NUE Wilderness Marathon

Written by: Jen Toops

Photo credit: Dave Seasholtz

On July 20th, 2019, Shenandoah Mountain Tours held the Wilderness 101 and Marathon races in Coburn, PA. The Wilderness 101 is part of the NUE National Ultra Endurance Race Series and is know for its East coast rocky singletrack, and rolling gravel roads. It was a scorcher with sunny skies and temps reaching almost 100 degrees F. Camping was included with registration in Coburn Park which is also the race start making for an easy race morning and celebration at the finish line.

Men’s Open

Schwarm Takes Wilderness Marathon win

Brian Schwarm, Think Green-Bicycle Face p/b Sword, wins the Men’s Open in a time of 5:40:48. With this win Schwarm leads the NUE Marathon series.

“The Wilderness 101K is one of my favorite races for many reasons. That area of Pennsylvania is breathtaking, the trip to get there (through Cumberland, Maryland) is extremely scenic, and of course the race course is marvelous with the big climbs and rocky singletrack. However, the main topic of discussion among all the racers was the heat. It was hot!

The race started as usual heading out of Coburn and up the Siglerville-Millheim gravel climb. Erik Neilson, Josh Kunz (on a singlespeed), and I rode mostly together until the ridge where Josh bid us farewell and Erik and I took off with our gears. We rode the following gravel sections together, often chatting, and enjoying the slight overcast before things started heating up (both figuratively and literally). 

Once Erik and I hit the trail sections the effort intensified. This was due to the trail itself but also we were catching some 101 mile racers once the courses linked back up. They provided extra motivation to keep going fast. So Erik and I were catching riders and railing the trails. We continued this until the Stillhouse Hollow Climb just past Aid Station 4 where I was able to slide away on the climb. From that point on I was riding by myself but I was running scared since Erik is such a strong racer. I kept an eye behind but was able to roll in for the win. 

Thanks to my amazing wife Jennifer for her continued support. I am very fortunate that she is often willing to travel with me, meet me at aid stations, and take care of me at the finish! In addition, thanks to my team Think Green – Bicycle Face and other sponsors SWORD, ESI grips, Native Eyewear, Maxxis Tires, and Specialized Bikes. Next on the agenda is the Shenandoah 100K over Labor Day weekend for my final stop in the NUE Marathon series.”

Marathon men’s open podium: 1st Brian Schworm, 2nd Erik Nielson, 3rd Thad Paunovich

Taking second place was, Erik Nielson, SouthPaw Cycles, Industry Nine/Giant, finishing in 5:56:54. In third place was, Thad Paunovich, coming in at 7:02:21

Women’s Open

Sheldon gets TOP STEP

Getting her first NUE win of 2019, Elizabeth Sheldon, Cxhairs Devo: Trek, wins the women’s marathon race in, 6:44:12.

“The Wilderness 101 marathon was a real challenge this year!  I’ve done the full distance a few times previously, but was hoping to spend a bit less time in the saddle (and a bit less time recovering after!). Race day started great, with cool-ish temperatures, a bit of overcast and even some breeze when the 100-milers started at 7 a.m.  The marathon racers roll out at 9, which makes sense for the logistics, but had us nervously waiting as the late-July temps started to creep up. Once we got underway, Bryna Blanchard and I were together for the early road climbing sections, but I was riding by myself or with small groups by the time we were at the first singletrack.  At the start of the singletrack, we were sharing the course with the 100-milers after their longer start loop, so there was more company. Aid Station 1 was up to Davidson standards (thanks!). 
After the aid station, the humidity went up and my recollection gets a bit foggier.  The rocks were much greasier, and the heat kicked up a notch, and by the time I got through the second aid station and on to the Stillhouse Hollow climb I was definitely feeling the effort. The kind souls handing out ice bags at Sand Mountain parking lot saved me and after more pedaling I was ecstatic to see the Stan’s finish arch in Coburn. Many good stories from the finish area (including from my husband, brother-in-law and nephew who all rode that day), but my favorite was from my son Jonah who broke his fork at the top of Stillhouse, rode back down, and then finished the full 100 mile course on a borrowed bike.
Thanks to Chris Scott and all the volunteers for a great day on the bike.”

1st Elizabeth Sheldon, 2nd Bryna Blanchard, 3rd Brittany Spangler

About 7 minutes back, Bryna Blanchard, BMB Racing, finished second in a time of 6:51:37. Brittany Spangler, Sacred Cycle, finished third, 7:34:34.

Singlespeed

In the single speed class, Josh Kunz, Knobby Side Down, takes the win in a time of 7:13:45. Jason Zollinger finished second crossing the line at 9:53:06.

Masters

Getting his first NUE win of the season, Carroll Thumel, LRC, wins the Masters division with a time of 9:13:34. Taking the second step, Dan Mock, finished in 9:29:06.

“The 2019 Wilderness 101k can be summarized in just one word, HOT! The prediction for 93 degree temps, prompted me to create a new, one of a kind, Garmin screen with just two stats, temp and mileage. I could feel my head exploding as I watched the degrees tick higher. The 80 plus mile course does have much needed relief, if you take advantage of a dip in one of the extremely cold creeks, well worth the time penalty. Special thanks to Chris Scott for supplying lots of ice at the aid stations. It may not sound like a big deal, but that ice and the many creeks along the way, kept me going.
My usual Tortoise (that’s me) and the Hare race strategy proved to find me on the podium for third place. I’ll take it! Chris has a way of making them tough, so congratulations to ALL who finished. Surviving the heat, extra distance and hours of climbing, is more than most 50/60 year old’s could ever dream of accomplishing. Next on the bucket list, good times at Shenandoah.”

Coming in third was, Richard Hultstrom, with a time of 9:55:47.

Click Here for full results

Next up on the NUE Marathon series is Pierre’s Hole August 3rd in Alta, WY

Breck Epic – Stage 5

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

Vaunted Wheeler Stage takes racers into rarefied air along Tenmile Range

Swenson, Nash stay perfect while Mejia moves into third overall 

 By Devon O’Neil

GC TAKEAWAY: Keegan Swenson and Katerina Nash remained undefeated this week, both winning the Wheeler Stage by comfortable margins (28 seconds for Swenson, a whopping 4:33 for Nash). It sounds redundant, but they were never threatened on the 24-mile stage, which crests 12,400 feet three times and gains 5,544 vertical feet. The UCI Elite names behind them, however, were a different story. Colombia’s Luis Mejia marked Swenson (whose winning time was 2:36:33) for much of the day and leaped from sixth to third overall. He needed 1:34 to pass Arizona’s rising star Nash Dory, 21, who placed third on the day but conceded 2:53 to Mejia. With Russell Finsterwald looking solidly entrenched in second overall, Mejia’s advantage sits at 1:09 over Dory going into the final stage. 

In the women’s race, Nash (3:23:16) and Hannah Finchamp again swept the top two spots, but the big surprise was Laetitia Roux snagging third after starting the day in eighth overall. Roux, a French ski mountaineering racer who won the World Cup overall title eight times before retiring last year, capitalized on the rugged terrain to make the biggest jump by a women’s racer all week. She finished two minutes back of Finchamp.

BIKE COUNT: With help from SRAM’s staff, we checked bike and component specs and brands before today’s start. Some interesting trends shone through. Nearly half the field (44 percent) is using seat dropper posts, for starters. Among the 28 bike brands in action, one in four racers is on Specialized, while 13 percent are riding Santa Cruz. The rest of the top eight broke down as follows: Scott (10 percent), Yeti (9 percent), Trek (8 percent), Pivot (6 percent), Niner (4 percent), and Rocky Mountain (3 percent). 

Fox is the suspension of choice for 55 percent of the field, while 38 percent of riders are on RockShox. SRAM dominates the drivetrain category over Shimano (76 percent to 21), while Shimano led the way in pedals (49 percent to Crank Brothers’ 21) and brakes, edging SRAM (48 percent to 46). Amazingly, only three people are using front derailleurs this week.

WHEE-LER, WHEE-LER!: The theater never gets old on Wheeler Pass. Thursday an eight-pack of Summit Endurance Academy rippers donned white hazmat onesies and handed out bacon, candy, and bourbon (OK, maybe their parents handed out the liquor since this is a public forum, but let’s just say the adolescents were integral recruiters).

‘You want some whiskey, bro?” a 13-year-old boy asked a racer as he crested the 12,408-foot pass. 

“Nah, I’m drunk enough as it is, man,” replied the racer. 

The kid moved down the trail. “Hey dude, you want some liquid speed?”

This guy declined, too, but he did accept two strips of bacon. “I’m gonna stash this in my burrito,” he said, pulling off the trail. “I’m so sick of all this gel-y food.”

“I love you all!” someone yelled while pedaling away. 

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

HOW DO YOU FEEL?: I asked this in various ways and at various locations along the Wheeler Trail between Peak 10 and the pass. Some excerpts:

“Good. I thought it’d be harder.”

“Terrible.”

“Emotional, incredible, on top of the world.”

“I’m seeing Elvis, man.”

“I’m not gonna lie. I’m a little loose today. My wits are about me, but only tangentially.”

“I don’t feel much.”

“Oh, excited, man.”

“Incredible,” said a man walking up the trail in his socks. “Blisters. I should’ve done this three miles ago.”

“I wanna see how YOU feel.” [Woman hugs me for a while.]

[Man takes a swig of bourbon] “Well, I’m Canadian, so this makes me feel normal. The bacon’ll round it out. All I really need now is a donut.”

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: On my way back to civilization, I ran into Dawn Whaley. She is racing this week in place of her husband, Marland, who registered for the race but died of cardiac arrest on June 27. Whaley gave me a hug, tears welling up in her eyes, then introduced me to her two riding buddies at the back of the pack. “This race has changed my life,” she said.

Breck Epic – Stage 4

Race’s longest stage incites drama in men’s field, but yields same result

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

Davoust, Nadell break away but fall short; Nash and Swenson increase GC leads as international field marvels at terrain 

 By Devon O’Neil

GC TAKEAWAY: Things got interesting in Wednesday’s Stage 4—for a while. Durango, Colorado, roommates Stephan Davoust (ninth overall) and Henry Nadell (12th) launched an attack on overall leader Keegan Swenson and the men’s elite field 10 miles in. Davoust, who won the Downieville Classic All Mountain World Championship the week before, flatted twice Tuesday and lost 24 minutes; he was intent on reclaiming some time and possibly stealing a stage. He and Nadell built their lead to 3 minutes, 15 seconds by the halfway point, and Swenson was content to let them go. But Luis Mejia of Colombia was not on board, and he attacked his fellow chasers in pursuit of the lead duo. Swenson matched Mejia’s attacks, which resulted in them passing the breakaway at the top of the 2,000-foot climb out of Keystone Gulch. “I was keen to just chill today, take it easy,” said Swenson, who rides for Stan’s/Pivot. “If those guys could hold the gap, good for them—I was kind of hoping they would. But I didn’t want to let [Mejia] go.”

Swenson then took over, as he has all week. He put 53 seconds into Mejia and coasted to his fourth win in four days in 3:11:39—building his GC lead to 11:01 over Russell Finsterwald, who took seventh Wednesday. Brevard College cycling coach Cypress Gorry claimed his first podium of the week, 16 seconds back of Mejia, while Nash Dory held on to third place overall. There are now four riders within 1:44 of the final GC podium spot.

The women’s race also felt familiar. Clif Pro teammates Katerina Nash and Hannah Finchamp rode together for most of the day before Nash pulled away, staying perfect on the week and inching closer to the overall title. She finished in 3:54:43 to beat Finchamp by 1:27 and increase her GC lead to 7:16. Evelyn Dong took third in 4:00:34.

WOOOOOOO!: With racers from 25 countries here, the international finish-line flavor has been rich. Languages, accents, and eyes as wide as pinecones permeate the race. Much of their conversation has centered on the local trail network and how diverse it is, so we were interested in how it compares with their hometown terrain.

“These trails are totally different from my country,” said Ajay Pandrit Chhetri, 31, a five-time national champion from Nepal. “We ride on quite wide trail, not narrow one, but I’m getting used to it day by day. It’s quite fun. In Nepal we can ride anywhere, from 500 feet elevation to 18,000 feet. But not like this—not technical singletrack.”

“You never get tired of it,” said Laetitia Roux, 34, of Sauvines Le Lac, France. Roux is a 17-time world champion in ski mountaineering who retired from the World Cup last year and now dabbles in mountain bike racing. “In France and Europe right now, the organizers don’t want to accept much risk, so they take the easy way down to avoid crashes. It’s so nice to see that we can have these super technical trails here. French Pass was awesome. It was just like, wooooooo!”

“This feels like home, like I’m in the Rockies in Canada,” said three-time 24-hour world champion Cory Wallace, who lives in Jasper, Alberta. “Even if you’re not flying, it’s still going to be a great week on the bike. Whereas if you’re not flying at a lot of races, it’s not that sweet.”

Cat 1 30-plus racer Mathias Purtschert of Ecuador usually rides fire roads. He lives at 9,200 feet in La Sierra, surrounded by volcanoes. “We’re not used to riding trails,” he said. “But they’re really amazing; good turns and jumps and berms. It’s very, very technical. I have to focus the whole time going downhill. You can’t recover on these descents.”

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: While sitting on a bench in a meadow halfway up Vomit Hill on Wednesday, a long procession of very fast cyclists grinded past me. It was still relatively early in the stage, so heads were down. The 41-mile Aqueduct Stage is a moving day—a good one to make up time or distance oneself from challengers. So I was surprised when Thibaut Level pulled off the trail and came over to sit down. “I’m sick,” he said. “Forget the race.” Level, a journalist from Lyon, France, who is writing about each stage, said he hadn’t taken enough time to enjoy his surroundings this week, and he wanted to make up for that. So he sat down on the bench, opened up his pack, and took out a waffle. Then he spent 10 minutes admiring the view as all the people he is faster than passed him. He couldn’t have cared less. 

Breck Epic- Stage 3

Racers tackle wild queen stage around 13,370-foot Mount Guyot

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

 Swenson, Nash build GC leads as race crosses Continental Divide twice

By Devon O’Neil

GC TAKEAWAY: It was déjà vu at the front of the field, as Keegan Swenson and Katerina Nash continue to separate themselves from their challengers. Both won their third straight stage in the grueling, 39-mile circumnavigation of Mount Guyot on Tuesday – the race’s queen stage. Swenson rode with Russell Finsterwald and Luis Mejia for much of it, with Nash Dory joining the group at various points. Finsterwald fell off on the climb up to the Great Flume, about 29 miles in, and Swenson dropped Mejia—who’d been attacking most of the day—on the final descent into French Gulch thanks to his flow-trail prowess. He put 42 seconds into Mejia over the last three miles, with Finsterwald taking third and Dory fourth. Swenson now leads the GC standings by 6:30 over Finsterwald. Dory moved into third overall.

Nash found herself chasing 2015 champion Evelyn Dong early in the stage. Dong, who started the day in fourth overall, was the only woman to clean the punishing French Pass ascent to 12,046 feet. She led Nash by 90 seconds and Hannah Finchamp by more than three minutes then. But Nash remained patient and eventually passed Dong on the Colorado Trail descent from Georgia Pass, riding alone for the next 17 miles. Nash beat Finchamp by 2:47 and Dong by 5:04, and leads the GC by 5:50 over Finchamp going into the second half of the week. Dong now sits in third. “This race is tricky,” said Nash, the 2017 runner-up. “The altitude is very challenging, but so far I have an appetite and can sleep, so I’m getting my recovery. That’s been big.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL?: Today this question was posed to the latter half of the field as they climbed French Pass, a spectacular saddle between 13,370-foot Mount Guyot and 13,684-foot Bald Mountain that doubles as the Continental Divide. 

How do you feel?

“Torn. It’s beautiful. It’s brutal.”

“Sin aire!” [Translation: airless]

“Wonky. With a slight bit of clueginess.”

“Pretty lucky to be here, to be honest.”

“Super medium!”

“Well, not as good as my wife and kids at the beach. I’m missing a family vacation to be here.”

“That’s a hard question.”

I’m feeling like in paradise!”

“Not bad for a guy from Ohio.”

“Just good enough.”

“Feel me.”

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesy of Liam Doran

RANDOM ACTS OF RADNESS: During Monday’s second stage on the Colorado Trail, Joseph Rosentel, 50, a first-time Epic entrant from Michigan, suffered through what he called “the hardest mental day I’ve ever had on a bike, in more than 30 years of riding.” He flatted four times and rode the final 10 miles on a rear tire with 10 psi, losing more than two hours to drop from fifth to 15th in his division. So when his seat snapped off in a crash 15 miles into Tuesday’s stage, he stood there in disbelief. Then he put his saddle in his jersey pocket and began what he figured would be a demoralizing ride to Aid Station 2 and the end of his race. 

Soon afterward, he bumped into another racer who had crashed and dislocated his ankle, eventually requiring a medevac. “After I made sure he was OK, I was like, ‘Oh, hey, can I use your seat?’ He said sure. So I took the seat off his bike and put it on mine,” Rosentel said after finishing the stage. “I can’t remember his name—I was cross eyed at the time. But it’s the only way I would’ve been able to finish. Just unbelievable kindness.”

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: Rosentel wasn’t alone in his run of bad luck. Justin Holle of Denver was in the midst of a stellar stage when he endured “a cascading waterfall of turmoil” at mile 32. He broke a spoke, sending his derailleur and chain into his wheel and bending the derailleur beyond repair. Then his tire started hissing. He was resigned to coast home gearless on the flat, at which point he heard a crunch and looked down to find his carbon seat tube broken in half. He walked the last seven miles of the course. “It was so calamitous that I could only laugh and enjoy my hike,” Holle, 36, said at the finish. He was smiling. 

Breck Epic- Stage 2

Breck Epic
Photo Courtesyof Liam Doran
SWENSON, NASH BUILD LEADS WITH STAGE 2 VICTORIES
Perennially radical Colorado Trail course delivers with perfect dirt, fast descents”and a few wayward spills
By Devon O’Neil
GC TAKEAWAY: Halfway through the Colorado Trail stage Monday, it appeared Katerina Nash was cementing herself as untouchable. She led Hannah Finchamp by more than two minutes, a gap that had grown steadily since the morning’s sunny start in downtown Breckenridge. But Finchamp, who, at 23, is 18 years younger than the three-time Olympian Nash, slowly started reeling in her Clif Pro teammate. By the time they finished, Finchamp had only lost 24 seconds on the day and likely saved any hope she has of upsetting the favorite later this week. She’s 3 minutes, 3 seconds down.
“I know Katerina is an incredible descender, one of the best in the world. So if I want to be close to her, I know I have to bury myself on the climbs, which is what I did today,” Finchamp said. Nash, meanwhile, took the day in stride. “You’ve got to think about the six-day race,” she said. “I rode my pace. But it was getting long at the end — I was losing a little mojo. I was happy to see the finish.”
Keegan Swenson had no such issues. The Stan’s/Pivot rider and reigning XC national champion won his second straight stage comfortably ahead of Russell Finsterwald and Ryan Standish, Swenson’s roommate in Heber City, Utah. Swenson bided his time until the last climb, when he opened a gap and took 1 minute, 43 seconds by the finish—despite a wayward dog nipping at his heels en route. He now leads by 4 minutes, 26 seconds. “Keegan has definitely shown that he’s the strongest guy here,” Finsterwald said. Luis Mejia of Colombia, who took third yesterday, overcame an early flat tire to catch Swenson late in the stage, then flatted again. He lost 16 minutes. Standish moved into third overall.
EVEN PROS CRASH: The most entertaining chatter after the race centered on a surprising number of crashes by top competitors.
“Dude, I went down like a bag of rocks,” said Standish, who nicked a tree stump with two miles to go. “Over the bars, instantly.”
“I took a wrong line and wheelied into a tree,” said Nash. 
Cory Wallace, the reigning 24-hour world champion who sits in 11th place overall, clipped a pedal and flew off the trail. “You just kind of lay there, like, is anything broken? My wheel was still kind of crooked for the last descent.”
Stephan Davoust, arguably the best downhiller in the field, had his arm wrapped in a bandage from his own bar-twisting wreck. “I had to hike down to get my bike in the bushes, then take 10 seconds to make sure my body was OK and orient myself,” he said. “It was one of those where you don’t really know how or what happened.”
BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: Speaking of crashes, among the bloodied knees and shins and elbows was a bloody face. Tim Peeters, a 43-year-old online strategist from Leuven, Belgium, caught his bar on a tree and soared 10 feet downhill into a ditch while riding the ZL Trail. “You know how time slows down in an accident?” he said. “I saw all these sharp rocks coming at me head first, and I was like, I’m gonna break my face.”
He escaped major injury but laid there with his bike on top of him until Jeff Carter, an internal medicine doctor from Boulder, hiked down to help. Carter picked up the bike and got them both back on the trail. When they met again at the finish, Peeters thanked Carter once more. “No problem, man,” said Carter. “I’m just out here braaping it up, getting my suburban dad on.” 
Peeters didn’t seem to mind all his red leaks. Or even notice them. “Without a doubt,” he beamed, “today was the best day of riding of my life. I remember seeing one of the race videos last year and a guy from Ecuador said, “This is like Disneyland! That’s what I felt like today.” 
Breck Epic
Photo Courtesyof Liam Doran

Breck Epic Stage 2: Swenson, Nash build leads with Stage 2 victories

Perennially radical Colorado Trail course delivers with perfect dirt, fast descents”and a few wayward spills

By Devon O’Neil

GC TAKEAWAY: Halfway through the Colorado Trail stage Monday, it appeared Katerina Nash was cementing herself as untouchable. She led Hannah Finchamp by more than two minutes, a gap that had grown steadily since the morning’s sunny start in downtown Breckenridge. But Finchamp, who, at 23, is 18 years younger than the three-time Olympian Nash, slowly started reeling in her Clif Pro teammate. By the time they finished, Finchamp had only lost 24 seconds on the day and likely saved any hope she has of upsetting the favorite later this week. She’s 3 minutes, 3 seconds down.

“I know Katerina is an incredible descender, one of the best in the world. So if I want to be close to her, I know I have to bury myself on the climbs, which is what I did today,” Finchamp said. Nash, meanwhile, took the day in stride. “You’ve got to think about the six-day race,” she said. “I rode my pace. But it was getting long at the end — I was losing a little mojo. I was happy to see the finish.”

Keegan Swenson had no such issues. The Stan’s/Pivot rider and reigning XC national champion won his second straight stage comfortably ahead of Russell Finsterwald and Ryan Standish, Swenson’s roommate in Heber City, Utah. Swenson bided his time until the last climb, when he opened a gap and took 1 minute, 43 seconds by the finish—despite a wayward dog nipping at his heels en route. He now leads by 4 minutes, 26 seconds. “Keegan has definitely shown that he’s the strongest guy here,” Finsterwald said. Luis Mejia of Colombia, who took third yesterday, overcame an early flat tire to catch Swenson late in the stage, then flatted again. He lost 16 minutes. Standish moved into third overall.

EVEN PROS CRASH: The most entertaining chatter after the race centered on a surprising number of crashes by top competitors.

“Dude, I went down like a bag of rocks,” said Standish, who nicked a tree stump with two miles to go. “Over the bars, instantly.”

“I took a wrong line and wheelied into a tree,” said Nash. 

Cory Wallace, the reigning 24-hour world champion who sits in 11th place overall, clipped a pedal and flew off the trail. “You just kind of lay there, like, is anything broken? My wheel was still kind of crooked for the last descent.”

Stephan Davoust, arguably the best downhiller in the field, had his arm wrapped in a bandage from his own bar-twisting wreck. “I had to hike down to get my bike in the bushes, then take 10 seconds to make sure my body was OK and orient myself,” he said. “It was one of those where you don’t really know how or what happened.”

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: Speaking of crashes, among the bloodied knees and shins and elbows was a bloody face. Tim Peeters, a 43-year-old online strategist from Leuven, Belgium, caught his bar on a tree and soared 10 feet downhill into a ditch while riding the ZL Trail. “You know how time slows down in an accident?” he said. “I saw all these sharp rocks coming at me head first, and I was like, I’m gonna break my face.”

He escaped major injury but laid there with his bike on top of him until Jeff Carter, an internal medicine doctor from Boulder, hiked down to help. Carter picked up the bike and got them both back on the trail. When they met again at the finish, Peeters thanked Carter once more. “No problem, man,” said Carter. “I’m just out here braaping it up, getting my suburban dad on.” 

Peeters didn’t seem to mind all his red leaks. Or even notice them. “Without a doubt,” he beamed, “today was the best day of riding of my life. I remember seeing one of the race videos last year and a guy from Ecuador said, “This is like Disneyland! That’s what I felt like today.”

Click Here for full results

Stage One – Breck Epic 2019

Breck Epic
Photo courtesy of Liam Doran

Chilling rain storm tests hungry field in Stage 1 of the Breck Epic in Colorado
By Devon O’Neil

Keegan Swenson made a dominant statement in Sunday’s rain-hammered Stage 1 of the Breck Epic. The 25-year-old national XC champion, who cracked the World Cup top 20 this summer, made his move on the grueling and extra greasy Little French climb. Early leader Geoff Kabush had fallen off the pace (then flatted, fading to 20th), and Swenson turned a 10-second gap over Colombian stage-race veteran Luis Mejia and U.S. marathon champion Russell Finsterwald into a 2-minute, 42-second advantage by the finish. 

“I realized I was slowly gapping those guys, so I just twisted the throttle a little more,” said Swenson, a first-time Epic competitor who is using the race to earn points toward a potential 2020 Olympic birth. He finished the 36-mile stage in 2:41:51, with Finsterwald three seconds ahead of Mejia.

Breck Epic
Photo courtesy of Liam Doran

On the women’s side, Katerina Nash also spoke loudly, beating the field by 2 minutes, 39 seconds to win in 3:23:40. She passed the early leader and 2015 Epic champion Evelyn Dong near the second aid station and fought through the pelting raindrops to expand her lead. “I lost my hands, so I couldn’t shift or operate my dropper post,” she said with mud caked in her hair at the finish. “The weather really turned crazy.” Her CLIF Pro Team-mate Hannah Finchamp took second, while Dong suffered through the chilly precipitation to place fifth, losing 14 minutes and appearing hypothermic at the finish.

HOW DO YOU FEEL?: Expect this to be a recurring feature of our recaps. Today we asked the question at the top of Little French. Not everyone answered, understandably. Here’s a smattering from those who did. 

HOW DO YOU FEEL?
Absolutely fantastic. Honestly? No.
Relaxed.
Mediocre.
Wet.
I’m so stoked to be out here, shredding gnar.
Oh man. I don’t know how much I have left in me.
Like a hundred dollars. Maybe 125.
Like a hundred bucks.The guy in front of you said 125. Oh. He’s feeling better than me.
Very moist. But we’re more than halfway.
Old.
Floaty.
Somebody stole all the oxygen.
Eh, about how I should, I think

Breck Epic
Photo courtesy of Liam Doran

RANDOM ACTS OF RADNESS: On Saturday afternoon, Ecuadorean racer Jorge Brito decided he wanted to try racing a single speed, a category that doesn’t exist where he lives. The only problem? He wouldn’t have time to convert his bike before Sunday’s start. He was cleared to swap categories as long as he removed his shifter, but when perennial Singlespeed contender Dahn Pahrs saw he’d finished second to a racer with a full cassette, he protested. It was determined that Brito’s setup did not allow him to use multiple gears, even if it ran counter to Singlespeed tradition, and race director Mike McCormack informed Pahrs the results would stand. “Don’t feel bad,” a disappointed Pahrs said. “He’s faster than me. He deserves to win.

BEST THING WE SAW TODAY: Just finishing can sound like a cliche in mountain bike races, but today it ranked as a stout achievement. To see racers stagger and shake like vibrators at the finish, with drool hanging off their noses and chins, struggling to stay upright, their faces blasted by mud, strangers hugging them to keep them warm well, that’s what it’s about sometimes.

TransRockies Tinhorn Creek Stage 7

Travis Hauck finishes with partner Nick Gould, left, and Mathieu Belanger-Barrette
John Gibson Photography
The Tinhorn Creek TransRockies Stage Seven broke cool and clear in the quiet town of Crowsnest Pass as riders prepared to take on the final epic ride into Fernie. A late evening thunderstorm complete with double rainbows had tucked riders into their tents for the night, and they would need the rest for what was to be the most challenging yet rewarding stage of the entire week. After traversing a power line road, the main climb of the day began in earnest up to the high point for the day some 1900 meters from were they started. Panoramic views greeted riders as they punched through into the Fernie trail system and down the 1000 meter decent of Porky Blue. A short lap on the new flow trail Contra and then into FloWRKR had riders hooting and hollering as they rolled across the final finish line and the end of an amazing week of mountain biking across the Rockies.
Double rainbow over Transrockies tent village
John Gibson Photography
Zoe Roy traveled to TransRockies this year at the very last minute, getting the invite just four days before this years event. She had never done a mountain bike race before, but stayed strong all week and finished solidly on the podium with her partner Barry Wicks in the Open Mixed category. Here’s what she had to say about the week, as told to Barry:

“It is pretty amazing what the human body can do. Before this race, any one of these days would have totally cratered me, but there is something about doing back to back days that tricks your mind into keeping going. It’s pretty great to experience that.

My favourite part of the week was that we started way over there, and finished here, and we rode our bikes the entire way. It feels like no time at all and also an eternity has passed all at the same time. 

It’s going to be strange to not have to get up and ride my bike tomorrow. I feel like there will be a bit of a depression in the next few days as the body and mind readjust back into the real world and I have to think about more than just riding my bike and having snacks all day.

I was so impressed with everyone out there doing the race. It was a very hard physical and mental challenge, and everyone performed so well. It was very cool to watch that process for everyone.”
Vincent Lombardi and partner Maxime Nguyen
John Gibson Photography
TransRockies Classic goes on hiatus for a year in 2020, but Singletrack 6 is on the docket and is sure to be an amazing single track experience for anyone looking to spend some quality time out in the woods getting rad on their bikes and winning at life. See you on the trails!

Full Results HERE.

TransRockies ProGold Stage 6

The ProGold Stage Six of the TransRockies Classic took riders from Elkford, BC, across the Continental Divide and up to the finish at Crowsnest Pass. After a mellow start, today’s stage saw riders turn up Deadmans Pass and crest over the Divide and even briefly into Alberta. Summiting the final climb, riders were treated to stunning views of Crowsnest Mountain before a final flowing singletrack descent down to the finish line.
Mathieu Belanger-Barrette
John Gibson photos: @GibbyMtbPhoto
Magda Mihura, an Argentinian currently living is Sao Paulo, Brazil, signed up for the TransRockies only ten days before the start. She arrived early to visit Banff, then hitched a ride with some of the race crew down to the start line in Panorama. Here’s what she had to say about her TransRockies experience, as told to Barry Wicks:

“I did the Cape Epic race earlier this year with a friend from Brazil. It was pretty fun, so I decided to do some more traveling to ride my bike. I did a small tour type of trip to Guatemala, but then I saw TransRockies and thought if there were something like 200 people there, I was sure to find some people to ride with. I’ve never traveled by myself before, so flying up here and doing the race alone was kind of scary. It has been an amazing week though. Everyone is so friendly and hanging out and talking all the time and I feel very welcomed. I am happy I came here.

Back home I am just a mom type of person, and some people find it strange that I go do this kind of stuff, but to me it feels very good to do things that maybe not a lot of mom type people would do.”
Nick Gould leads partner Travis Hauck and solo leader Mathieu Belanger-Barrette
John Gibson photos: @GibbyMtbPhoto


TransRockies: Planet Foods Stage 4 & Honey Stinger Stage 5

John Gibson photos: @GibbyMtbPhoto
The Planet Foods TransRockies Classic Stage 4 took riders from the Nipika Mountain Resort to Whiteswan Lake, BC. After a big day of epic views, riders rode the last few kilometers down the White River to base camp where they were greeted by one of the most picturesque camp sites thus far. A wildflower meadow surrounded by towering peaks, complete with two friendly horses and a wonderful swimming hole had riders basking in luxury following the stage. An impromtu fire pit was called into duty and s’mores roasted as the sun set on another epic day in the Rockies.

Cedric Clyburn, from Asheville, NC drove up to the TransRockies with his Dad. It took them five days and they stopped in Kentucky, which Cedric described as “not great” and also at Bad Lands National Park which was “Pretty cool”. Cedric just graduated from high school, and has never done anything like TransRockies before. Here’s what he had to say about the week so far, as told to Barry Wicks:

“This is probably the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I used to not be very into Canada for some reason, but man, after being here, I really like it. My mom is from France, so we usually go there every summer. She and my sister flew up here and met us and are supporting us in the race. I got on the podium on day two and dedicated it to her because I think she is amazing. I’ve been having an awesome time riding with everyone, meeting tons of people out on the trail, and having great conversations about all kinds of things. I talked to a guy for like 15 minutes today and now I’m totally rethinking my major for next year.”
John Gibson photos: @GibbyMtbPhoto
The Honey Stinger Stage 5 of the TransRockies Classic broke clear and cool as racers prepared to take on challenging an 87km push with one timed segment and a neutral transfer over a high mountain pass in route to Elkford for the night. Dramatic views and challenging yet rewarding trails capped off another stunning day of racing. Photographer John Gibson commented that the media squad had their own epic version of TransRockies today. They used team work and brute force to haul their motorcycles over the final pass littered with babyhead sized rocks and steep grades that many of riders found challenging on their bikes, let alone on motorcycles.
Toru Watanabe from Kanagawa, Japan and Yuzo Kawai from Sendai, Japan, met via faceook five months ago when Toru asked Yuzo if he would come to Canada and race TransRockies with him. They decided to team up after talking for five minutes, but only met each other in person six days before the start of the race. Toru moved to Canada after traveling to Vancouver on a working vacation and trying mountain biking on Vancouver’s North Shore for the first time in 2002. He went back to Japan, bought a mountain bike, and found a way to move his company over to Calgary so he coud ride his bike more. Yozo has been riding and racing xc mountain bikes for a long time. He says in Japan, there are many trails, but they are all secret and you have to be taken by the locals who built them. Otherwise, it is very hard to find places to ride. Toru and Yuzo have made an excellent team all week, with Toru leading the way on the downhills and Yuzo doing all the work on the hills and flats and they say that they are very complimentary riders. They are excited for the remaining stages and very excited for the after party in Fernie were a dance party is alleged to be planned. 
The TransRockies Classic continues tomorrow with the penultimate stage from Elkford to Crowsnest Pass. The route, which covers 89km and has nearly 2000 meters of climbing, crosses over the Continental Divide and nearly into Alberta before delivering riders down more world class singletrack into Crowsnest Pass.

Full Results HERE.
Lyne Bessette leads Christian Gauvin
John Gibson photos: @GibbyMtbPhoto