The biggest weekend of American gravel racing is here, kicking it all off on Friday, June 3, is the Unbound XL with over 350 miles of the toughest and finest gravel through the heartland of Kansas. It’s the fifth edition of the XL with a field of 166 athletes, the biggest yet. Maxx Chance is one of them. Chance has forged his own path into the scene picking up personal sponsors with a history of impressive results in the cyclocross and road side of the sport. We had a chance to get to know Chance and get some up-close shots of his titanium Sage Storm King GP.
How did you get started riding bikes?
MC: I grew up riding bikes around Boulder with my family. But it wasn’t until I went to a local cycling team practice with my younger brother that I was hooked. I did a practice ‘cross race with the team on a borrowed road bike, I think I must have been 11. I bashed my shin up on the pedals (and still have the scar) but was having the time of my life. From then on it’s been bikes. The first pivotal moment in my cycling career would be signing with the Clif Bar development team as a 16-year-old. They were the best junior cyclocross team at the time and we had full support at races: bikes, wheels, mechanics, the real deal. I really got my foot in the door on the national scene with them. Second, would probably be winning Single Speed Worlds in St. George in 2019. It was just what I needed after a long couple of road seasons and being a bit burnt out on road racing, ‘cross and all of it.
What motivated you to make the transition to gravel racing? How did the relationships with the sponsors come about?
MC: I was ready to be done with road racing, and getting a bit bored of always traveling to the same uninspiring courses in the US to race ‘cross. Then, due to some drama during the pandemic between my team and me, I was fully ready to leave the road behind and start a new chapter. I spent the summer of 2020 exploring all the sweet roads and trails and high country goodies that the Boulder area has to offer and couldn’t believe that even though I have lived here my whole life and never really explored what there was off the beaten path. Gravel, for me, means the ability to take a different path while continuing to be in the community that has given me so much, but also finding out what I truly enjoy about riding bikes.
I met David at Sage through some mutual friends and we hit it off right away. Shimano has been a sponsor of mine through the ‘cross teams I have been on for a long time so it was a natural transition. I work for WTB so it was an easy fit to keep using their products. Between those three, it was easy to get a killer bike together and have the support to get to a couple of events and do some other fun adventures and projects along the way.
Besides the distance, what challenges are you expecting to face during Unbound XL? What’s the longest distance you’ve ridden at once?
MC: I know that there are going to be some points that really suck. and especially if something happens out there with a mechanical or something like that it can be easy to spiral. So I think my plan is to just keep eating and drinking and taking care of myself and try to enjoy it. It’s a big challenge, so why not enjoy it!
I have done a handful of longer rides 8-10 hours. But not many. I just finished up a trip where I skied Mt. Hood, then rode from Mt. Hood to Mt. Shasta, then skied Mt. Shasta. One of those days was 150 miles of mixed terrain and took over 10 hours. So I’m feeling like I’ve gotten some good prep for the race, but you never know.
What does your equipment choice look like for Unbound XL?
MC: I will be riding my Sage Storm King GP with a Fox suspension fork. I built the bike to be a quiver killer and be fun to ride on some of the rockier and gnarlier trails that I find myself on pretty often. For the race, I think that the suspension fork is going to be pretty valuable and just take the edge off a bit.
As for the drivetrain, full Shimano GRX Di2 with a 1x for the simplicity of it. I am torn between a 42 or 40 upfront. will probably be a game-time decision.
I will be using the WTB resolute 42 SG2 tires. These things roll really fast but also have plenty of grip. Plus the SG2 provides bead to bead protection. I have these mounted to WTB CZR i23 carbon wheels with WTB Sealant. I have used this combo for a while now and have been really really happy with it.
How much does someone need to eat to finish a ride like Unbound XL? What does your nutrition plan consist of?
MC: Yikes, I have no idea. I will probably eat a lot more calories than I can wrap my head around. But I love a good gas station meal. I will also be using Mauten drink mix in the bottles and hydration bladder and supplementing the gas station food with gels from them. I was perusing The Feed’s offerings and this seemed to be the best bang for the caloric buck in terms of drink mix. We’ll see how it goes.
What extra gear are you bringing along to finish the ride? Anything special most people wouldn’t think of?
MC: Right now I am on the fence about bringing a spare tire. Sounds like last year’s winner had to use the one he brought. Otherwise, I will be bringing a bunch of tire plugs, a few spare tubes, CO2s, a pump, a chain link, and probably a shooter of whiskey. Just in case.
Follow Maxx on Instagram @maxx_chance
Check out our full review of the Sage Storm King GP
Photos: Micah Robin