Perhaps Ivar Slik’s lack of WorldTour experience that so many of his contemporaries share means that the winner of the men’s Unbound 200 this weekend wasn’t as well-known as some of the other entrants. But having already won The Traka and finished 2nd at Gravel Locos this year, the Dutchman certainly didn’t come to Kansas as a complete underdog.
Speaking ahead of the race, the European beach running champion expressed a desire to learn from last year’s mistakes:
“Last year I wasted too much energy in the first part of the race,” Slik explained. “The race is so long, more than ten hours [Slik’s unofficial finish time was 9h 22m 04s] and you have to ride smart and focus on your nutrition strategy. It is also very important to avoid large sharp stones so as not to puncture. So my plan is to save energy at the start and halfway through we can refuel.”
Edged Keegan Swenson and Ian Boswell to take the win at Emporia, the strategy clearly paid off, but it wasn’t all about nutrition and line choice. Aerodynamics are key in a 200 mile race too, and that’s why Slik chose sponsor Wilier’s Rave SLR as their bike of choice, featuring Miche Graff wheels, Shimano GRX components, road, an Ultegra crankset and the single-cockpit Filante SLR replacing the V-shaped cockpit typically found on the Rave SLR.
Also, despite the annual furore over whether aero bars belong in gravel racing, Slik considered them essential. So much so that he 3D printed custom brackets to allow him to install them on the aero handlebar.
The rest of the Slik setup is a component shift, typical of a bike built for Unbound. With the Rave SLR frame as the base, a GRX Di2 group takes care of the braking and shifting, but sadly not the polished silver GRX limited edition launched this week. Up front, an Ultegra R8000 crankset is fitted with 50/34 chainrings and Look Keo pedals.
Miche Graff Route wheels are 36mm deep and shod with Schwalbe G-One tires. Aero extensions come courtesy of Profile Design, while little more than a top tube bag and saddle bag have been tasked with handling on-bike storage.
Two Elite Vico bottle cages held what appear to be 750ml bottles, along with a Lezyne mini pump and CO2 cartridge. The hand pump appears to be missing at the end of the race, but it’s unclear if it fell off mid-race or if Slik was forced to use it.
Road pedals are a fairly common choice for Unbound riders, and Slik paired theirs with Shimano’s RC901 road shoes – in white – with equally white socks.
Interestingly, about the kit, Slik also wore a jumpsuit and helmet inspired by famous American motorcycle jumper and stuntman Evel Knievel. This kit was designed by Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra.