Gary’s 2016 UNBOUND finish at 2 a.m. with his cycling coach Noah Collins.

Climate Rider Gary Justis is taking on his most important cycling charitable fundraising event to date. On June 4th, he will be attempting to finish his fourth UNBOUND Gravel, a 200+ mile gravel race – riding as a member of the Major Taylor Club of Kansas City to raise much needed funds for Climate Ride beneficiary, the Intersectional Environmentalist (IE). And he’s going big on that front too, setting a goal to fundraise $20,000!

(Whatever Gary raises will be matching 100% thanks to a matching pledge from Climate Ride supporter, the Algorand Foundation. So when Gary raises $20,000, it will double to $40,000!)

We touched base with him to learn more about what inspired him to take on this hardcore ride.

Climate Ride (CR): How did you get involved in riding with the Major Taylor Club?

Gary Justis (GJ): I was asked to join the Major Taylor Club of Kansas City by a former college football teammate from Mizzou who is from Kansas City and a longtime officer of the Club. I looked into the events they were involved in and wanted to be a member and involved in the Club’s events as well as being a cycling ambassador for the Club in cycling events I have done all over the country.

CR: This upcoming UNBOUND Gravel ride sounds intense! And you’ve already done three? What inspired that?

GJ: My first attempt and finish of the UNBOUND Gravel 200 was in 2016, just three weeks after my father passed away. I spent over 40 hours straight with my father in hospice as he fought to stay alive but succumbed to heart failure. It was one of the hottest, windiest, most humid UNBOUND races in its history, with nearly half of the 200 mile riders quitting. I almost quit at mile marker 141 of 206 miles, but my father’s memory and strength allowed me to pick myself up and somehow finish the last 65 miles in the dark, finishing just a few minutes before the 2 am deadline.

In 2017, I participated in my second straight UNBOUND Gravel 200, finishing over three hours faster on an ideal day. Ironically, that was the year I discovered Climate Ride and participated in my first Climate Ride event, Death Valley 2017, which I used as a training event for my UNBOUND Gravel 200 ride. That was the easy year (which is a relative term since I was still in the saddle nearly 17 hours).

Gary’s 2017 Finish with his high school classmate Coury Armstrong.

In 2018, I went completely nuts and finished the UNBOUND Gravel 200 on a single-speed Niner gravel bike. There were 40 of us nutjobs that attempted it on a single-speed and 25 of us finished. I finished in just over 18 hours, but strained my left Achilles heel which took over 2 years to heal.

I did not do the UNBOUND Gravel 200 in 2019 since I was still recovering from my left achilles heel injury. The event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID. I couldn’t participate in 2021 since my son was graduating from high school at about the time of the ride and I was busy preparing for my move to Crested Butte, CO.

CR: Three rides seem like quite a feat already. Most people would probably call it after something like that achilles strain. What made you decide to keep going?

GJ: Anyone who finishes five UNBOUND Gravel 200 rides gets a special 1,000-mile chalice (goblet), which is an epic accomplishment. I have this year and next year to get my chalice, which is my goal.

2018 finish on a single-speed gravel bike.

CR: How do you go about training for riding 200+ miles in a day?

GJ: Training for the UNBOUND Gravel 200 is crazy hard. I have a cycling coach based in Colorado Springs, Noah Collins, who puts me through pure training hell from November through May to have the legs to attempt the ride. The basic rule of thumb is that I need to log over 2,500 miles of training from January through May to have the legs to attempt the ride. What makes the training even more difficult and boring is that much of it has to be inside on a trainer because of winter. This year, I am using both the Arizona and Spain Climate Rides to help me train for the UNBOUND Gravel ride in June since both Climate Rides will involve a lot of climbing. Also, since I am now in Crested Butte at nearly 9,000 feet of elevation, the high elevation training should help immensely, as should the fact that I supplement my indoor cycling training with a lot of downhill and nordic skiing.

Since I have finished the ride three times, I know what it takes mentally and physically to finish, but it is still a very hard ride to finish. Absent any mechanical or physical issues (knock on wood), I have complete confidence that I can complete my 4th finish this year. Of course, I will have a lot more incentive since I am riding this year’s event to raise so much money for IE.

CR: Riding and training in UNBOUND is a huge challenge already, why’d you decide to add $20,000 of fundraising to it?

GJ: I chose to combine UNBOUND Gravel 200, Major Taylor Club, and my environmental legal experiences to raise these much needed funds for the Intersectional Environmentalist. My lofty goal (besides finishing the race) is to raise at least $20,000 for this worthy environmental justice/climate change awareness charity.

My environmental law practice over the last 30+ years has been focused almost exclusively on Superfund sites across the country. Superfund sites are typically former landfills or other facilities where hazardous wastes were disposed of that require extensive study and clean-up activities, along with decades of follow-up monitoring and maintenance, often costing from $30 million to well over $100 million to do so, or in some cases, billions of dollars.

Many of these Superfund sites are located in BIPOC communities (BIPOC is an acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color). In essence, America has a long history of environmental injustice towards BIPOC communities when it comes to where hazardous waste sites are located.

The Intersectional Environmentalist (IE) is a non-profit charitable organization that is a climate justice community and resource hub to educate people on the plights of BIPOC communities and historically under-amplified voices when it comes to environmental justice. You can learn much more about IE on its website (www.intersectionalenvironmentalist.com). I chose IE as my charity of choice after extensive research on the most appropriate environmental justice charity for this individual cycling event I am going to attempt. Needless to say, my opinion based on my environmental legal experience is that IE is a very worthy climate justice charity.

CR: We love IE and all the incredible work they do to create educational resources and amplify BIPOC voices. Thanks Gary for going big for them and taking on this challenge!

If you want to support Gary, check out his fundraising page here!

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