8:35, they can join the ‘AMTrain.’

Riders must still have their own support at the race’s two checkpoints, but with the departure times clearly listed on the frame sticker, those wanting to keep pace with Tetrick can always roll out together. Signs and volunteers (riders from the Coyote Composite NICA team) will point people in the right direction.

Tetrick admitted that when her manager at Specialized suggested she not race Unbound this year but rather focus on the community aspect of the event, she was hesitant at first.

“I still wanted to race,” she said. “He was like, ‘what if you actually went slower?’ And I had a lot of ego, so it was like, ‘OK, I guess I can do that, it would be hard….you can pay for my therapist.’ I made all the jokes, but it turned out this is what I really wanted to do.”