Sugarbottom is one of the better, and most popular venues on the Iowa mountain biking circuit. I was talking with the race director prior to the race and he said that 2,000 users in one week is not uncommon at Sugarbottom. If you’ve ever ridden the course you’ll believe him. The course at Sugarbottom is around 10 miles long and contains a lot of high speed braking areas that I would liken to riding my bike over a very large washboard. To add to the physical abuse are the infamous Iowa roots, a lot of them. Every time I ride at Sugarbottom my upper body gets the worst end of the deal. My legs also hurt, but my upper body is so beat up that I hardly notice my legs.
Saturday morning rain postponed this years edition of the Scramble to Sunday, which probably had some effect on the lack of riders in the expert field. However all of the fast guys were there looking to pocket the $500 first place money that was up for grabs. All of the fast guys from Iowa City were there. I knew that it was going to be a tough day in the saddle, fighting against a bunch of dudes that were pretty much riding in their backyard.
The weekend prior to Sugarbottom was supposed to be an IMBCS race, however the event was cancelled. I decided that would likely be my last chance to get some good base mileage in for my second half of the season base/build period. So I did a couple of centuries on Saturday and Sunday. I felt great on Saturday and really suffered on Sunday. I didn’t eat enough during my ride on Sunday and I really suffered over the last couple of hours. I really paid for it throughout last week. It takes a long time to recover from a big bonk like that and it had a pretty significant effect on my performance at Sugarbottom, a week later. A hard lesson learned.
I did an easy recovery ride the day before the race and punched it a couple of times to get the blood flowing in my legs. The legs felt like crap. In retrospect, I should have known that things weren’t quite right. Of course, you don’t want to think that way the day before a big race and I figured that about 30 minutes of stretching and a good nights rest would help flush all of the garbage out of my legs.
I arrived at Sugarbottom about two hours before the scheduled start time, paid my sky high $37 entry fee (it must have something to do with the rising price of gas), suited up and went for a pre-ride. I didn’t get to pre-ride the entire course because it was so long. We lined up for the start and off we went. I had a great hole shot and led the way up the gravel road. By the time we got to the top, I could feel that crappy, lactic acid feeling in my legs that I felt yesterday. I knew then and there that it wasn’t going to be my day. Tom Sulentic passed me at the top of the hill and led the way into the singletrack.
As the lap progressed, Tom gradually pulled away and I had three or four guys on my wheel. About midway through the lap I got passed by Brian Eppen, Cully Todd and Nathan Kline. I held onto them for a short while until the pinball effect started kicking in. I hit a root or something in the trail and got rerouted into the path of a tree. I stuck my forearm out and tried to stiff-arm the tree… It won. I lost all of my momentum and Nathan Moenck passed me, putting me into 6th place.
I finally found my legs and rhythm about midway through the race and was able to maintain a decent, steady pace. This was good because I was having more altercations with trees and roots than normal and it kind of sucked. I ended up finishing the race in 6th overall. I took a look at the results that were posted on the ICORR website and they kind of dropped the ball with their timing. My finish time was actually around 2:33, not 2:46 as the results indicated. So it wasn’t as bad of an ass whoopin’ as the post results had shown.
I’ve raced Sugarbottom several times now, and even though I’ve had good results in the past, I don’t remember ever feeling the same satisfaction that I do at other races. Probably because I’ve never won there. I’ve only come close one time and that was when Cully had his body shut down on him (last year I think).
Next up is IMBCS #6 at Camp Ingawanis, another one of my favorite courses. I’ll be looking for a win there so stay tuned.