The Life Time Little Sugar MTB is a prestigious MTB race that takes place in the world-class biking hotbed of Bentonville, Arkansas. Little Sugar MTB is part of the Life Time Big Sugar Classic festival, which is a week-long celebration that allows off-road enthusiasts to shred both the MTB trails and gravel roads that put Bentonville on the map for cycling. For one week each October, the MTB trails and gravel roads of Northwest Arkansas (NWA) become the playground for those who dare to face the legendary challenge reminiscent of the Leadville race series. The diverse and adrenaline-pumping terrains, featuring rough and rocky limestone, enchanting caves, and magnificent waterfalls, make this event a truly unique spectacle. Little Sugar MTB takes place on October 15, followed by the Big Sugar Classic gravel event the following weekend on October 21. The Little Sugar MTB is considered by the team at Strambecco to be one of the Best Mountain Bike Events in the South Central region year after year.
Event & Course Info
Little Sugar MTB offers three-course options, including 100K, 50K, or 20K courses that will have those legs burning and hearts pumping. Courses will start in Bentonville and travel north into Bella Vista, traversing the hollers and ravines of Little Sugar and Back 40. You’ll get a firsthand view of the unique bluff lines, caves, waterfalls, and iconic Ledges in the Ozarks! Don’t be fooled – these trail systems offer grinding climbs that alternate with fasting rolling descents! While you’ll feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, you’ll connect to Slaughter Pen as you make your way back home. A world-class urban trail system with clean flow lines, technical rock features, and a view of the picturesque Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Regardless of which course you take on, the diverse trails system offers a panoramic experience, with views of iconic ledges, caves, waterfalls, and the chance to traverse the hollers and ravines of Little Sugar and Back 40. You’ll experience the picturesque Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the world-class urban trail system of Slaughter Pen, which boasts clean flow lines and technical rock features..
All distances kick off from The Homestead in Coler MTB Preserve on October 15, 2023, with the 50K at 7:30 am, the 100K at 8:00 am, and the 20K at 10:30 am. The route will remain open to the public, so riders are advised to be cautious at road crossings and respectful at the Razorback Greenway multi-use trail where pedestrians and families may be present.
Little Sugar 100k Course
The longest course of them all, the 100K spans 99.3 kilometers or 61.7 miles, with a substantial 6,558’ elevation gain. This course travels through the iconic sections of Bentonville and Bella Vista, including Little Sugar Creek, Back 40/Blowing Springs, Slaughter Pen, and Coler MTB Preserve. It’s a captivating yet challenging journey with grinding climbs, rolling descents, technical rock features, and picturesque views of the region’s diverse landscapes and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Designed for the seasoned warriors of the MTB world, it’s a true test of endurance and skill, providing an immersive experience into the world-class urban trail system.
Little Sugar 50K Course
This mid-range course stretches 52.8 kilometers or 32.8 miles, presenting a 3,474’ elevation gain. The 50K is an adventurous journey through the Little Sugar, Back 40, and Slaughter Pen trail systems of Bella Vista and Bentonville, Arkansas. It offers a balanced mix of technical challenges, with breathtaking terrains, iconic landscapes, and views of the iconic landmarks of the region. The course is a bit more demanding, designed for those who seek to experience the hollers and ravines of Bentonville and Bella Vista and are ready for a moderately challenging and rewarding ride.
Little Sugar 20K Course
Spanning 18.9 kilometers or 11.7 miles with a 1,115’ elevation gain, this course is an excellent introduction to MTB trails. The course is primarily set on the Slaughter Pen trail system of Bentonville, Arkansas. It’s a loop-de-loop around the Castle area in Slaughter Pen, offering riders exciting descents and climbs with captivating sights of the local landscapes. It is particularly friendly for cyclists of all ages and those new to the MTB world, looking for a fast and fun course. Despite being the shortest, it doesn’t compromise on the thrilling and scenic biking experience, making it a delight for newcomers and those seeking a less grueling challenge.
Adequate support is in place to ensure riders can maintain their momentum. The two aid stations on each of the 100k & 50k courses are stocked with essentials like water, sports hydration, nutrition bars, carbohydrate gels, chips, and assorted snacks. Plus, neutral mechanical support is available for those unforeseen hiccups.
Beyond the race, the event turns into a festivity, where a week full of cycling events, industry gatherings, group rides, and clinics await the participants. Whether you opt for one event or dive into the full spectrum of activities, Little Sugar MTB ensures a dynamic close to the biking season with the Big Sugar Classic, where friends and families gather to witness and partake in the culmination of MTB and gravel road racing phenomena. Each rider gets free food and beer tokens to enjoy after their race and while they are cheering on the awards ceremony where 100K Top 5 participants split a $65,000 prize purse, with 1st Place – $12,000 split between men and women.
Be sure to check out the official 2023 Athlete Guide for all of the nitty gritty details.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
If you’re coming in from out of town or want to stay close to the Little Sugar MTB event happenings, it’s recommended to book lodging through their Hotel Planner whether you want to stay in Bentonville or Bella Vista. There are also plenty of vacation rentals in both locations, as well as area campgrounds and unique one of a kind camping locations.
The culinary scene in Bentonville, AR, is a dynamic and diverse fusion of flavors, boasting a rich array of eateries ranging from high-end restaurants to quirky cafes, each presenting a unique blend of local and international cuisines, often with a creative twist. Here, food lovers can embark on a gastronomic journey exploring a myriad of options including upscale dining establishments serving gourmet creations, cozy bistros offering homely comfort food, and vibrant food trucks presenting a variety of delectable street eats, all reflecting the city’s culinary innovation and its deep-rooted food traditions. Don’t forget to check out some of the local favorites while you’re in town.
Bentonville, Arkansas, is a vibrant city located in the northwestern part of the state. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, which provides a stunning backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts. The region features a diverse landscape, including wooded areas, rolling hills, and picturesque trails, making it an ideal destination for outdoor activities. Mountain biking holds a special place in Bentonville’s identity. The city has earned a reputation as a premier mountain biking destination, attracting riders from all over the world. This reputation is primarily due to the efforts of the Walton Family Foundation and the collaboration between local organizations, businesses, and the community.
Bentonville, AR, acclaimed for its flourishing arts scene and innovative culinary landscape, transforms into a spectacle of colors and adventures in October. The crisp air of fall and the myriad of outdoor experiences make Bentonville a quintessential destination for outdoor athletes seeking thrill, challenge, and the charming embrace of nature. The vibrant foliage and mild temperatures make it the perfect time for athletes to explore the renowned Oz Trails. This expansive network of mountain biking trails stretches across the spectacular Ozark Mountains, offering routes for all skill levels, from beginner-friendly to adrenaline-pumping advanced trails. Slaughter Pen Trail is a hotspot, known for its diverse terrain, from flowy segments to challenging rock gardens and jump lines, providing riders a balanced mix of thrill and scenic beauty. Coler Mountain Bike Preserve is a haven for mountain bikers, Coler offers a variety of trails ranging from serene, easy rides to technical, challenging descents, all while surrounded by the stunning fall foliage of the Ozarks. While the Blowing Springs Park, situated on the outskirts of Bentonville, offers a mix of cross-country and downhill trails. It has beautiful scenery and diverse trail options suitable for riders of various abilities.
For those who prefer the rhythm of their footsteps and the quiet whispers of the wind, Hobbs State Park offers an array of hiking trails through dense woodlands and along the shores of Beaver Lake. The rustling leaves underfoot and the kaleidoscope of fall colors make hiking here a transcendental experience.Pigeon Roost Trail is a moderately challenging trail, it takes hikers through the lush forests and offers panoramic views of Beaver Lake, making it an ideal spot for witnessing the spectacular fall colors. While Shaddox Hollow Trail provides a shorter but equally captivating hike, winding through rich woodlands and ravines, allowing hikers to immerse themselves in the serene beauty of nature.
Finally, the crystal-clear waters of Beaver Lake, surrounded by the vibrant hues of October, create a picturesque setting for kayaking adventures. Outdoor athletes can rent a kayak or bring their own and paddle through the calm waters, exploring secluded coves and the scenic shoreline. One favorite adventure is to paddle to Van Winkle Hollow, a historic site allows athletes to combine physical activity with a touch of history and exploration, all while enjoying the tranquil waters and colorful landscapes of the lake, or enjoy a sunset paddle one evening.
Little Sugar MTB is part of the Leadville Race Series MTB and a qualifier for the prestigious 2024 Leadville Trail 100 MTB. New for 2023 – there are a minimum of 40 LT100 qualifier coins up for grabs at this year’s race. Half of the total LT100 coins will be distributed based on performance, and half of the coins will be given away in the Event Lottery at the conclusion of the awards ceremony. Only the 100K distance serves as a qualifier for the LT100 MTB. The Leadville Race Series consists of several endurance events held throughout the year, with the LT100 MTB being the flagship race. Series events include Leadville Stage Race; Austin Rattler MTB; Lutsen 99er; Little Sugar MTB; Sea Otter Fuego XL; Silver Rush 50 MTB; Tahoe Trail; and the mighty Leadville Trail 100 MTB. All races attract elite athletes, seasoned athletes, and enthusiastic amateurs seeking to challenge themselves in some of the most prominent MTB events across the country.
The Big Sugar Classic festival also includes the Big Sugar Classic gravel event, which is the final stop of the Life Time Grand Prix Series and one that we consider to be one of the Best Gravel Cycling Event in the South Central region. It features 7 of the most iconic cycling events and the best cyclists in off-road cycling. The challenge combines mountain biking and gravel riding disciplines, and the events are held all around the country, including the Sea Otter Classic, UNBOUND Gravel, Crusher in the Tushar, Leadville Trail 100 MTB, Big Sugar Gravel, and Chequamegon MTB. These are some of the Best gravel and mountain biking events in the Southwest, California, the Midwest, Colorado and the Rockies. The biggest prize purse in U.S. cycling, $250,000, is split evenly between men and women. Each series event will be streamed live and on-demand on FloBikes, part of the FloSports network.
Two more premier mountain biking events taking place in-state are Pedaler’s Bash and Gudrun – Northwoods MTB Festival. Multi-disciplinary cyclists will appreciate the Highlands Gravel Classic which is part of the UCI Gravel World Series, and Chinkapin Hollow organized by All Sports Productions. Be sure to keep your eyes out for our recommended top road cycling and trail running events in Arkansas as well.