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Gravel

Life Time unveils details of 2023 Grand Prix series

Significant changes include the addition of a seventh race, race fees paid for all selected athletes, and more doping controls.

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Life Time, the parent company of events like Unbound Gravel and the Leadville Race Series, has unveiled the details of the 2023 Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda.

The Grand Prix series debuted in 2022, with six of Life Time’s off-road events comprising a points-based competition. 60 athletes were selected for the inaugural event, which paid out $250,000 to the top 10 men and women.

Keegan Swenson of Heber City, Utah and Haley Smith of Ontario, Canada won the overall series titles.

life time grand prix
Haley Smith and Keegan Swenson secure the 2022 Life Time Grand Prix titles (Photo: Life Time)

The Grand Prix returns in 2023 with some significant changes.

One, the series will expand to seven races instead of six. The seventh race is being considered a ‘wild card’ and will be announced in January 2023, after athletes have been selected and committed to the series. The six named races are the same as last years — however, the Sea Otter XC MTB race increases from 80 to 100k in length.

Next year, Life Time will allow athletes to drop two events with only their top five race results counting toward the overall results.

35 men and 35 women will be selected, up from 60 total riders in 2022. The $250,000 prize purse paid out to the top ten men and women remains unchanged.

Also new for 2023, Life Time will pay all entry fees for all races for all selected athletes. This is a significant change; in 2022, riders were guaranteed entry to all Grand Prix events but had to pay their own entry fees.

Selection criteria for the next class of Grand Prix athletes will hinge largely on past results. While results factored into the selection of last year’s class of athletes, the application also asked riders to explain how they would be an ambassador for Life Time and the series.

According to Michelle Duffy, the director of events, brand, and content strategy at Life Time, that question will not be on the application this year, and the selection team will instead focus largely on the results of “dozens and dozens of the most competitive gravel and mountain bike events in North America and Europe.”

“Results were a huge focal point for us last year as well so the integrity hasn’t changed, but given the level of interest last year and this year we want to be truly educated on who’s coming through the process,” Duffy said. “We want to make sure we’re not passing over anyone who’s not on our radar. It also helps us discover the Paige Onweller’s of the world. We discovered her through Gravel Worlds where she finished fifth.”

Life Time owns the registration and results platform Athlinks.

life time grand prix
Alexey Vermeulen, Keegan Swenson, and Russell Finsterwald make up the top three of the 2022 Life Time Grand Prix (Photo: Life Time)

Duffy also said that doping controls, which were introduced last year, will be more prevalent at Grand Prix races in 2023. Last year, USADA tested athletes at three of the six Grand Prix events. In 2023, the anti-doping agency will have a presence at more races and will test more athletes, including those not participating in the Grand Prix.

For example, last year’s Unbound winner Ivar Slik was not eligible for testing because he wasn’t a part of the Grand Prix. In the new schema, any rider at a Grand Prix event will be subject to drug testing, whether or not he or she is participating in the series.

Duffy did not say which events would have doping controls, only that it would be more than three.

The points structure will remain the same, with 35 points awarded to the top Grand Prix finisher at each event all the way to one.

Ryan Cross, senior marketing manager at Life Time, said that the selection team poured countless hours into evaluating the scoring structure of the Grand Prix.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into scoring scenarios,” he said. “We looked at moto Grand Prix scoring, running, F1, golf — all these mainstream sports and how other leagues do it. We surveyed athletes halfway through season and asked ‘what did you think of the scoring?’ Most said they liked it. First, it’s simple. It also keeps things close. If we were weighting wins or weighting podiums as we went through the season we could have a runaway.”

The points structure kept the 2022 series a tight race until the end, with many athletes saying that Big Sugar Gravel, the last race of the season, was the most competitive of all. For many, the overall podium was decided by that race. In 2023, Big Sugar will remain a mandatory tie-breaker.

Athletes may apply for the 2023 Grand Prix between December 1–7, 2022. Life Time will announce the selected applicants on December 15.

2023 Life Time Grand Prix races

April 22: 100K cross-country mountain bike race in the Fuego XL at the Life Time Sea
Otter Classic presented by Continental in Monterey, California
June 3: 200-mile Garmin Unbound Gravel presented by Craft Sportswear in Emporia,
Kansas
July 8: 69-mile  Life Time Crusher in the Tushar presented by The Creamery in Beaver,
Utah
August 12: 104-mile Stages Cycling Leadville Trail 100 MTB  in Leadville, Colorado
September 16: 40-mile Life Time Chequamegon MTB presented by Trek in Cable, Wisconsin
October 21: 100-mile Life Time Big Sugar Gravel presented by Mazda in Bentonville,
Arkansas (this event is a mandatory tie breaker)
Wild card event: the seventh event will be announced on January 11