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60 elite cyclists just got the call of — pun intended — a life time.
Life Time, the event promoter behind races like the Leadville Trail 100 and Unbound Gravel, has just announced the 60 riders selected to participate in the inaugural Grand Prix race series, an off-road series that includes six of the brand’s iconic gravel and cross-country mountain bike races. The Grand Prix has a $250,000 prize purse to be split evenly between male and female riders.
Life Time’s president of media and events Kimo Seymour said that he was blown away by the depth of the talent in the application pool. 205 people (138 men and 67 women) applied for the initial 40 spots.
“The competitiveness of the field blew me away,” Seymour told VeloNews. “Not knowing who was going to apply, and we just got such incredibly deep fields. We could have gotten a ton of amateurs who said ‘I want to give this a shot,’ but we got so many pros and so much talent. A lot are names you’ll know from gravel, but we had some really strong roadies on the men’s side, as well as some incredibly strong MTBers And then there’s Ashton Lambie. I love it! It will be so incredible to see the guy that just set the world record in the individual pursuit on the track show up and do Leadville.”
Joining Lambie in the men’s race are gravel stalwarts like Colin Strickland and Payson McElveen. Current and former WorldTour pros Alex Howes, Lachlan Morton, TJ Eisenhart, Pete Stetina, and Ted King are also on the list, as are marathon MTB legends Keegan Swenson, Howard Grotts, and Russell Finsterwald.
The women’s list includes Olympians and world champions from various disciplines. Erin Huck, Lea Davison, Sofia Gomez Villafañe, and Katerina Nash will represent the XC MTB contingent, while world champion downhiller Kathy Pruitt, legendary time trialist Amber Neben, and recently retired Trek-Segafredo rider Ruth Winder will bring an entirely different set of skills to the races.
Seymour said that the selection process was painstaking but that the most important consideration was how the athletes represent the sport of cycling.
“We focused on peoples palmares and that was certainly part of it but we also focused on people’s answers to the questions,” he said. “We were looking for people that we felt would be ambassadors. We’re trying to figure out how to grow the sport of cycling in North America. We wanted people who would be good ambassadors for the series but also for the sport of off-road racing in North America. Some of that had to be subjective. We looked at people’s social media accounts and how they present themselves. How they’ll be good for the sport. That’s what it ultimately came down to.”
Pro gravelleur Pete Stetina shared the sentiment of many athletes selected, which is that the Grand Prix is a huge step toward shining a spotlight on professional cycling in North America.
“This is a huge moment in the return of off-road cycling in America,” he told VeloNews. “I really applaud Life Time for what they’re doing. I can’t be happier to be a part of it. Pro cyclists work so hard, and pro cyclists in the U.S. have always been underpaid for the effort you put in, so to make it more financially rewarding is a huge thing I want to support.”
Melisa Rollins, who rides for Team Twenty24, celebrated the series for its gender parity.
“This is the change that needs to happen for women’s professional racing to continue to develop and grow in the US,” she said. “It incentivizes competition at amazing alternative events. It glorifies perseverance and is effortlessly inclusive.”
When the race series was first announced, there were only 40 slots for 20 men and 20 women. However, Life Time increased the number to 60 when the deferral registration period for races like Unbound Gravel and the Leadville 100 didn’t net the numbers expected. Seymour explained that this opened more spots in the general lottery for amateurs which thus allotted a few more spots for pros.
Both Life Time and the participating athletes are hopeful that the Grand Prix race series will generate a buzz that travels beyond the bubble of off-road racing.
“Hopefully with the storytelling it will create more fan engagement to follow the riders throughout the season, instead of just a smattering of races here and there,” Stetina said. “Like a little bit of a reality TV.”
Tokyo Olympian Erin Huck told VeloNews that she thinks the Grand Prix could bridge the gap between participatory cycling and the professional sport.
“I think there has been a growing void between people who are passionate about bikes, and the elite athletes who race,” she said. “We don’t see as many stories, there aren’t as many marque events in the US…it’s hard to relate to athletes that spend their time racing events that aren’t accessible for open participation. I see the Grand Prix as a way to close the void by showcasing a diverse group of elite level racers as they take on a variety of events that people are familiar with and hopefully are participating in themselves. I think it’s a win-win for everyone involved. We get to race in a series of events that bring together the cycling community, are uniquely challenging, and offer a solid payout while also having a platform to share our stories including our failures, challenges, and triumphs. And hopefully these stories are relatable and maybe inspire more people to follow along.”
