Monday, August 29, 2011

Sugar Bottom Scramble 2011

Nineteen years ago I first raced the Sugar Bottom Scramble and each time I go back it's one of the best trails around.

Anne, Shim, Rafal, Noah and I headed east to North Liberty Iowa for one of my favorite races. The trails are sooo fun, you can help but smile the entire lap. I hadn't raced here in two years but not much has changed. Aaron Robnett and I are still battling it out on singlespeeds. I also finally got to meet Adam Blake of gravel fame.

I could almost name this post "Third times a charm" but seeing how I still lost, I'm not sure it would really fit. But by that statement I mean, I finally got my gearing correct on my third off-road race of the year. Although I've raced a 36x20 for three laps before, I opted for the slightly smaller 34x19 for the 4 lap affair. The gear was perfect in the trees but way too small for the middle fire road section we hit twice a lap. Luckily, I'm fine with playing catch up in the singletrack.

GO! The start was just as brutal as I expected. Gearing to small, everyone else too fast, entered the singletrack seventh wheel. Aaron got the hole shot which immediately had me thinking he was in way to big a gear to go the distance. The plan was to just chill for the first two laps, and the pace was just that. After the first singletrack section I leap frogged up to sixth and then up to Shims wheel the section after that.

By lap two, a Mathias Perret was 20 seconds off the front with Shim chasing and me on his wheel. We were still a 5 strong group just flying through the singletrack. As we finished the lap Shim pulled over to grab a bottle and Cam attacked. I struggled to stay in contact on the fire road and entered the singletrack behind Cam and Aaron with Mathias still up front. I got by Aaron and up to Cam and we closed in on the leader pretty quickly. After the catch, the pace dropped and soon Aaron and a couple others were back with us. On the last half of the lap, Mathias accelerated into the singletrack and the three of us finally got away from the other two.

As we started our last lap I knew my only hope was to try and pin it through the singletrack and make up as much time as possible. Mathias had other plans as he jumped Cam and I and took the lead into the singletrack. I managed to get by Cam in the first corner taking a tight inside line. Mathias was riding really slow and I knew I had to get by him but the trail was super tight. I finally got my moment and dove to the inside of a switchback corner. It was a pretty aggressive foot out, two wheel slide but the move stuck and I now had Mathias between Cam and I so I went for it. I opened up a decent gap but Cam slowly brought me back in. I thought we would ride together for a bit but Cam immediately came through on a section of doubletrack and upped the pace. I matched it easily but new the deck was stacked against me as we got closer to the dreaded fire road. As expected Cam dropped the hammer and put a quick 15 seconds on me. I fought hard to bring him back in the last singletrack section but I couldn't do it. eventually finishing 30 seconds down. Another second place.

I felt strong all day and it was the perfect two and half hour cross country race I was looking for. Shim never did get back on after Cam attacked and ended up 6th. Noah and Rafal raced the Comp class and finished 2nd and 7th and Anne finished 6th in Sport. Pretty solid showing. Next up...Gateway Cup, time for some criterium racing


Shim said...

Nice job Mark, I could tell this was a course that suited you well, tight windy and technical. Your skillz really showed. I was glad to see you ride so well.

speedomodel said...

Hey, is that a Scott AT-3 handlebar? :) I enjoyed the post. Thanks.