I have to say the Breck Epic lived up to it’s reputation as a an amazing single track filled stage race. I didn’t know what to expect coming off of Leadville but things went much better then expected. If you ever had thoughts about doing a MTB stage race this is one to put on your bucket list. The Epic is 6 days long and you can sleep in the same bed every night. The race starts and finishes are all within a mile of downtown and you hardly ever ride the same trail twice. There is almost 0 road and there is only a small amount of fire road which is welcome after endless miles of single track. If it were up to me I would do the Breck Epic as a social training ride with my friends so I could ride a big bike, stop to take in the amazing scenery and just enjoy the trails in Breckenridge. This year it was all about racing though.
The week would turn out to be a constant battle with Alex Grant. Stage 1 I took the sprint win and the jersey, stage 2 I was looking to gain some time. All the stages run together but I think I put a small gap on Alex on the first super steep climb, he got a slow leak on the descent so I got a decent gap that he closed down at the top of the Colorado trail climb. A side note, the Colorado trail is amazing, I have never ridden a section of it anywhere in the state that didn’t bring a smile to my face. I was able to get a gap on the last climb and extend my G.C. lead to 1:45.
Stage 3 I battled with Alex and the German again and this time I was able to take 2 mins more on the G.C. to up my overall lead to 3:45. That might be a good gap in a road stage race but in the middle of the Colorado wilderness that can evaporate with 1 flat tire, broken, chain or any number of other mechanical problems, let alone a bad day physically. There isn’t much drafting at 12,000 on a single track trail, just a lot of heavy breathing so if you’re off your game a little bit it can mean big time gaps.
I thought I would come around and have recovered from Leadville by the middle of the race but stage 4 I suffered pretty bad. I tried to shake Alex and the German all day but I just couldn’t crack Alex. The German was also close but Alex and I came to the line together with him taking the “W” and me remaining on the same G.C. time. The German lost a little time on the last climb but had a big problem when his crank fell off a few miles from the finish. Takei of Japan was getting better and better as the race went on and he managed the last spot on the podium ahead of the German.
I think they call stage 5, Wheeler pass the queen stage but I’m not sure as everyday was awesome, my favorite was day 2. We normally started with a neutral roll out on the road for a mile or two to get out of town. That was awesome as I didn’t really have to warm up but Wheeler pass we started at the base of the ski area on the dirt straight up a fire road. That climb faced west so we were in the sun the entire time and I was ready to race from the gun. I got a small gap after a mile or two and kept the pressure on all the way to the top of the 12,500 ft Wheeler pass. There isn’t much air up there and the trail gets pretty steep and loose at the top so it’s tough to ride. The reward at the top is an amazing view and a technical descent down the backside into Copper. From there it’s 6 miles of downhill bike path before hitting a loose, steep 3 mile climb but to another awesome piece of single track. I finally cracked open the G.C. on stage 5 winning by over 5 minutes and opening up the G.C. to just over 9 minutes.
Race start/finish stage 6 as seen from above
Stage 6 was the shortest time wise and not too long mileage wise as well. It was 31 miles, 3,500 ft of climbing and it only took just over 2 hours. I knew I just had to stay close to Alex to seal the win but when you’re so close and the stage isn’t suppose to be too hard it always feels twice as hard and seems to take forever. I again found myself off with Alex but this time it was Takei pushing the pace. We rode as a group all the way up the last climb and I even got a beer feed in the last feedzone at the top, just 7 miles from the finish and all downhill. Takei and Alex raced for the stage win at warp speed down the tricky descent with each leading at time but blowing a corner so the other could take the lead. Coming into the finish Takei had the lead and took the win ahead of Alex with me rolling in 3rd and securing the overall win.
I had 1 disadvantage going into this race and quite a few advantages. The disadvantage was racing Leadville the day before while my biggest competitors rested up for Breck. My advantages were having been staying at high elevation for over 3 weeks leading up to the race, having a mechanic so my bike was dialed everyday and probably my biggest advantage was having our soigner, Christine take care of me all week. Other then feeding and taking care of me during the race, she cooked dinner every night, gave me massage and also acupuncture everyday. With all that support I had a huge advantage. I also had the new S-works World Cup Epic. Alex and Ben were swapping back and forth between their Cannondale HT and fully day to day. I felt the Epic was the perfect bike everyday so I had a the luxury of riding the full suspension everyday which was not only more comfortable for each stage, but I felt safer and faster.
I ran Fast Track 2.0 control tires front and rear with 26/27 psi. I ran my front fork at 95 and my rear shock at 155 with the brain full on. I carried a tube, CO2 and multitool in a seat bag. I drank a new diluted Clif mix and started the race eating Margarita Clif blocks and finished with Cranrazz and Citrus Clif shots. I also took coke in the last feed zone each day and never had any stomach problems or any bonks.
I was taking amazing naps each day after the stage. I get in such a nice rhythm during a stage race. Breckenridge is a super dog friendly town, this guy was hanging out at the Breckenridge Brewery during a rain storm.
And finally, I don’t know what it is about Colorado MTB races but belt buckles are the preferred trophy. I got another one this week to go with my Leadville buckle from last weekend, this was the bounty for a week spent duking it out on some of the best trails I have ridden anywhere in the world.