The overall results of the Grand Prix will use an athlete’s best five finishes out of the following six events: (April 9) Fuego 100K XC mountain bike race at the Life Time Sea Otter Classic presented by Continental Tire, (June 4) 200-mile Garmin UNBOUND Gravel presented by Craft Sportswear, (July 9) 70-mile Crusher in the Tushar presented by The Creamery, (August 13) Stages Cycling Leadville Trail 100 MTB, (September 17) 40-mile Chequamegon MTB Festival presented by Trek, and (October 22) 100-mile Life Time Big Sugar Gravel.
Life Time Grand Prix: Elite women
- Whitney Allison, 33, Fort Collins, Colo.
- Kaysee Armstrong, 31, Knoxville, Tenn.
- Lea Davison, 38, Jericho, Vt.
- Evelyn Dong, 36, Park City, Utah
- Rebecca Fahringer, 32, Bend, Ore.
- Maude Farrell, 30, Mill Valley, Calif.,
- Helena Gilbert-Snyder, 22, El Cerrito, Calif.
- Sofia Gomez Villafane, 27, Heber City, Utah
- Rose Grant, 39, Columbia Falls, Mont.
- Erin Huck, 40, Boulder, Colo.
- Isabel King, 30, Los Angeles, Calif.
- Kristen Legan, 36, Longmont, Colo.
- Rach McBride, 42, Vancouver, Canada
- Angela Naeth, 39, South Easton, Mass.
- Katerina Nash, 44, Emeryville, Calif.
- Amanda Nauman, 32, Lake Forest, Calif.
- Amber Neben, 46, Lake Forest, Calif.
- Emily Joy Newsom, 38, Fort Worth, Texas
- Flavia Oliveira-Parks, 40, Castro Valley, Calif.
- Hannah Otto, 26, Salt Lake City, Utah
- Paige Peters, 32, Grand Rapids, Mich.
- Kathy Pruitt, 38, Saratoga, Calif.
- Amity Rockwell, 28, San Francisco, Calif.
- Melisa Rollins, 26, Salt Lake City, Utah
- Hannah Shell, 30, Boulder, Colo.
- Alexis Skarda, 32, Grand Junction, Colo.
- Haley Hunter Smith, 28, Uxbridge, Ontario
- Sarah Sturm, 32, Durango, Colo.
- Moriah Wilson, 25, Mill Valley, Calif.
- Ruth Winder, 28, Boulder, Colo.
Life Time Grand Prix: Elite men
- Eddie Anderson, 23, Richmond, Va.
- Josh Berry, 31, Tucson, Ariz.
- Jeremiah Bishop, 45, Harrisonburg, Va.
- John Borstlemann, 30, Lincoln, Neb.
- Rob Britton, 37, Victoria, British Columbia
- Stephan Davoust, 26, Durango, Colo.
- TJ Eisenhart, 27, Ivins, Utah
- Russell Finsterwald, 30, Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Howard Grotts, 28, Missoula, Mont.
- Lance Haidet, 23, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
- Alex Howes, 33, Nederland, Colo.
- Dylan Johnson, 26, Brevard, N.C.
- John Keller, 24, Boulder, Colo.
- Ted King, 38, Richmond, Vt.
- Andrew L’Esperance, 30, Halifax, N.S.
- Ashton Lambie, 30, Lincoln, Neb.
- Bradyn Lange, 22, Austin, Texas.
- Taylor Lideen, 31, Phoenix, Ariz.
- Payson McElveen, 28, Durango, Colo.
- Lachlan Morton, 29, Girona, E.S.
- Logan Owen, 26, Bremerton, Wash.
- Cole Paton, 24, Durango, Colo.
- Kiel Reijnen, 35, Bainbridge Island, Wash.
- Adam Roberge, 24, Prévost, Québec
- Peter Stetina, 34, Santa Rosa, Calif.
- Colin Strickland, 35, Austin, Texas
- Keegan Swenson, 27, Heber City, Utah.
- Laurens Ten Dam, 41, Oudorp, Netherlands
- Alexey Vermeulen, 26, Pinckney, Mich.
- Alex Wild, 29, San Jose, Calif.