Wednesday, August 31, 2011
There are a lot of things that I love about Sugar Bottom. The first time that I ever rode there was probably about 12 years ago, and I was blown away at how cool the place was. Over the years, the trails have seen a lot of use, so much so that a lot of re-routes had to be done. The course also contains a lot of big, exposed roots that beat the crappola out of my old body. Every time I hit a rooty section at speed, I cringe in fear at the thought of my frame, or my body developing cracks from all of the jarring.
The Elite field was of typical Sugar Bottom quality, sans the Eppenator and Kevin McConnell, who both opted for the WORS race up in Green Bay. The race started on the gravel access road and I somehow ended up pulling the field to the top of the hill. Aaron R and Matias P both snaked me going into the singletrack. Shortly after we entered the singletrack, the pace started to slow a little. I was a little gassed from the start, so I was pretty A-OK with that.
Throughout the first lap, the pace in the singletrack slowed even more. And whenever we hit the gravel access road, everybody would sit up and look at each other, probably wondering who was going to take the lead. By the end of lap one, there were still six of us riding together, myself, MOD, Shim, Matias, Aaron and Nate Kollbom.
The 'peloton' at the start of lap 2.
This continued throughout the second lap and I, along with a few others were starting to grow a little weary of the road race like dynamic that was going on. As we hit the gravel access road towards the end of the second lap, I was at the back of the line. I stepped out and hit throttle in an effort to shake things up a bit. Aaron and MOD were on singlespeeds, so I’m pretty sure they fell off almost immediately. I took a look back about halfway down the road and Matias appeared to be closing in on me a little. I hit it even harder to keep the gap between Matias and myself with the hope of minimizing his ability to draft. We hit the singletrack, and I slowed a little to recover from the effort. Matias closed the gap shortly after we hit the singletrack, and it didn’t take long for MOD to catch back either.
At the start of lap three, I led the way up the access road and Matias jumped into the singletrack first and the pace slowed again. MOD and I were getting pretty impatient with the pace and it didn’t take long for MOD to make a pass on me that only MOD could pull off through a pretty tight, technical corner. It was an impressive, clean pass and I had no choice but to give him room. As we rolled through the singletrack, I could see that MOD was setting Matias up for the same move. And sure enough, he pulled the same move on Matias and instantly created a gap between Matias and myself.
It was at this point that I thought the race had been decided. I was stuck behind Matias and MOD was almost out of sight. As Matias and I rolled up an uphill section of twisty singletrack, I made a pass on the inside of a corner. I got by and kept the pace as high as I could in an effort to create a gap. I could tell that Matias was falling off the pace, and I also started to feel a lot better than I had earlier in the race. So I kept the pace high to see if I could pull MOD back.
About midway through the lap, I had finally reeled MOD back in and started thinking about how I could possibly pull this one off. MOD can negotiate his way through the singletrack a lot more quickly and efficiently than I can, so my only hope was to hang onto his wheel and try to drop him on the last section of access road. I knew that his singlespeed wouldn’t be geared to handle the pace on the road. I held his wheel, we hit the road, I dumped it down a few gears and opened her up. About halfway down the road, I was completely out of gears, so I knew without looking back that I had created a pretty good gap.
I kept the pace as high as I could on the road, and managed to avoid T-boning Maria, who appeared to be wandering along the road in an apparent state to delirium fresh off of finishing her race. I motored through the singletrack as quickly as I could, knowing that MOD was most likely closing the gap back down. I hit the last section of grassy field and didn’t let off the pace as I had no idea where MOD was. As I approached the finish, I took a few looks back expecting to see MOD closing in on me with a 200 rpm cadence, but it didn’t happen. I had managed to pull off the W by a close 30 seconds over MOD. Matias came in third, a little over two minutes back.
It was a really hard, but fun race. There was never really a point in the race where I felt like I could pull off the win, with the exception of maybe the final mile or so. MOD and Matias were both very strong competitors, in their own very different styles, that made for a pretty unique, but fun dynamic throughout the race. Lot’s of different tactics going on for sure.
Julie rippin' it up on some of the sweetest singletrack in the Midwest.
My studly wife cleaning cyclocross hill.
What’s next…unfortunately no Mapelag this year. The Hy-Vee triathlon is the same weekend and Julie has to stick around for a few of her clients. So maybe the next WORS race up at Lake Geneva.
Thanks for reading,