Yuri Hauswald and Mason Mohn: from Unbound Gravel to the Spirit World 100

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PATAGONIA, Arizona (VN) – At the start line of the Spirit World 100 gravel race on Saturday, Amity Rockwell joked, ‘there’s only one race going on today, and that’s the one between Yuri and Mason.’ 

Rockwell wasn’t the only one in on the playful rivalry that had been brewing all week between Yuri Hauswald and Mason Mohn. The two had been public in their shit-talking, reeling us all in to the mini competition within the gravel race. 

Why is this particular banter relevant?

Well, the 52-year-old and 25-year-old go way back, to 2015 if you want to get specific. That’s the year that Hauswald won Unbound Gravel, then known as DK. Mohn was just a kid then, born and raised in Emporia, in a household inextricably linked to the gravel race. His parents, Tim and Kristi, are etched into the event’s history as participants and promoters.

Tim Mohn rode in the inaugural edition of Unbound in 2006. Kristi joined the event team in 2009 and continues to helm Unbound’s DEI and women’s initiatives, among acting as the event’s de facto historian and logistician.

Mason Mohn didn’t grow up planning to be involved with the race that had subsumed not only his family but also his hometown, but life has a way of offering unforeseen options.

“I have a biology degree,” Mohn said. “I wanted to be a doctor.” 

Now, Mohn is marketing specialist for off-road events for Life Time, Unbound’s parent company. Hauswald works for GU Energy Labs and continues to ride at Unbound, although he’s rarely racing these days.

We caught up with the two friends after the Spirit World 100, where Hauswald finished in 6:12:40, and Mohn won his category in 6:29:39.

Mohn and Hauswald before the 2022 Spirit World 100 (Photo: Tim Mohn)

VeloNews: So, when did this playful rivalry begin?

Mason Mohn: I think I texted Yuri to see if he was doing Sprit World and he said yes. And he said he was gonna hold my wheel and I said, ‘there’s not a chance.’ But he proved it today, he kicked my ass.

Yuri Hauswald: It may have actually started when I saw a a photo from BWR Kansas and I said to him, ‘looking fierce coming through the singletrack!’ But that was a genuine compliment that may have got the competitive juices flowing, I’m not sure.

VN: Mason, do you remember when Yuri won DK?

YH: He was at a track meet! Kristi wasn’t even at the race, she was at the meet watching him.

MM: I got there late, but I remember. It was the state track meet. I got back and I heard it was a shitshow, it was very muddy, that this guy named Yuri won, that he was a badass and he won it in a sprint. I don’t think I’d heard of him before … maybe. 2015 was a while ago. I was 17.

VN: Did you realize as you were growing up what the event was and how important it was becoming? Or was it like, ‘my parents are weird and so is this?’

MM: Partly. I didn’t get into cycling ’til recently because I thought it was kinda weird, but I also respected everyone who did it. 200 miles is a ridiculous feat. So I definitely had a lot of respect for Yuri after 2015.

VN: Yuri, here you are, now a peer with the son of your good friends who are connected to this very important event in your life. Is that cool?

YH: It’s super cool, it’s like full circle for me in a number of ways. I won’t tear up, I promise. My wife and I don’t have kids. I have a lot of non-blood nieces and nephews in my life, and I’d consider Mason one of those kids. And his sister Sydney, as well.

I have vivid memories of 2015, Sydney was actually two miles out on course when I had just caught the guy. She gave me a yell, and I gave her a look in this corner like, ‘holy shit, it’s gonna get real when we come into town.’ and I think she texted back to town, ‘they’re together, it’s on.’

It’s been fun, since 2015, every year when I go back to Emporia, I stay at their house, so we’ve developed a deeper friendship since then, when Mason may not have known me well. It’s fun to connect with him whenever I’m back. Now that he works at Life Time he’s a colleague of sorts! I work at GU and we sponsor a lot of the Life Time events, so our paths cross quite frequently as work colleagues now, it’s so formal!

After the race. Hauswald finished about 17 minutes ahead of Mohn (Photo: Tim Mohn)

VN: Mason, does it feel like, you’re part of our crew now, or are we still your parents friends? Do you even want to be our friends?

MM: I don’t know, that’s still something I think about a lot actually. I feel like I’m making my way in … You’re very cool people. It’s cool, being introduced as a kid. Meeting Yuri I was definitely a kid and now I can say Yuri is my friend.

VN: Are you disappointed you didn’t beat him?

MM: I didn’t really think I stood much of a chance given his experience. It’s Yuri f’ing Hauswald!

YH: But I will say he’s been working with a coach, Kristen Legan, and I can tell the past few days riding with him that he was way stronger than when we pre-rode last year at this time together.

VN: Yuri, did this playful rivalry light a little fire in you? You’re not really competitive anymore.

YH: Not so much, but it was like a fun, familial rivalry more than anything. It was just fun to … watch you in the front pack, Mason. I was watching everything happen. It was fun to have a cool little rivalry, and the irony is that we both ended up by ourselves for most of the day. I wasn’t here competing against anybody else, so it was fun to have this rivalry with Mason of all people. That’s because of our history. He’s like family, and I liked that he was poking the bear and throwing it out there. It was super fun and added an element this year that wouldn’t have been there if he hadn’t have thrown it out there.

VN: Mason, is Yuri someone you look up to?

MM: Absolutely. He’s not only a badass gravel rider but a good dude in general. If I could be like Yuri, half the man, I’d be happy.