Breck Epic 2021 Stage 6: Gold Dust

Alexis Skarda and Keegan Swenson seal their Breck Epic 2021 wins on the final stage.

Alexis Skarda sums up her week. Photo by Devin Balet
Keegan Swenson with the early lead on stage 6. Photo by Devin Balet

Often times in stage racing when the leader has a commanding lead, the final stage is more like a victory lap than a hard-fought battle for the stage win. This was not the case on the final day of the 2021 Breck Epic. Both the women’s and men’s race leaders ended the final stage in a sprint finish. Alexis Skarda took her sixth of six stage wins in a sprint over Rose Grant. Grant seemed to get stronger each day, or at least more recovered from her Leadville 100 win the day before the Breck Epic started.

Alexis Skarda takes an early lead on the final stage. Photo by Devin Balet
Rose Grant riding strong on day 6 just missing out on a stage win. Photo by Eddie Clark
Alexis Skarda leading Evelyn Dong on the final stage. Photo by Eddie Clark
Alexis Skarda takes the final stage win just in front of Rose Grant. Photo by Devin Balet
Rebecca Gross enjoying her final day on course. Photo by Eddie Clark

Keegan Swenson sprinted to the finish against race runner-up Luis Mejia. Mejia edged out Swenson in a photo finish. Full results here.

Riders start fast on the final stage of Breck Epic. Photo by Devin Balet
Keegan Swenson and Luis Mejia have a small gap on the chasers coming up Boreas Pass road. Photo by Eddie Clark
John Rauen on the final day of Breck Epic. Photo by Devin Balet
Amazing scenery welcomes riders each day of the Breck Epic. Photo by Devin Balet
Luis Mejia and Keegan Swenson open a lead on the chase group. Photo by Devin Balet
A flat right at the finish line! Photo by Devin Balet
Good times at the finish line. Photo by Devin Balet
Singlespeed race winner Macky Franklin on the final climb of the 6-day Breck Epic. Photo by Eddie Clark
Riders crest Boreas Pass road before a final descent back to town. Photo by Eddie Clark
Photo by Eddie Clark
Amy Chandos putting the finishing touches on a podium finish at the 2021 Breck Epic. Photo by Eddie Clark
Mike McCormack at the final podium ceremony. Photo by Eddie Clark
Mike McCormack sits in front of his race team. Photo by Eddie Clark
The pro men’s podium. Photo by Eddie Clark
The pro women’s podium. Photo by Eddie Clark
???. Photo by Eddie Clark
Snow covers the peaks where riders were just yesterday. Photo by Eddie Clark
race director Mike McCormack at the end of a week of racing. Photo by Eddie Clark

Breck Epic 2021 Stage 5: Wheeler

Gnarly storm unleashes high on Wheeler, testing racers at 12,000 feet

Anne Gonzales still smiling as she reaches the top. Photo by Eddie Clark

Swenson, Skarda stay perfect and inch closer to GC victories as bike racing’s essence shows through

Alexis Skarda rocking out on a gnarly Wheeler stage. Photo by Eddie Clark
Keegan Swenson navigates Wheeler summit and another stage win. Photo by Eddie Clark

By Devon O’Neil

BRECKENRIDGE — On a Wheeler stage that will live in Breck Epic lore, it paid to be fast Thursday. Rain, sleet, biting wind and all the earthbound challenges that such weather brings to alpine terrain pushed racers to the brink, breaking some, steeling others, yet seemingly having little effect on the sharp end of the field.

Keegan Swenson stayed perfect this week with another convincing victory. He broke from the pack about six miles into the 24-mile stage and rode alone to the finish, crossing in 2 hours 46 minutes 23 seconds—2:18 ahead of Luis Mejia, who finished second for the fifth straight day. Lachlan Morton was another 13 seconds back in third, after sprinting to the line ahead of Diyer Rincon.

Swenson’s GC lead stands at almost 12 minutes going into the final stage, the flattest and fastest of the race, with finish times typically under two hours.

Riders cross rock gardens as the cross Wheeler Summit. Photo by Devon Balet
Mike Hurst making the wet, cold descent. Photo by Devon Balet
Race leader Keegan Swenson came prepared for a wet day. Photo by Devon Balet

The women’s GC is in a similar state of non-flux after Alexis Skarda won again to extend her overall lead to 22 minutes. Skarda dropped Evelyn Dong on the Peaks Trail climb from Frisco to Breckenridge after Dong caught her on the 3,200-foot descent from the Tenmile Range crest. Skarda’s time of 3:31 was three minutes faster than Dong and 19 quicker than third-place finisher Rose Grant. Afterward the three women hung around the finish replaying their adventure.

Rain clouds blow over Wheeler Summit as the riders arrive. Photo by Devon Balet
A lone rider makes the approach to Wheeler Summit as rain clouds blow over. Photo by Devon Balet
Alexis Skarda powers through the rain clouds on a way to another stage win. Photo by Devon Balet
Alexis Skarda begins the descent off Wheeler summit. Photo by Devon Balet
Evelyn Dong summits. Photo by Eddie Clark
Adriana Rojas crests Wheeler summit. Photo by Eddie Clark

Grant: “Wow, that was so hard.”

Skarda: “I definitely ate a lot of mud and water.”

Dong: “I loved it.”

Skarda: “I tried to eat a piece of bacon [from the swine handup at mile 7], and I just chewed it and chewed it, and 10 minutes later I still had the whole thing in my mouth and was like, OK, this is not happening, so I spit it out.”

Dong: “There’s probably a marmot that was super psyched about that.”

RANDOM ACTS OF RADNESS

When Mother Nature decided to twist her knife, timing dictated that certain segments of the field endured a greater wrath than others. That’s when humanity stepped in. Not everyone who started the stage finished—more than 140 racers abandoned or were cut off due to time or safety—but those who did told stories of bike racing’s essence. One of them came from Mike Thompson, an Epic rookie from Louisville, Kentucky.

Thompson’s partner in the Duo 80-plus category dropped from the field early on, unbeknownst to Thompson. So Thompson continued riding, eventually coming upon a distraught competitor on the Tenmile crest at 12,400 feet. “He was sitting off the trail, crying and shivering,” Thompson said. “I was like, ‘Dude, you gotta get up and get off this mountain.’ The wind kicked up, sleet was coming in sideways. He just started shaking his head. I was like, ‘No, dude, you gotta get the fuck up.’” Thompson helped the man continue to a lower, safer place. He also gave some of his food to additional stragglers later. “Doing what people do,” he said.

Meanwhile, farther downhill on Miners Creek Road, another racer stopped to eat a gel when he noticed a lady sitting beside the road, “shaking, in rough shape,” he recalled. “She was like, ‘Don’t leave me!’ and asked if we could ride together because she hadn’t seen anyone else. So we rode for a while before mountain rescue showed up. We got in their ATV and they drove us down the mountain. I hugged her for 20 minutes to keep her warm. I also saw a guy with a flat on top of the range and gave him my pump. So I have no idea where my pump is.” The good Samaritan only wanted to be identified by his first name, Ben. “Anybody would’ve done it,” he said.   

Diyer Rincon having a good day despite the rough weather. Photo by Devon Balet
Nash Dory approaches the summit. Photo by Devon Balet
Lasse Konecny emerges from the clouds on top of Wheeler Summit. Photo by Devon Balet
Chris Mehlman navigates wet boulders at 12,500 vertical feet. Photo by Devon Balet
John Rauen pushes through on the Wheeler stage. Photo by Devon Balet
The infamous goat trail leading to Wheeler summit. Photo by Eddie Clark
Lachlan Morton still smiling on an epic Wheeler stage. Photo by Eddie Clark
Luis Mejia leads Nash Dory on stage 5. Photo by Eddie Clark
Rain clouds blow through. Photo by Eddie Clark
Pete Karinen has himself a little push on the way to Wheeler summit. Photo by Eddie Clark
Even the best riders are forced to hike some section of Wheeler. Here Lasse Konecny battles the mountain. Photo by Eddie Clark
Rain clouds shrouded Wheeler summit throughout the day. Photo by Eddie Clark
Kenneth O’Donnell signals as he reaches the summit. Photo by Eddie Clark
Riders brace the elements on a truly epic day of the Breck Epic. Photo by Eddie Clark
No smiles for Jacob Richardson as he approaches the summit. Photo by Eddie Clark
Lead coed duo team of Blanco & Espinosa happy to survive an epic day. Photo by Eddie Clark

HOW’D IT GO TODAY? / HOW DO YOU FEEL?

After climbing 5,500 feet and cresting elevations of 12,300 feet three times—much of it while pushing their bikes—racers had plenty to reflect on.

“I feel absolutely terrible. That was the worst thing I’ve ever done.”

“Like shit. Complete shit. You’ve got hail hitting your face, so you can’t feel your friggin’ face. It was a mess. But that’s why we do this, right?”

“When it was sleeting, I almost curled up in the fetal position and sucked on my thumb.”

“Today was the coldest I’ve ever been.”

“The only thing you could do was keep going. I’m so proud of myself for getting through that.”

“The downhill was a creek. Water running down, mud splashing, people endoing right in front of me.”

“Just relieved, because that was brutal, man.”

“Today broke me.”

“Fantastic. That was the most epic stage ever. To have rain and sleet on Wheeler is, like, legendary.”

“Mother. Fucker. That was the hardest day of my life. The last little uphill crushed my soul.”

“Great. I’m not redlining, I’m out here to smile.”

“My grip got loose and I went to brake and it twisted, and I went over the bars. There was a nice click when my face hit the rock.”

“I’m glad it was raining because I couldn’t see my tears. You just had to close your eyes and ride by feel.”

“Retrospectively, that was fun.”

“I’m going to tell my grandkids about today.”

Click Here for full results from all categories

Breck Epic Stage 3: Guyot

GC margins grow during Queen Stage around 13,370-foot Mt. Guyot

Alexis Skarda takes in some views before starting the descent on stage 3. Photo by Devon Balet

Local riders making moves as race moves into second half

By Devon O’Neil

BRECKENRIDGE — Despite a bit of late-race drama Tuesday, the Breck Epic’s Queen Stage delivered one more reminder who the fastest racers in the field are. Keegan Swenson overcame a brief, unintended detour to pad his lead in the pro men’s field, while Alexis Skarda won the pro women’s race by her biggest margin this week.

Race leader Keegan Swenson powers off the front with Luis Mejia in tow. Photo by Devon Balet

Swenson rode off course just before the finish (the exact cause was unclear, but it required him to pedal about two additional miles), yet he still won by 53 seconds ahead of perennial runner-up Luis Mejia of Colombia. Swenson’s winning time of 3 hours 18 minutes leaves him almost eight minutes up in the overall standings. Lachlan Morton remains in third overall, 20 minutes back of Swenson.

Lachlan Morton climbs up to the Colorado trail on day 3. Photo by Devon Balet

“I’m not doing any more work than I have to,” said Swenson, whose Santa Cruz team put burlier tires on his Blur CC for Tuesday’s rugged descents. “I didn’t attack [Mejia], he just fell off after Aid 3. So I was like, I’ll turn the screws just a hair and snap the elastic.”

Lachlan Morton leads the chasers after surviving the climb. Photo by Eddie Clark

Skarda, meanwhile, further separated herself in the GC standings with a time of 3:56 and a 6-minute advantage over Evelyn Dong, who remains in second overall, 8:35 back. Rose Grant took third and moved onto the GC podium heading into the week’s longest stage, Aqueduct.

Evelyn Dong sits in second just minutes behind the leader in the GC. Photo by Devon Balet
Rose Grant putting herself solidly in a podium spot for the GC. Photo by Eddie Clark
Adriana Rojas grinds out the last slopes before the summit. Photo by Eddie Clark

LOCAL HUSTLAS

The circumnavigation of 13,370-foot Mount Guyot takes riders over the Continental Divide twice, through two counties, and down some of the area’s sweetest singletrack for a total of 40 miles. It is typically one of two stages, along with Wheeler, in which locals improve their overall ranking. That didn’t happen with Breck’s Jarad Christianson, because he was already in first place in the men’s 30-plus category; but he tripled his winning margin from Stage 1. Christianson, 31, works 8-5 for a construction company and rides after work. He started entering local races four years ago. On Tuesday, he finished 15th overall, pros included, in the 387-rider Breck Epic (3:53—30 minutes faster than his 2019 time).

The only local ahead of Christianson, 17-year-old phenom Lasse Konecny, suffered what you might call a mining-town-only mechanical. An ancient, heavily rusted, 4-inch-long rectangular nail pierced his sidewall and exited his tread like an arrow through a banana late in the race. Konecny ran to the finish pushing his bike and losing minutes, but still finished ninth (3:39). He sits in 11th place overall, four minutes out of eighth.

Close to a dozen other locals are toeing the line this week, and not everyone is taking time off from work to compete. John Rauen, a 22-year-old who finished in 4:54, clocks in at an escape room from 3:30 to 10:30 p.m. every night between stages. The field is dotted with ski patrollers (Duke Barlow, Breck’s snow safety supervisor, finished in 4:51 on a recently replaced knee), massage therapists (Ro Mayberry took third in the Coed Duo division in 4:45), and government workers (Nicole Valentine, Summit County’s communications director, clinched the 3-day Open Women’s title in 5:27).

WHO NEEDS TWO GOOD ARMS?

One of the week’s most impressive sights was watching Robin Brown, a retired Las Vegas firefighter, navigate the high-speed technical descent from 12,000 feet with a prosthetic left arm. Brown and Mark Duncan, another Vegas firefighter, conquered the Queen in 6:07 and stand second in the Duo 100-plus class. Brown lost his forearm to a grain auger in Panhandle, Texas when he was 4, but he still played football, basketball, baseball, and golf growing up. He became a paramedic and captain in the Clark County Fire Department and has entered dozens of endurance races, but never the Breck Epic. Asked about riding the course with one hand, he said, “I don’t think anything of it.”

Robin Brown and Mark Duncan are currently in 2nd 100+ Duo

Another visiting racer, Sean Perry of Issiquah, Washington, has competed all week with a cast on his wrist. Perry suffered an intra articular fracture of his distal radius while training on the Miners Creek Trail three weeks ago—the most perilous descent in the race. It was his first ride in Colorado. “I thought there was no chance I would get to do the race,” he said. He finished the Guyot stage in 4:39.

Photo by Devon Balet
Keegan Swenson takes Skittles on board on his way up Mount Guyot. Photo by Devon Balet
Tobin Ortenblad grinding through the meadow with Skittles on his mind. Photo by Devon Balet
Chris Mehlman is sitting in the top-10 after day 3 of Breck Epic. Photo by Devon Balet
Benjamin Torvik feeling all the pain riding his singlespeed up the pass. Photo by Devon Balet
Alexis Skarda stays focused on another win at stage 3. Photo by Devon Balet
Support crew cheering on the riders and handing our Skittles. Photo by Devon Balet
Riders topping out at the Skittles feed. Photo by Devon Balet
Time to refuel. Photo by Devon Balet
One got away! Photo by Devon Balet
More Skittles! Photo by Devon Balet
Isaac Centeno rocking out in the thin air and Rocky Mountains. Photo by Devon Balet
Keegan Swenson starts the descent from Mount Guyot with Luis Mejia behind. Photo by Eddie Clark
Riders enjoy the long single track descent back into town. Photo by Eddie Clark
Nash Dory putting in a top-notch performance at the 2021 Breck Epic. Photo by Eddie Clark
Starting the descent to home. Photo by Eddie Clark
Macky Franklin gets the payoff after climbing his singlespeed up Mount Guyot. Photo by Eddie Clark
Justin Desilets starts his descent. Photo by Eddie Clark
Riders enjoying a well-deserved DH run. Photo by Eddie Clark
Rebecca Gross opens it up on the DH. Photo by Eddie Clark
Riders enjoy the finish of stage 3. Photo by Eddie Clark
Riders attack the Colorado trail single track on day 3. Photo by Liam Doran
Photo by Eddie Clark
Riders have endless views every stage of the Breck Epic. Photo by Liam Doran
Race director rallying the troops on stage 3. Photo by Liam Doran
Lasse Konecny has another top-10 performance on stage 3. Photo by Liam Doran
Benjamin Torvik wraps up another second place in the singlespeed group. Photo by Liam Doran
Riders can’t get enough Breckenridge single track. Photo by Liam Doran
Photo by Liam Doran

HOW DO YOU FEEL?

We posed this question just below the summit of 12,046-foot French Pass, the Queen’s high point. As usual, sentiments varied.

