I have a love / hate relationship with Sugarbottom. I love the trails, the place has just about everything you could ask for in mountain biking with the exception of any significant climbs. It has been the host of the largest mountain bike race in Iowa for as long as I can remember. When I do race there, the first thing that I say to myself when I finish… ‘man I hate this place’!
I really don’t hate Sugarbottom, the place has a lot of cool stuff, my favorite being the pine forested sections. Something about the smell of pine… kinda smells like Colorado. When I do finish riding or racing there, my entire body feels like I hit every tree along the trail. Lot’s of mutant roots and chatter in braking areas, enough to knock the fillings out of your teeth.
The race started, Eppen drilled the holeshot, Culley grabbed his wheel and I thought I had Cully’s wheel… perfect… right where I wanted to be. At the last minute, Nenninger (Grandmaster Lou’s favorite sparring partner) and Todd Gillihan put the squeeze on me. Rather than force the issue and risk hitting the deck, I backed it down and let them duke it out for Cully’s wheel. It was pretty frustrating because shortly after we entered the singletrack, Eppen, Cully and Ryan gradually began to gap off Gillihan and myself. I could have gone with them but I was stuck behind Gillihan.
Once we hit the gravel road, the leading trio was near the top and I was at the bottom. I went around Gillihan and began my pursuit with Andy Lueck in tow. About midway through lap one Andy was still on my wheel and I wasn’t making a whole of progress on reeling in the leaders. I asked Andy if we wanted to lead for a while. He rides there a lot more than I do and I figured this would serve us well. He went by and shortly thereafter he proceeded to T-bone a tree. I rolled by, asked if he was OK. I heard him mumble something as I rode by, I think it was probably a continuation of the grunt that he let out when he made his initial contact.
As the lap progressed I could see Eppen and Cully riding off into the sunset, however Ryan had fallen off the pace. This motivated me to push harder and I eventually reeled him in. He let me by just as we were entering a black section, the trails are marked kinda like ski runs, black = technical, blue = intermediate, green = beginner. I quickly opened up a gap and continued my pursuit of the Eppenator and Cully.
As the race progressed, my legs were constantly reminding me that I was at the end of a pretty heavy three week block of training. They felt good enough to maintain a pretty decent pace, but it wasn’t enough to do any significant damage on the lead that Cully or Eppen had on me. Lap two was pretty uneventful, lap three my body began feel the effects of the punishing course and I felt myself slipping into survival mode. In the end I held on for 3rd with a time of 2:37:29. Eppen won with a time of 2:30:33, Cully brought home 2nd in 2:34:44. Andy came in 4th with a time of 2:41:59 and Ryan rounded out the top 5 with a time of 2:42:59. Great job to all on a pretty brutal course!
I came into the race like any other race, with the expectation of winning. I’ve never won at Sugarbottom and feel like it is within my reach… someday! I still felt really good about how I did, my legs felt pretty weak throughout. My average heart rate for the race was 168, when I’m feeling good, it’s typically in the upper 170’s. So I was a long way from feeling on top of my game. I have some pretty big goals later in the season and have to train through a lot of races in order to maximize my training.
Next up is Chequamegon, the biggest race of the year. It’s the largest single day mountain bike race in America and is one of my biggest goals of the season. The field is always stacked with the fastest racers in the central states along with some pretty strong national level talent. It’ll be a great test that will provide a true indication of where I’m at. My goal… top twenty overall and top three in my age group. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading,