Todd Wells and Amy Krahenbuhl Take Home Breck Epic 2016 Titles
Russell Finsterwald and Amy Kranhenbuhl Coquer Mount Wheeler Stage
Written by: Uncommon Communications
The night before the penultimate stage, riders laid down for bed with the threat of rain looming. In typical Breckenridge- fashion, riders were greeted with clear skies and sun for the morning to get up and over Wheeler Pass. The rain still rolled in around 11am, giving most of the field a good shower.
As race director Mike McCormack says, “it’s not called the Breck Tickle Fight.”
Russell Finsterwald, Todd Wells and most of the leaders in the men’s pro/open field stayed dry throughout the day and got to enjoy the massive views from the top of Wheeler Pass.
Finsterwald took a couple of seconds back from his teammate Wells (SRAM / Troy Lee Designs) after dropping Wells on the descent off of Wheeler Pass.
“I thought yesterday was my favorite stage, but now this one is,” recounted Finsterwald. “The views were awesome and the descending was next level. I was having the time of my life on that second descent.”
Though it wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns for Finsterwald, who took a digger on that second descent he was loving so much.
“I was riding in control, but going across one of those bridges there were a couple logs parallel to one another. My front wheel got caught between, and sent me sailing. I tried to ride a good pace, just to make it into the finish. I knew Todd wouldn’t be too far behind.”
Finsterwald ended the day just 11 seconds up on Wells with Ben Sonntag in third, all but cementing his place on the podium.
“My legs felt pretty empty from the beginning, so I let the group go,” said Ben Sonntag (Clif Bar) about starting in wave one with the top-8 riders overall. “I don’t know, it was just ‘keep pushing’ today. There was no snap, explosiveness, or thoughts like, ‘I’m flying up this right now,’ it was just a grind.”
The elevation profile of day five had many riders opting for longer-travel bikes to better take advantage of the longer, more technical descents. Since the trails were so steep and often quite narrow, riders were forced to their feet.
“We had a lot of fun coming down [from Wheeler],” said Jake Wells who is leading the Duo Open category with his partner Ciro Zarate. “We rode our bigger bikes today — 5” fork, dropper post. It was a lot of fun going down, but it was a lot of pushing on the way up.”
In the women’s open category, Amy Krahenbuhl has a 54-minute lead over Emma Maaranen (Rolf) and Ksenia Lepikhina (Tokyo Joe’s) sits another 13-minutes back in third.
With the final stage – Gold Dust — being all that lay ahead of riders, overall leads are not likely to change hands in many categories. At under 30-miles, the Gold Dust loop packs in fast climbing and screaming singletrack descents into the shortest mileage of the week.
Todd Wells and Amy Krahenbuhl Continue to Lock Down 2016 Breck Epic
After three days of racing, stage four’s Aqueduct route saw riders cross over the peaks of Summit County and pay a visit to Keystone Mountain.
Race leader Todd Wells and teammate Russell Finsterwald (SRAM / Troy Lee Designs) kept things civil, at least for a while, riding in a larger lead group through the first third of the race until they hit the exceptionally steep climb of the day.
At the base of Vomit Hill, Ben Sonntag (Clif Bar) hit the gas first with Finsterwald on his wheel. Wells had to unclip and run a bit to get back up to Finsterwald who had moved past Sonntag and the duo of Wells-Finsterwald distanced themselves for the day, once again.
“Of the four days, this one was the one where I felt best,” said Sonntag, who entered the stage in third overall. “I don’t know why, but maybe with doing Leadville on Saturday, it seems like even though these stages were super hard, it was still half the time out there [compared to Leadvile].”
“Todd and Finsty still got the gap on us,” continued the German. “What’s it called? Vomit Hill? I was with Chris Jones for a while, but after that it was a pretty lonely day.”
“We rolled together the rest of the day,” said Wells about riding with Finsterwald. “With the big climb out of Keystone, it is great to have someone with you because of the fast dirt road section.”
Going through aid two at Keystone Mountain, Wells and Finsterwald held a gap of 1:45 over Chris Jones (Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling) and Sonntag. Fernando Riveros and Wells’ little brother Troy were another 1:15 behind Jones and Sonntag with single riders chasing in areas.
By the finish Wells and Finsterwald had a two and a half minute over Sonntag and Fernando Riveros was over six minutes back with Chris Jones was close behind.
With Sonntag’s third place finish today on stage 4, he padded his overall third place, though he sits almost 22-minutes behind Wells. Kyle Trudeu (CZ Racing) sits in fourth, 12-minutes behind the German and Drew Free (KUHL-Pivot Cycles) is in fifth.
Amy Krahenbuhl added to her lead once again on the Aqueduct stage, bringing her lead to over 40-minutes. Second and third-place overall riders, Emma Maaranen (Rolf) and Ksenia Lepikhina (Tokyo Joe’s) finished the stage placed consistent with their general classification.
We asked Krahenbuhl about the road (and trail) that’s brought her to the Breck Epic, one that saw her race the Trans New Zealand earlier this year.
“I’ve done random races here and there,” said Krahenbuhl. “More recently, I’ve been doing enduro racing and with that stuff, I would think ‘man, I could do really well if this whole thing was timed,’ because I’m not the fastest climber or descender, but I can go for a long time and hold it together.”
“It was really pedally,” said Krahenbuhl about the Aqueduct stage. “The big climb was a big, BIG climb. The descent down Colorado Trail was amazing. Definitely one of the more fun descents we’ve done so far.”
While it may seem as though the overall leads are all but sewn up, tomorrow’s weather forecast and the profile of the Wheeler Pass stage tomorrow, so much can happen. As Wells said just over 24-hours ago, “anything can happen in mountain bike stage racing.”
“Hours could be lost.”
The third day of the Breck Epic saw the riders tackle the second-longest course of the week, circumventing the massive Mt. Guyot. Men’s overall race leader, Todd Wells (SRAM-Troy Lee Designs) and teammate Russell Finsterwald distanced themselves from the others on the second climb of the day —the decisive Georgia Pass—and they never looked back. “On the second climb, it’s a really steep one and it’s rideable all the way to the top,” said Wells. “It’s one of those things where you don’t attack or anything, you just push whatever gear you can sustain and we rolled off.”
By the time Wells and Finsterwald reached the rock gardens at the bottom of the descent off Georgia pass the duo had about five minutes over third place rider Chris Jones (Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling). At the finish, the lead duo had a nearly seven-minute gap.“First legit mountain bike podium ever,” said Jones at the finish. “Well, I’ve only done like six races ever, but I think if I’m on the podium with Todd and Finsterwald, that’s a pretty legit podium, right? We’ll call it dumb luck. I was okay going up Georgia Pass, but I don’t have the skills those guys do [on the steep climbs] where you’re just kind of balancing and if you unclip you have to run. That’s where those guys got away. They rode a section, I had to walk it, and I never saw them again.”
While the leaders had dry conditions for most of the day, the majority of the field dealt with driving rain on the climb and descent of Georgia Pass. Many riders dealt with flats early on, including Clif Bar teammates, Troy Wells and Ben Sontag. Sontag was able to repair his flat with a plug, but Troy Wells’ who suffered his flat early in the stage, got shuffled back in the field and lose a chunk of time.
ON RIDING WITH FINSTERWALD
“You know when you’re descending and you’re at a comfortable pace? ”Asked Wells. “You’re going fast, but it’s what you feel comfortable at. I was going just over that the entire day, so I couldn’t even enjoy those descents. I was always looking forward to the climbs so I wouldn’t have to worry about crashing into a tree. You know, we have a decent lead now, but with stage race mountain bike, anything can happen. You can lose an hour. Two hours. Break a wheel and have to walk five miles. “It’s not over until the finish,” added Finsterwald.
In the three-day Epicurio us, Bryan Dillon (Topeak-Ergon), added to his lead with a win on his third and final stage. “Today is a fun stage. It really gets into the true Breckenridge style of rocky-riding and hike-a-bikin’, but it’s super fun,” said Dillon. “Being up on Guyot that time of day and looking back down on the valley, it’s just righteous.”
WOMEN’S PRO/OPEN 6-DAY
The Women’s 6-Day Open leader, Amy Krahenbuhl, added to her lead with her elevated level of technical riding on the technical descents of stage three. Ksenia Lepikhina (Tokyo Joe’s) was in second 10-minutes back, and Emma Maaranen (Rolf) was another four and half minutes back of her. “[Lepikhina] was behind me at the start of the first climb, but after that I was hanging out with boys and using that as motivation, said Krahenbuhl of Lepikhina.
“Today I finally felt like my legs were strong. I really like the day after day cycling, so I felt like today I finally got my legs and I’m going to keep with it.” “Absolutely beautiful to go up and over the Continental Divide,” continued Krahenbuhl. “Everyone was in great spirits and having a great time. On the downhill everyone was hootin’ an’ hollarin’. There was great energy out there.” With stage four being the longest of the week and almost 8,000 feet of climbing, there will be plenty of good times for the race leaders and those just enjoying the high-mountain singletrack, alike.
Full Results from the stage here: (Stage 3 Results)
Todd Wells Bounces Back For A Win in Stage Two as Amy Krahenbuhl Claims Her Second Stage
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Fran Claes and Serena Gordon Win the Finale; Claes and Dong Take the GC Titles
Written by: Marlee Dixon
You better be ready to race hard today! If the previous days were ‘endurance’ races, today is definitely an XC race. It’s the shortest day of the week and it’s the time to secure your overall standing or make up as much time as possible on competition. Today racers lined up in waves at the Ice rink and headed up Boreas Pass road briefly before jumping on the new Aspen Alley trail. Racers climbed up Aspen Alley to Bankers Tank to High Point to Iowa Mill Rd to Mountain Pride Trail. Then it’s a fun few miles of descending down mountain pride trail to bakers tank before climbing up Boreas Pass rd to the continential divide and Aid 1 (also Aid 2).
Next it’s down the Gold Dust trail – a loose, fun singletrack that turns into a flume trail followed by some more descending. The rain/hail the previous night had made this section more technical and slick than normal. Once out of Gold Dust, racers start climbing roads back up to Aid 2. Then it’s down Boreas Pass Rd to Indiana Creek Rd and the Blue River trail to the finish. Total distance for Day 6 is 29 miles and 3,379’ elevation gain.
Frans Claes (Loving Hut) took the lead into the first singletrack of the day, aspen alley and turned up the pace. He was able to get a small gap on the chase group of Ben Swanepoel (Squirt) and Bryan Dillon (Griggs Orthpedics) who would keep him close on the nearly 1-hour climb to the summit of Boreas Pass. A second chase group of Carl Decker (Giant) and Marcel Reiser (Bikesport) with Drew Free (Revolution/Peak Fasteners) dangling off the back would hold less than a 1 min gap to Swanepoel and Dillon.
Gaps remained consistent down the gold dust trail. On the second climb of the day, Claes would open up his gap to about 2 min as he crested Boreas Pass for a 2nd time leaving the others to race for the remaining podium spots. During the second climb of the day Free and Reiser were able to get away from Decker and work on closing the gap to Swanepoel and Dillon. On the final descent Free was finally able to close the gap to Swanepoel and Dillon and go on to capture 2nd with Dillon finishing 3rd just 30 seconds back.
For the Epic 6 day Women’s open it was Serena Gordon (Liv/Giant), Evelyn Dong (Shoair/Cannondale) and Kelly Boniface (Moots) who rode together for almost the entire race with Marlee Dixon (Pivot/Epic Brewing) about 2 minutes behind in 4th place. Kelly and Serena were only 2 minutes 43 seconds apart in the overall for 3rd place and both women were charging it.
Serena and Evelyn rode into the finish close to each other and Serena pushed ahead at the end for the stage win. She finished 1st today and will remain in 3rd overall. Evelyn Dong finished 2nd today and will remain the Breck Epic pro female winner. Kelly Boniface came in a close 3rd and will remain in 4th overall. Marlee Dixon came in 4th today and will remain in 2nd overall.
It’s been an extremely fun and challenging 6 days of racing covering 210 miles and over 30,000’ of elevation gain. It’s a race where everything in your normal life stops and racing becomes your sole focus in life. You meet new people and they become your partners in this crazy experience. Life becomes a pattern of race, recover, race, recover.
There are many highs and lows throughout the week with good days and bad days. There will probably be days you’ll wake up and feel like you’re on a death march – your body hurts everywhere, you’re utterly exhausted, you can’t remember what stage it is and now it’s time for you to pony up and race your heart out. Then you’ll summit Wheeler pass and hike your bike for hours and it will be similar to a death march. But then there are days where you’ll feel on top of the world and if you get a chance to look out at the scenery, you could almost sing like sound of music it’s so freaking beautiful. This race forces you to test yourself physically and mentally and that’s an experience that’s hard to forget. If you’re thinking about doing the Breck Epic then sign up. You’ll be glad you did.
And now on to Stage 7 as Mike McCormack wrote, “What about Stage 7?” you ask? The Gold Pan Saloon on Main Street. Bring your dancing pants. And a stunt liver. Don’t let the first review on TripAdvisor (“STAY AWAY!!!”) scare you.”
Barry Wicks and Evelyn Dong Win Queen Stage on Wheeler Summit
Written by: Marlee Dixon
Day 5 of the Breck Epic is the Wheeler trail. Or you could call it; I climbed 4000 ft of elevation in the first 10 miles of the course today and spent a lot of that time pushing my bike up the mountain!
New this year, the course changed and instead of dropping down the back side of Wheeler trail into Copper and taking the bike path back to Frisco, racers descended about a mile of the Wheeler trail over Wheeler pass then climbed again up Miners Creek Trail. As Serena Gordon said it so sweetly this morning, “not only do we get to ride our bike today.. we get to go for a hike also”.
And we all got to go for a long hike-a-bike up Wheeler trail and also Miners Creek. Today was the most technical day out on course and for a lot of categories it changed things up. This was really cool to see and I think it was a good change from the old course despite being a grueling kick in the gut climb.
Overall for the course today was 24 miles and gained 4600’ of elevation. The course climbs for the first 10 miles followed by a mile long descent then up again for another 2-3 miles of climbing and 1200 feet of elevation gain. At this point you are on top of the 10 mile range and it’s breathtaking. Not many people ride up there and although it’s the shortest day, it’s the burliest.
The descent down Miners Creek is technical and exposed. Once down miners creek it’s the up/down Peaks Trail back to Peak 7 then one final mile-long climb up the ski resort to the midpoint on Peak 8 before riders descend the Wanderer trail back to Beaver Run and the finish.
Highlights of the day were definitely the breathtaking beauty of being on the 10 mile range, Skittles (and bacon for some) on the top of Wheeler pass, and the technical fast descent down Miner’s Creek and Peaks Trail.
For the Epic 6 day Men’s open Barry Wicks (Kona) won the stage in a time of 2:51:28! In 2nd was Frans Claes (Loving Hut), despite a flat. Claes finished with a time of 2:54:57 keeping him 1st overall. In 3rd was Ben Swanepoel (Squirt) with a time of 2:56:22 and right with him was Bryan Dillon (Griggs Orthopedic) with a time of 2:56:24. Ben and Bryan will both remain in 2nd and 3rd overall.
For the Epic 6 day Women’s open it was Evelyn Dong (Shoair/Cannondale) and Kelly Boniface (Moots) climbing and hike-a-biking in the lead up Wheeler trail with Marlee Dixon (Pivot/Epic Brewing) and Serena Gordon (Liv/Giant) close behind.
Evelyn got a little ahead of Kelly by the time they reached the top of the Peak 9 road and not long after Marlee passed Kelly right before the top of Wheeler pass with Serena passing Kelly on the Wheeler pass descent.
Evelyn remained in the lead for the rest of the race finishing in 3:33:05. Marlee remained 2nd in a time of 3:34:37. Serena stayed in 3rd with a time of 3:38:53 and moves back in front of Boniface into 3rd place overall while Kelly came in 4th with a time of 3:43:51 and moves to 4th place overall.
Breck Epic Riders Power Through the Longest Stage of the Race as Claes and Dong Extend Their Leads
Written by: Marlee Dixon
This is the biggest day of the week, as one guy said at the finish, “Every stage is so hard I just can’t compare them” and today is no exception.
With 42 miles, 6000’ of vertical and some gigantic climbs, this day is the longest on the bike. Again this morning we started out in the middle of the town of Breckenridge with a pacer car to French Gulch Rd. It’s a dirt road climb for the first few miles which helps to spread racers out. Then it’s some fun single-track- Fall Classic trail, Slalom and Upper Flume trails before racers head up a new section of the course- Traylor Way to ZL Trail.
Traylor way was another dirt/rocky road climb but the new ZL trail was a great addition! It’s a beautiful singletrack with some fun downhill sections. Then it’s over to the Dredge lot for Aid 1 and up/down the Colorado trail to Vomit Hill.
For the lower section, Vomit Hill was mostly a hike a bike, then it tricks you by leveling out in a beautiful meadow only to put you back in the pain cave with more climbing- steep long sections that hurt. Once up and over it’s a fun descent on Horseshoe Gulch trail to the Aqueduct trail.
The Aqueduct trail is a flowy trail that turns pretty flat before sending racers out on Keystone Gulch Rd. This is where the longest climbing of the day starts- 1800’ of vertical over 5 miles. It’s a long road climb, followed by a singletrack climb to West Ridge. Then it’s on to one of the best parts of today’s course: flying down West Ridge. This descent is incredibly fast and fun. Once down West Ridge, racers make their way to the final climb of the day- Rock Island Gulch. This is a long, difficult road climb back up to French Gulch. Then it’s down Lincoln Park road, Side Door trail, Minnie Mine trail and B&B trail to the finish.
For the Epic, 6 day race, the Belgian Frans Claes (Loving Hut) quickly opened up a small gap on a chase group of Bryan Dillon (Griggs Orthopedics) and Ben Swanepoel (Squirt) with Barry Wicks (Kona), Drew Free (Revolution/Peak Fasteners) and Carl Decker (Giant) close behind them.
Time gaps between the leaders would remain at about 1 min through Aid 2. Coming out of Aid 2 Claes showed why he has won every stage thus far at the Breck Epic. Despite their best efforts working together Dillon and Swanepoel were unable to close the gap and Claes would go on to open his overall lead by another 4 minutes. Dillon would best Swanepoel at the line for second.
Rounding out the top 5 were Free and Decker who were never separated by more than 30 seconds from Aid 3 to the finish
In today’s pro women race things changed around a little. Evelyn Dong (Shoair/Cannondale), Kelly Boniface (Moots), Serena Gordon (Liv/Giant), and Marlee Dixon (Pivot/Epic Brewing) all were relatively close for the first few miles then Evelyn started to pull away and Kelly was riding strong in 2nd.
Serena was in 3rd until the descent down Summit Gulch Rd. where Marlee passed her.
Marlee caught Kelly on the Aqueduct trail where they rode together for a little while until the Pivot/Epic Brewing rider pulled away.
By Aid 2, Evelyn was 2 minutes in the lead, and Marlee and Kelly were separated by less than a minute.
At Aid 3, Evelyn was still in the lead by a minute, Marlee was in 2nd, Kelly in 3rd and Serena in 4th. Evelyn finished 1st ; 30 seconds ahead of Marlee who now holds 2nd place overall. Kelly Kim Boniface finished a few minutes back and leap frogs Serena Gordon into 3rd place.
Claes and Dong Conquer Mount Guyot Stage – Topeak/Ergon Wraps up Domination of Breck 3-Day
Written by: Marlee Dixon
Get ready to climb! Day 3 of the Breck Epic is the circumnavigation of Mount Guyot. It’s a BIG day with 6000’ of vertical and 38 miles including 2 mountain passes.
Day 3 starts in downtown Breckenridge and it’s a mile long neutral start out to the Wellington neighborhood before racers start climbing the dirt French Gulch Rd. to Minnie Mine trail. This beginning section of the race is a climb and racers head up Minnie Mine trail to Side door trail, a short breathier down Prospect hill rd. then it’s climbing up Lincoln Park road. Once up Lincoln Park rd. it’s onto the flat Little French Flume before heading down Little French trail back to French Gulch rd. again and Aid 1.
