Pro Cyclist Travis McCabe Readies For 200-Mile Unbound Gravel Race
Unbound Gravel is, arguably, the most grueling and prestigious gravel cycling event on the racing calendar. With the 2021 edition of Unbound Gravel taking place on June 7, we’re excited to shine a spotlight on the Felt athletes who will be rolling to the start line, as well as their preparation for one of the most unique cycling challenges in the world. (Photo: Miguel Folch)
Travis McCabe is a pro cyclist who's had an incredible level of success racing on the road over the past decade. With big wins at events like Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of the Gila, Tour of Utah, and more, Travis knows what it takes to train smart, race hard, and reap all of the joys that cycling offers. For 2021, Travis wanted a new challenge, so he turned his attention to his newfound love of gravel racing and the biggest drop-bar, off-road event there is: Unbound Gravel.
FELT: Have you raced Unbound Gravel before?
Travis: No, I haven’t! This will be a completely new experience for me. I did a couple of gravel races back in 2019 when I was on Floyd’s Pro Cycling, but they weren’t nearly as long as what Unbound is. To be honest, I have this looming sense of fear mixed with excitement when it comes to Unbound. The distance definitely scares me, but I’m also really excited to see just how far I can push myself.
FELT: Have you ever raced or ridden 200+ miles on dirt?
Travis: No, this is going to be a first! The longest I’ve ridden on dirt was probably 120 miles. I held up okay on that. But adding an extra 80 miles, well, that’s a whole different ball game. I’m just really focused on my nutrition, as well as keeping the bike upright. Fortunately, I have First Endurance EFS behind me helping me out the entire way, and I have my Felt bike to keep me going forward.
FELT: What will racing Unbound Gravel—widely regarded as the most prestigious and toughest event on the gravel calendar—mean to you?
Travis: It means a lot to me for a few reasons. For sure it’s a huge race with huge mileage, but there are so many factors that make it such a hard race. The heat, the roads, the riders, the uncertainty. For me this will be my first showing at a big gravel race, and I want to not only to prove to myself, but to everyone, that I’m still capable of racing and winning bike races, no matter what that race is. I love racing and competing, so I’m just really excited to get out there and see how I hold up.
FELT: Have you modified your training leading up to Unbound Gravel?
Travis: I’ve definitely added more volume to the training, and I’ve tried to spend more time on the gravel bike to get comfortable with it. From everyone I’ve talked to, the time on the bike can be difficult, so I’ve been focusing on that. I’ve also been focusing on just keeping a consistent power instead of doing a bunch of high intensity workouts, but there really hasn’t been too much of a shift.
FELT: What’s your nutrition and hydration plan looking like for Unbound? How much food, or how many calories, are you expecting to consume?
Travis: I’m really fortunate to have First Endurance back on my side this year, and I feel like that’s going to make a huge difference. I’ve been training under the Florida sun with the new EFS Pro formula and using the Ultragen recovery mix (even while training), and it’s really been a game-changer. So for the race, this is my game plan: I’ll be eating rice crispy treats and bars for as long as I can, but at about the 6- to 7-hour mark, I plan to switch to First Endurance’s fruit punch Ultragen in one of my bottles. I think getting enough calories in this long of a ride is super hard, but I think the Ultragen might just be my saving grace. I’m expecting to consume just over 350 calories per hour and hopefully maintain that for the 10+ hours of racing!
FELT: What sort of experience are you hoping to have at Unbound Gravel?
Travis: You know, this year is definitely a bit of a transition year for me, and I just don’t know what the racing will be like for Unbound. So I would consider an uneventful race a success. What I mean by that is to hopefully have few or no mechanicals, not to bonk (too hard), and not crash. I think if I can keep it upright and just keep the pedals turning then I’ll come away with a good result. I don’t really see myself standing on the top step of the podium this year, but it is a future goal of mine and I hope I can at least be close to it this year.