Big Sugar - Oct 2023

What should I expect temperature-wise? I’m coming from the southwest, so currently training at about 90 degrees, but no humidity.

Given the time of year, I’d say expect anywhere from cool to warm but comfortable. Unlikely to get a really hot day. In the first year, there wasn’t much wind but there was some rain and light thunderstorms along the way, mostly mid-race.

Last year, it was super dry leading up to the event so the course was really dusty, but easier on tires because of it. Temps were fine, it was just the strong headwind coming back as you headed south that made it tough. There also wasn’t much for water after the second aid, so don’t forget to fill up there.

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Appreciate all the advice! Debating on a frame bag for a rain jacket and extra gels/supplies. Or just top tube bag.

I’ll be there this year, this will be my first time doing Big Sugar, but not first time gravel racing.

@jasonmayo i recognize the name, are you from the Memphis area, too?

My takeaways from this thread are to run bigger tires. I have been running 40s for other races, but I will heed the advice and switch to the Maxxis Rambler 45s that I have.

I’ve been running a 42 front 11-42 rear, but that creates some trouble on steep grades. I am switching to a 38 front for this.

I’ll be driving over the day before. Any suggestions for how to best get up to speed on the course without preriding it? Any notable sections to pay attention to?



I had a 1:1 bailout gear last year and that was sufficient for most of the course…maybe a few short sections where I was grinding a bit, but I wouldn’t change anything if I was doing it this year. You should definitely be oK with a 38x42.

Add inserts if you can.

As for the course, I did not pre-ride or scout the course beforehand and didn’t think there was anything that you had to be aware of ahead of time. If you aren’t super-confident on descents / loose stuff, just keep your speed in check. There are definitely some downhill, off-camber turns in loose areas that can cause a pucker moment…for me those moments were usually caused by the riders in front of me vs. how I felt on the descents. If they started grabbing handfuls of brakes, you could be forced into it, which moves you off your line to the outside when descending vs. staying on your preferred line.

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From what I remember most of the faster trickier descents are in the first half of the race. A lot of the riders were pretty fired up when you come off the pavement and hit the gravel, so people are going pretty fast initially on this stretch, which also leads into some of the trickier sections. Ted King fell and broke his elbow in this part two years ago. I saw one guy hit one of the steeper off camber turns and get his front wheel completely sideways and then somersault four or five times down the hill. Remarkably he was fine. The main issue is just to be sure to scrub enough speed before hitting some of the turns on the descents.

Things eventually sort themselves out and I don’t remember too much technical stuff as the day wears on. There can be some pretty deep random potholes though, so keeping an eye out in front of you is always a good idea. I remember hitting one pretty hard really late in the ride on the last sections of gravel before you get back to the pavement leading to the finish. Didn’t crash but was a good reminder to pay attention.


I am from Memphis. Very flat compared to NWA.

One more question. Are y’all running road pedals or mountain pedals for this? I have typically been running mountain pedals for gravel races, but it sounds like the gravel might not be as chunky here?

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Hmmm…not certain where you are getting that idea, but the gravel in NWA is definitely chunky. Run the widest tires you can.

As for pedals, I used MTB shoes / pedals last year, but probably could have run road (if I used look / Shimano and not Speedplay).

BUT, it was dry last year and had been for awhile. There were several creek bed crossings that were bone dry but could be an issue if there is rain leading up to the race.

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I plan to bring both of my pedal shoes. If it rains and is muddy, I’ll do mountain. If it’s dry I’ll do road.

I plan to do a shakeout ride. And maybe take a look at the early off camber descent.

Also, what are you doing support crews?

Obviously I’ve never done this race, but I’m planning to tackle this as if it were unsupported and only make 1 water stop. I will have a 3L USWE pack and 2 big bottles (1L each). Planning to bring gels in top tube bag / jersey pocket and extra drink mix (tailwind).

I don’t have any support and I don’t like relying on aid stations to have a drink mix that won’t mess with my stomach.

Also, I did a sweat salt test recently and I lose 1,500 mg sodium per liter of sweat! So I have to pay attention to what’s in my bottles.

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I know unbound requires a crew, wasn’t sure if this race was the same. I had someone drop out on me, so was wondering how much I should panic.

I’m also planning on doing it unsupported. Pack all my stuff on the bike, and only use the aid stations to fill up on water.

i’m on the waitlist. We’ll see if I get in. 104 miles and 7K of climbing - My uswe pack and two bottles should be enough unless it’s very warm. Probably plan a quick stop at the second station.

There are sufficient aid stations that are well stocked….no need to carry everything with you unless you really want to.

Last year the aid stations were supplied by Untapped, so there was drink mix, gels / syrups and waffles….plus the usual aid station fare like bananas, pretzels and cokes.

I concur with running the widest tires possible. I ran 38s over the summer in Ak and it was a pretty horrible experience (you get destroyed on the downhills). The gravel is way worse than Unbound, for example, where I ran 38s without issues.

If I was racing the 100 and still had a hard tail a la DJ, I would seriously consider running that.

I think Dylan determined last year that it would not be an effective choice at Big Sugar, based on his testing.

He ran this:

I guess I incorrectly remembered his conclusions……thanks.

But man, watching him “nub” his tires caused a PTSD flare up. Back in the day when we did photoshoots for bike catalogs, we would spend HOURS “nubbing” tires before shooting the bikes (this was before digital cameras were good enough for professional stuff)

We tried everything to find the best way to nub the tires…hair clippers, scissors, razors, you name it. The best was a pair of small wire clippers from Radio Shack. You’d sit down with a pile of wheels and just start nubbing.

As the shoots wore on, you’d get so fried from all the minutia that eventually you’d actually WANT to nub some tires just because it was so brainless. You could just sit there and chill for awhile.

Good times. :crazy_face:

I did the 50 mile route last year and the full SAG stop at mile 24 or so is very well stocked. There were a couple of other water only or coke stops on the route by vendors like Shimano and one other one. I’m not sure you can rely on that but the mile 24 SAG has lots of nutrition and hydration and it’s a really great atmosphere. If you aren’t going for a podium, I would highly suggest stopping for a couple of minutes but not more so you legs don’t go cold with the steep climb out of that SAG.

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DJ did mention on his pod cast that he got some “manscaping” trimmer to cut the nubs off now in record time. :slight_smile: