The two toughest stages of the Breck Epic are history.
Stage three was the truly epic 47 mile 9,800 feet of climbing circumnavigation of Guyot. Two front range riders, and long time friends, Mark Wiggins and Jeff Kobriger tackled the beast. But first Jeff pounded some Go Fast, and offered up some Go Fast gum that had a warning label promising some heady side effects if you chewed more than 2 pieces an hour. I value my digestive tract and politely declined. Next up, Jeff pulled out the retro pink fanny pack filled with various gu and gels for the ride. This was in addition to two aid station bags and his camelback. I grabbed the camera after slapping a Mountain to Mountain sticker on the front, and nearly doubled up with laughter when he modeled it in all seriousness ready to ride. A few minutes later, he determined that it might cause too much chafing and it was left in the car.
Three massive climbs over French Pass, Georgia Pass, and Humbug Hill that had more than one biker walking were paired with some of the most technical descents of the race and lengthy rocky descents that had hands and triceps screaming for mercy. Mark came in at 5:14, grabbed an ice-cold coke from the cooler, some pretzels, and then sat in the shade to wait for Jeff to come in. Jeff had some cramping issues and came in about a half hour later. Turns out, that despite have ridden in 24 hour races, this had been Jeff’s longest ride EVER in one chunk, and both agreed it was one of the challenging days in the saddle they had ridden.
Riders at the Epic have been griping about the length of the rides, as in, they weren’t long enough. Race director, Mike McCormick, asked the riders to reserve judgement till Friday after the two tough stages. Racing at 10-12,000 feet is unlike racing at lower altitudes. Your body just doesn’t recover in the oxygen deprived environment. Sure enough by the end of Stage 4 today, the same riders that had been complaining were lining up for massages at the Mountain to Mountain massage tent, and comparing aching body parts. Back to back long, strenuous stages in the middle of the race were making themselves felt.
Monique Merrill and Mountain to Mountain’s Development Director, Jake Quigley took on Stage 4. Jake and others were rocked by the extended hike-a-bike section on Wheeler. Jake hit it about two hours in, about an hour behind Mona and the other speedster pro leaders. It drained energy and rhythm, and riders still had two-three hours of riding ahead. Five and half hours in the saddle, a rest and a shower was quickly followed by three bratwursts and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s before heading to bed around 8:30pm. Mona no doubt rode from the finish back to work at Amazing Grace, just another day in the saddle for her.
Tomorrow is the best stage of the race, the fun Gold Dust trail. Board Chair, Steve Recca is up for round two, after Monday’s stage, alongside Breckenridge local, Lauren Ross. A shorter, 32 mile stage, with great singletrack riding. The awards ceremony and party move to the Riverwalk Center from the elementary school campsite, assuming that beers and celebratory pub crawls can ensue.