After Aid 1, racers start a mellow double track climb with some rocky and watery areas on the trail to a very steep single track and hike-a-bike (for most people) up French Gulch. This is the first mountain pass and although the hike-a-bike is brutal, if you have the time to look around, it’s absolutely stunning.
This is also where Jonathan Davis from Elevated Legs/9250 Cyclery, his son, Tanner and Brad from Carborocket hand out Skittles.
I wish I had a chance to grab some this year but I was too busy trying to motor on through to enjoy the rainbow.
Once over French Gulch, racers get a real backcountry epic descent down Michigan Creek trail into Aid 2. Then it’s back to climbing again as we head up Glacier Ridge road to the top of Georgia Pass; another beautiful mountain pass.
Again after the climb, racers are rewarded with some of the best singletrack as they cruise down the Colorado trail. The top part of this trail is a little rooty, but flowy and fast while the end section is rocky and very technical. All in all it’s a great backcountry trail. Then it’s a descent down the Middle fork road and Parkville rd. to the last aid station of the day.
One more aid station before the last big slug up American Gulch Rd. A long dirt road climb that gets steeper the closer you get to the top. Once up and over American Gulch Rd. it’s a fun descent down Lincoln Park rd., Side door and Minnie Mine trail. Then there’s one more up/down techy trail called Turks trail and finally B&B trail to the finish.
This year we got super lucky with the weather (it’s hailed on racers at the top of Georgia pass before, ouch!) and had cool perfect weather. The climbing in this stage is long and HARD but as one guy said today in the race at the end of the Colorado Trail, “I never thought I would get sick of descending”. It’s all worth it for the awesome trails we get to descend on.
For the Epic 3 day racers Pro Men, World Champion, Alban Lakata won the stage today in 3:00:18 and finished 2nd overall (total time 8:17:23) behind his Topeak-Ergon teammate Kristian Hynek. Kristian Hynek finished 2nd today less than a tenth of a second behind Alban Lakata in a time of 3:00:19. He won the overall in a total time of 8:16:54. In third today and overall was the third Topeak-Ergon racer, Jeremiah Bishop who finished in 3:05:46 (total time 8:30:25). These three racers crushed all the previous records and spectators said were incredible to watch, especially powering up French Gulch today.
For the Pro women 3 day, Sally Bigham (Topeak/Ergon) won the stage (3:41:14) and overall (10:16:59), followed in 2nd by Mayalen Noriega (Primaflor/Orbea) with a time of 4:47:17 (total time of 12:47:33) and in third was Kata Skaggs with a time of 5:12:29 (14:11:26).
For the Epic, 6 day race, for the pro men Frans Claes (Loving Hut) won again in a time of 3:12:11. He remains in the lead with a total time of 8:43:51. Ben Swanepoel (Squirt) was again in 2nd with a time of 3:14:03 and remains in 2nd overall at 8:53:17. Barry Wicks (Kona) took 3rd place today with a time of 3:13:52, but Bryan Dillon (Griggs Orthopedic) moves into the 3rd place overall with a total time of 9:00:36.
For the pro women today’s race seemed a little more spread out for the top 4 racers. Serena Gordon (Liv/Giant) started off strong and took a nice lead from the start of the race. Evelyn Dong (Shoair/Cannondale) , Kelly Boniface (Moots) and Marlee Dixon (Pivot/Epic Brewing) rode within eyesight for the first section and up French Gulch road where we were able to catch up and pass Gordon.
At this point Dong took off and pushed up the climb ahead of us. Getting up to the top of the pass, Boniface was in 2nd, Dixon in 3rd and Gordon in 4th.
Gordon and Dixon passed Boniface on the Michigan creek descent. Then Dixon remained in 2nd for the remainder of the race, never seeing the other girls despite being within 3-6 minutes apart.
Evelyn Dong won the stage in a time of 3:49:27 increasing her overall lead with a total time of 10:30:00. Dixon finished 2nd in a time of 3:53:41 and moved up to 3rd overall with a total time of 10:44:57. Serena Gordon took 3rd today with a time of 3:56:51 and remains in 2nd place with a total time of 10:44:13. Kelly Boniface finished in 4:00:10 and is now in 4th with a total time of 10:47:40. It’s been a close race for the top 4 women and it will be awesome to see how the rest of the stages go!