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Torbjørn Andre Røed (Above + Beyond Cancer) beat Brendan Johnston (Giant Off Road) in a photo finish and won the pro men’s division at the 2023 Life Time Big Sugar Gravel presented by Mazda. A showdown of seven riders hit the finish with the clock hitting 4:53:38 for the front duo.
Alexey Vermeulen (Jukebox-Shimano-Q+M) then edged Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz Bicycles) at the line to grab third place. Cole Paton (Giant Bicycles) finished fifth, John Borstelmann (Ventum) sixth and Tasman Nankervis (Merida-BMC Shimano).
Winner of Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas, Røed saved his final acceleration for the final 100 metres in the middle of the paved straightaway in downtown Bentonville and kept the 2022 Australian gravel champion from making a pass. The US rider was part of a chase group of six who caught solo leader Borstelmann with under 20 miles to go.
How it unfolded
The third annual Big Sugar Gravel featured 104 miles of chunky, white gravel through Arkansas and southern Missouri in the Ozark Mountains of the US for 7,000 feet of elevation gain.
Under sunny skies, cool temperatures greeted the men’s pro field at the start line in Bentonville for the 104.4-mile contest, which headed to the west, and then north, into Southern Missouri, with a loop back to downtown Bentonville.
The only significant change to the course from last year took place in the last 24 hours on the final mile of the course. Due to construction, a local nonprofit group, The Trailblazers, built a gravel connector on the Rockinghorse Trail to provide a path to the finish line in downtown Bentonville.
The front of the pro men’s field was strung out in a long train formation in the opening 20 miles. As the thundering parade approached the 36-mile mark, USA’s Borstelmann and Norwegian Jonas Orset (Nordic Trailblazer) set the pace at the front with a 30-second advantage to the rest of the field.