The Mulligan version of the Sugar Bottom Scramble went off without a hitch on Sunday at the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area. Originally scheduled for August 24th, it was rained out and slotted in for September 14th. Rain threatened to cancel it again as more than 4.5" fell on the course the week of the race. Luckily, things dried out enough to reward all racers with tacky conditions, cool weather, and sunshine for a perfect day of racing.
Yes, for Midwest racers it was a very busy weekend with the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Wisconsin taking place, cyclocross racing in Pella, and who knows what else going on in addition to the rescheduled Sugar Bottom Scramble? Numbers were down from last year's 200 or so racers, but I want to thank Mike Frasier and his entire crew for pulling this one off to keep our series intact. Kudos to everyone who got the bridges reset, the course marked, and all of the volunteers who were able to find a weekend to make this happen. I know all the racers join me in thanking everyone for this.
I rolled out of the driveway at about 9 am for the 2 hour ride over to Sugar Bottom. I probably should have given myself an extra ten minutes now that I am required to drive the speed limit at all times, but I got there in time to get my number plate, do about a 25 minute warm-up, and hit the starting line. Alexa drove over from campus to watch me and hang out for the afternoon.
Last year, we had about 60 racers start in the CAT II Sport wave which was quite a dusty mess up the opening gravel road climb. This year we were around 34 or so in my starting wave, so the dust was less of an impact. My heart rate monitor/iPhone combination was giving me funny readings during my warm up with things like my heart rate being 678 beats per minute and what not, so I handed my phone to Alexa before the start and would go on perceived feel only which I am used to doing. On the start, I was in the back of the pack. I pedaled my way into the middle of the pack rather quickly, and then was surprised on the climb that those in front of me were not going harder. So I passed quite a few and went into the singletrack at the top of the climb in pretty good shape. Looked like I was in the top third at least.
The opening section is my favorite at Sugar Bottom on the south side of the gravel road. Like last year, we were only scheduled to go through it one time and I miss doing it twice. There were moments where I was able to jockey for position and pass a few riders, and be passed by another rider or two as we tooled through the beautiful woods and singletrack of the south side. I was tailing Tony Branch as he had a good pace going and we had finished neck and neck at George Wyth where I raced really well, so I felt confident I was in a good spot right behind him. We caught up to Katherine Roccasseca from the COMP wave and I said hello as we passed her. The first time through the north side loop (that we were doing twice) I was chatting with Jody Gorsh who was behind me about when Cyclocross Hill was coming. I figured I would fly down the hill leading into it to get up as much of the hill as possible to keep it in the big ring and muscle out the top of the hill. The hill has been my nemesis the past few years with me blowing a hub, having to change lines in the middle of the hill due to a rider in front of me, and poor gear selection.
Round one went fine this time and I made the climb without issue...
Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop
Jody congratulated me at the top of the hill and went around me. I gave chase not wanting to fall behind. I tailed Tony Branch through the finish area as we started our second lap of the north side. We passed a few riders that we had caught up to who had run out of gas and I noticed Tony starting to slow a little bit. Not long after that, he pulled over to let me by (said his hands/arms were cramping). I was right behind a group of 3 riders that included Jody Gorsh as we approached Cyclocross Hill for the second time. I had the same plan this time and came flying down the hill. I was wearing my old worn out Specialized shoes that have a rip in the mesh, and the cleats are - needless to say - pretty well worn causing my right foot to come unclipped on the slightest pedal strike or any abnormal jolt. Sure enough, just as I bounced through the middle rut on the hill climb, I started muscling my pedal stroke to make the climb and my right foot bounced out of the pedal and came unclipped. Angy Snoop caught me right at the moment with a big grimace on my face as I realized I was going to have to put a foot down and hike the hill...
Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop
I didn't run up the hill, but in frustration climbed up the slope, remounted and took off as I saw the three riders in front of me ride away. Nobody passed me due to the unclip, so nothing was lost there. But I guess it is time to start wearing my new shoes that I am slowly breaking in to take advantage of the new clips which will prevent my foot from bouncing out so easily.
I managed to work my way back up to one of the riders from the group of 3 in front of me and got on his rear wheel. I stuck with him through the final section and decided to sprint to the line to try and pass him. When we hit the open field sprint section coming around the final corner, I called out that I was on his right and out sprinted him to the line to move into 8th Place Overall for CAT II Sport, and got 1st Place for the 50+ age class.
Goals met. 1st Place in my age class, and I made the top 10 overall for our category in Sport. I feel like I have finally recovered a bit from the Dakota Five-0 and was pleased with my racing effort throughout the race on Sunday. Age information was not included, so I had to get all of that organized to upload the results into our IMBCS spreadsheet. Here is the overall Sport wave...
I visited with Alexa while we waited for the awards ceremony and won a free oil change plus tire rotation for her in the raffle. I talked with Mike Frasier about the event and we discussed some possibilities for next year. After I thanked everyone, I headed out to lunch with Alexa. It was nice to see her and visit for a few hours. And she'll be home this weekend for my Birthday!!!
Bottom line: Kudos to ICORR and everyone at the Sugar Bottom Scramble. Great race and fun was had by all in near perfect conditions.