Its probably one of the better 50K courses too for that matter and really becoming one of the best events in New England in my opinion. They have come a long way since the last time I did it in 2013.
Lets talk about the trails first. They (Sugarloaf, Town Of Carrabassett, NEMBA, LL Bean (I've heard not sure if that is true)) have invested TONS of money into the region specifically for trail development. And when I say tons I'm talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. 300 thousand with plans for another 2-3 hundred thousand over the next 2-3 years. Thats crazy. What does that get you? Expertly built, fun as hell stuff. Berms, rock work, its unreal. At the end of the course we did a sustained 2+ mile descent on a nearly completely machine built trail. Massive berms, tons of flow. Keep in mind this was not on Sugarloaf or at a MTB park. This was in the woods, free to the public.
Second the production value and the support are really getting dialed. They have learned lessons and really have a pretty well oiled event going. They are starting to incorporate all those little things that really set events apart. Food truck burrito with reg, Pedro's on hand for bike wash, custom medals made out of trees, huge raffle, tons of great swag. Aid stations were well stocked and volunteers were spot on. They have an eye for safety. They take measures I have never seen done at any other race and while some of it some might seem annoying (mandatory dismounts here and there etc) I think its smart.
So yeah if you can't tell I love this race and I would recommend just about anyone who likes riding/racing bikes should make the drive and ride either the 15,50 or 100K.
I'm going to have to check the archives but I think I'm safe saying this is the best a race has ever gone for me. Both from a result stand point and the amount of fun I had attaining that result. I won the SS 100K at the Wildcat years ago but this course was 1000x better and my time was a pretty major milestone for me that I have been gunning for since shortly after I started doing longer races, specifically 100Ks.
Its funny to think that before all this awesome happened things were looking grim on the start line. I had one of those "What the hell am I doing here??, Why do I do this to myself??" moments as the Expert field was staged to start. Forecast wasn't awesome and the rain just started to come down pretty hard. It cooled things right off and I was standing at the line shivering, getting soaked and looking at 6ish hours on the bike.
Luckily the rain only continued for the first maybe 10-15mins of the race and that was it. Rest of the race was just overcast and mid to high 60s. Pretty perfect really. Trails were a bit greasy but it had been pretty dry up there the week prior so no real bad mud holes. All in all pretty manageable and actually quite fun. Ended up being the conditions I really love. Greasy, loose, on your toes stuff but not enough to completely ruin your gear.
It was a mass start so I ended up slotting in with teammate Erik for a roughly 11mi two man TT through the early sections of the race. I'm the captain so I put him on the front obviously. He gap'd me a tad on the main haul up Sugarloaf and I wouldn't see him again until mile 40. Funny how fast little gaps can become big gaps before you know it. There was all kinds of new singletrack on the Sugarloaf side of the course. First 20mi is a lot more like a small XC race at a ski resort within the bigger 100K course.
here I am wheelsucking
This was an odd 100K for me in that I felt pretty metered and strong during the entire race. Usually I go through some pretty dark times during these efforts. Felt good early, felt good in the middle, and felt 'good' at the end. I was pleased with my power on the flats, I was able to stay with and in some cases drop groups when historically that is where I would lose time that I would have to claw back on climbs. Luckily this course has two 3+ mile climbs later in the course in which to do that.
I was passing people here and there most of the day but really had no idea where I was in the field. All I knew was that I was feeling good and I was on sub 6 pace past the 40 mile aid where I stashed my drop bag. The aid at mile 40 was a life saver, I had pushed a bit too hard on the long false flat single track prior. Its hard not to, its a sweet trail with some rollers and it works much better if you just keep the momentum up and power over those rollers so its almost like small mini intervals for 5-7mi or so. I was also trying to catch a group of 3-4 guys that were perpetually like 5-10 secs ahead. Never did quite get there though.
why wouldn't those guys just slow down and let me catch them?
Those efforts had me just about at the edge of empty and cramping but I knew that aid was coming and I was keeping a close eye on calories and fluids I had left. Restocked at mile 40 and went out to hit the little out and back cul-du-sac section. That's a great place to get an exact gauge on where people are around you because you can see them coming back while you head out. The group of 3-4 had put about a minute into me through the aid and were already into paceline mode on the road so I gave up on that fight.
As I made my way out of that section I saw Erik again...behind me thanks to a navigational error on his part. I contemplated waiting so we could collaborate on the long gravel section but not too far behind him was a competitor of mine so I got on it knowing I could extend the gap on the road and make it very hard for him to come back. There is a pretty gnarly section of singletrack after the longer gravel section that is tailor made for a strong rider on a full suspension to catch a guy on a hard tail and sure enough Erik caught me at the end of a descent and we got back into two man TT mode.
We came into the last aid together and set about getting to the last climb that brought you up to the crazy machine built descent. I was hoping to stay with him and maybe have a funny mano-a-mano sprint at the finish but that climb got STEEP at the end and his gearing was a bit friendlier than mine (and hes a tad stronger) and he rolled away. I was digging pretty deep on that climb. I was still good for sub 6hr heading into it but it was substantial and posed a serious threat to my overall pace. Cramps were threatening but luckily never really materialized.
At the top I knew I still had a shot depending on the terrain I had to deal with getting down. Luckily that terrain was a super fast, amazingly built, amusement park of a bike trail called Oak Knoll. Even though my body was in 'we need to be done with this, like, soon" mode I couldn't help but shred with a huge grin on my face. Such a treat to end such a long day like that.
I kept the pressure on through the last little section of singletrack along the river watching the clock the whole time. Hit the mile to go sign with about 11mins to spare on the 6hr mark and a whole bunch of tension that I didn't know was there released. Unless things went horribly wrong in that last mile it was in the bag. Crossed the road and got onto the final switchback climb to the Touring Center. Legs still felt ok and you get that little surge knowing you are so close to the finish. Crossed the line in 5h53m good for a very surprising 3rd place in my class. I was not expecting a result like that with the names on the start list but I've always said these types of distances are the great equalizer when it comes to me being competitive in an 'Expert' field.
5h53m is a roughly 35min improvement on my previous 100K PR. Hard to tell how much of that is fitness and how much is suspension and gears. I certainly surprised myself and had a blast doing it. Very unlikely I'll miss this race in the coming years.