“Fantastic, thanks.”

“I’m not sitting in an office, so pretty damn good.”

“Can’t. Too much altitude.”

“Got a tail wind—what more can you ask for?”

“Like I look.”

“Literally could not be better.”

“I’ve got 20 pieces of metal in my elbow from Dirty Kanza. This is nothing.”

“Blessed.”

“As can be expected.”

“Fucking awesome, man.”

“Really?”

“Well, it depends. Are there Skittles up there?” Yes. “Fuck yeah. Then I feel amazeballs.”

Breck 100 Pre Race Report

Writing & Photos by: Marlee Dixon

Next up in the NUE series is Breck100! Colorado’s premier off-road endurance race offers racers 13,719 feet of climbing over 100 miles. The course links together an amazing network of backcountry trails, roads, double track and bike paths to test mountain bikers’ boundaries. Racers will cross the Continental Divide three times, climb 12,000 foot passes, and forge high mountain streams while returning three times to the support and encouragement of staff, friends and teammates in historic downtown Breckenridge.

Riders on Wheeler Pass

For those not quite ready for or pursuing the Ultra 100 there are the B-68 Marathon, the B-32 XC, or a two or three-person relay team.  Each race allows riders the same spectacular terrain the NUE elite 100 racers will ride.  Get all the info at Warriorscycling.com.

Check back after the race to hear how it all went down with results and photos!

Breck Epic Stage 6

Todd Wells and Amy Krahenbuhl Take Home Breck Epic 2016 Titles

The final stage served up a much more road-heavy and singletrack-lite day, suiting stage winner Chris Jones quite well. Jones went on to win the stage by a minute and a half and placed 8th in the GC. Photo by: Eddie Clark

The final stage served up a much more road-heavy and singletrack-lite day, suiting stage winner Chris Jones quite well. Jones went on to win the stage by a minute and a half and placed 8th in the GC. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Photo by: Liam Doran

Photo by: Liam Doran

Racers finish along the Blue River trail solidifying 6 days of singletrack-heavy racing. Photo by: Liam Doran

Racers finish along the Blue River trail solidifying 6 days of singletrack-heavy racing. Photo by: Liam Doran

The final climb of the final stage welcomed an epic hand-up of ice cold beers, capping off an epic week of racing. Photo by: Liam Doran

The final climb of the final stage welcomed an epic hand-up of ice cold beers, capping off an epic week of racing. Photo by: Liam Doran

A rider gives one final look back at the expansive landscapes and views that were plentiful throughout the entire week of racing. Photo by: Liam Doran

A rider gives one final look back at the expansive landscapes and views that were plentiful throughout the entire week of racing. Photo by: Liam Doran

The overall singlespeed winner, Vince Anderson drops into the Gold Dust trail on the final stage of the 6 day Breck Epic. Photo by: Eddie Clark

The overall singlespeed winner, Vince Anderson drops into the Gold Dust trail on the final stage of the 6 day Breck Epic. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Amy Krahenbuhl solidified her six day race open women’s race with her sixth stage win. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Amy Krahenbuhl solidified her six day race open women’s race with her sixth stage win. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Team Kask takes the overall coed duo win and enjoys the final stage filled with more forgiving climbs and flowing descents. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Team Kask takes the overall coed duo win and enjoys the final stage filled with more forgiving climbs and flowing descents. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Todd Wells decided to dust off his Leadville 100 winning bike, aero bars and all, for the final stage of the Breck Epic. Todd finished 6th on the stage, but maintained his overall win for the 6 day open men’s race. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Todd Wells decided to dust off his Leadville 100 winning bike, aero bars and all, for the final stage of the Breck Epic. Todd finished 6th on the stage, but maintained his overall win for the 6 day open men’s race. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Click Here for full Stage 6 Results and Final GC Standings

Breck Epic Stage 5

Russell Finsterwald and Amy Kranhenbuhl Coquer Mount Wheeler Stage

The grassy wet-land-esque fields at the summit of Wheeler can be technical, especially for exhausted riders. Photo by: Liam Doran

The grassy wet-land-esque fields at the summit of Wheeler can be technical, especially for exhausted riders. Photo by: Liam Doran

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.”

