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Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge - 100K

by John Sumner • July 17, 2019

The Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge (CBCC) is a great race in a beautiful part of Maine. This year was the 9th running offering a 100K, 50K, 25K and kids races.

The organizers and the community come together to create a well-run event including free camping at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, food trucks, craft beer tent, live music, and very well laid out and clearly marked trails for all ages and abilities. The 100K race is part of the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series.

This was my fourth year entering and the second year racing the 100K. My first attempt in 2016 was last minute and I really was not prepared for what was to come. It was a real learning experience. I decided 2019 was the year to compete against myself and measure how much my racing has improved. Having had success in other endurance events, I felt I had a better understanding of what it takes.

However, preparation for the race was set back by a trip to Costa Rica and being stung by a stingray on the side of my left foot. Excruciating pain and three stitches later, I was under Doctors orders to elevate my foot and take it easy for a couple of weeks. The swelling made wearing a shoe difficult. Therefore, I really only had a couple of weeks to prepare. When I was able to start training, I decided to just climb everything and anything, build up mileage on-road/gravel rides and enter a couple of 30-mile races.

The 100K course winds all over Carrabassett Valley and part of Sugarloaf ski area. I was glad to know 95% of the trails. This course is a mix of single track, gravel roads, pavement, duo track, grassy sections, short and long climbs (over 6500' in climbing total), fast flowing single track, smooth banked downhill rippers and a couple of mud bogs.

Race day approached and I was concerned that I just had not trained enough. At the start, I decided to slow down and be as conservative as possible to ensure I had something left to cross the finish line. Soon, I found myself picking off both riders who began ahead of me and riders who had passed me earlier. I caught a small group midway through the course and we went back and forth for several miles. I could tell they did not have the energy to keep up so I eventually rode off the front with no answer from them. After I turned onto the out and back section, my front tire flatted from a previous extra hard hidden rock and I was forced to use my inner tube. The group I had broken away from now caught me and I had to watch them pass on the out and the back. However, I was now having a carrot to chase and I was determined to gain lost time.

At Poplar Stream hut (15 miles to the finish) water station the volunteers told me I was five minutes behind my chase group. On the cross trail to the final feed station entering the narrow gauge, I passed two of the three I was chasing. Here, I did start to experience calf cramps. A couple of cups of pickle juice, peanut butter and banana finger sandwich, followed by a Hammer gel and water, I was off heading towards the Stratton climb. The cramps went away and I began to feel great. I knew I was about 8 miles from the finish and decided to drink as much as I could stomach knowing at the top of the Stratton climb there was a water station. This plan worked, cramps were now history and I found myself having more energy than expected. I picked up my pace and crossed the line beating my previous time by an hour and three minutes. I was only down less than a minute from the final guy I was chasing.

Overall, my training, preparation and awesome new Kona Heihei with Schwalbe Racing Ralphs made my second attempt so much less painful. The day was hot, high 80's and my Verge summer-weight kit was so well vented I never became overheated.

I highly recommend this race to anyone, there is something for everyone in an amazing part of our world!

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