Scenes from the 2021 Big Sugar gravel race

100 miles of technical sections, canopy covered roads, water crossings, smooth roads, punchy climbs, and tire-shredding gravel.

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After extensive planning in 2019 and a pause on events in 2020, Life Time recently hosted the Big Sugar gravel race in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Community and inclusion were recurring themes throughout the weekend in the very welcoming atmosphere of the “mountain bike capital of the world”. The city with big heart and even bigger ambition embraced all that Big Sugar brought.

“We like to have all kinds of cyclists here,” said Gary Vernon, program director of the Walton Foundation, ”and we want everybody to come. The gravel scene here is just as good as the mountain biking scene.”

The Bentonville area has over 100 miles (161 km) of mountain biking trails, with more being added each day, and over 800 miles (1,288 km) of gravel roads.

“We’re getting a chance to introduce our community as a gravel destination,” said Kalene Griffith, president and CEO of Visit Bentonville. It was an event for everyone to enjoy.

Barriers were broken with a Major Taylor KC partnership, opening spots early for women to register, opening spots for local community groups, and introducing a shorter race, Lil Sugar.

Over 600 riders participated in the race. There were plenty of locals, others from around the States, and even some from as far away as Alaska and Spain.

The 103-mile (166 km) course had scenic views and a unique variety of challenges for all, from the everyday athlete to the growing pro field.

The race started in downtown Bentonville. Racers then traveled north into Southern Missouri Gardens. There were technical sections, canopy covered roads, water crossings, smooth roads, punchy climbs, and tire-shredding gravel.

Along the way the weather was surprisingly dynamic: a 15º temperature drop, wind, rain, and even hail. The racers continued to grind.

The first checkpoint was Pineville, Missouri (mile 37 / 60 km) and the second at Whistling Springs Brewery (mile 73 / 117 km). These stops provided all the snacky stuff: water, untapped maple syrup, waffles, mapleade drink mix, pickles, bananas, potato chips, cookies and even photo opps with a pig!

After the brewery, it was the home stretch to the finish line at Compton Gardens.

Rach McBride pushed through the challenges and crossed the line with a time of 6:44:57 to win the nonbinary category. Moriah Wilson was the first female to cross the line at 5:30:57. Adam Roberge powered through the course with a time of 4:59:10 to win the men’s category.

Finishers were welcomed by an energetic crowd and received a commemorative jar of syrup and a lollipop.

An afterparty was held at Bike Rack Brewing where everyone celebrated their victories, shared their accounts of the day, and continued the community building and fun.

Life Time provided a sweet and memorable experience for everyone at Big Sugar. This event will certainly grow with the great city of Bentonville and be a perfect display of #GoodGravelVibez for years to come.

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