KUHL-Pivot Cycles rider Drew Free is sitting in sixth after his seventh place ride on Wheeler. With a gap of seven minutes to fifth, he could be looking to move up overall, but it’s unlikely he’ll close the hour and twenty minutes to Todd Wells. Photo by: Liam Doran

KUHL-Pivot Cycles rider Drew Free is sitting in sixth after his seventh place ride on Wheeler. With a gap of seven minutes to fifth, he could be looking to move up overall, but it’s unlikely he’ll close the hour and twenty minutes to Todd Wells. Photo by: Liam Doran

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.”

Troy Wells had a great day riding with teammate Ben Sonntag andfinished fourth on the day. Troy sits 5th in GC. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Troy Wells had a great day riding with teammate Ben Sonntag andfinished fourth on the day. Troy sits 5th in GC. Photo by: Eddie Clark

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.”

Amy Krahenbuhl has shown a dominating performance in the Women’s race and currently has a lead of of nearly 54-minutes. Photo by: Liam Doran

Amy Krahenbuhl has shown a dominating performance in the Women’s race and currently has a lead of of nearly 54-minutes. Photo by: Liam Doran

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.

Today’s stage demanded the powers of a mountain goat, as they pushed to terrain not normally travelled by bike or foot. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Today’s stage demanded the powers of a mountain goat, as they pushed to terrain not normally travelled by bike or foot. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Click Here for full results from Stage and GC

Breck Epic Stage 4

Todd Wells and Amy Krahenbuhl Continue to Lock Down 2016 Breck Epic

On stage four of the Breck Epic, the top 7 men were all together for the first 15 miles until the decisive climb, Vomit Hill. Photo by: Eddie Clark

On stage four of the Breck Epic, the top 7 men were all together for the first 15 miles until the decisive climb, Vomit Hill. Photo by: Eddie Clark

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 Wells stands up to his number one plate with a stage win with teammate Russell Finsterwald on his wheel through the finish line on stage 4. Finsterwald is just 4:24 back in the GC. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Todd Wells stands up to his number one plate with a stage win with teammate Russell Finsterwald on his wheel through the finish line on stage 4. Finsterwald is just 4:24 back in the GC. Photo by: Eddie Clark

“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.

Kevin Day rushes to the finish line after being surprised by his family, who drove through the night from Utah, at aid one. Photo by: Liam Dorian

Kevin Day rushes to the finish line after being surprised by his family, who drove through the night from Utah, at aid one. Photo by: Liam Dorian

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.

Showing true grit, Rebecca Gross rounds one of the final corners on a demanding fourth stage. Team KASK sits pretty in pink in the lead in the coed duo 6 day race. Photo by: Eddie Clark

Showing true grit, Rebecca Gross rounds one of the final corners on a demanding fourth stage. Team KASK sits pretty in pink in the lead in the coed duo 6 day race. Photo by: Eddie Clark

WOMEN’S PRO/OPEN

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.”

One half of the Juliana Bicycles 6 day duo women’s team, Uriel Carlson rounds one of the final corners before the finish line on stage four. Team Juliana Bicycles stays in third place on the day and the GC. Photo by: Liam Dorian

One half of the Juliana Bicycles 6 day duo women’s team, Uriel Carlson rounds one of the final corners before the finish line on stage four. Team Juliana Bicycles stays in third place on the day and the GC. Photo by: Liam Dorian

“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.”

Click Here for full results from Stage 4 and GC

 

 

Breck Epic Stage 3 Report

BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado

(Uncommon Comms.)

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.”

EClark_160816_7643

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.”

EClark_160816_7803

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.

EClark_160816_7932

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.

EClark_160816_7654

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.”

EClark_160816_8568

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.

EClark_160816_8224

“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.

EClark_160816_8451

Full Results from the stage here: (Stage 3 Results)

Breck Epic Stage 6

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.”

Click Here for full stage 6 results and final GC standings

Breck Epic Stage 5 – Wheeler Pass

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.

Belgium National Champ Frans Claes charges where the air is thin and trail is vague. - Photo by Eddie Clark

Belgium National Champ Frans Claes charges where the air is thin and trail is vague. – Photo by Eddie Clark

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.

Marlee Dixon opts for a handful of skittles.  - Photo by Liam Doran

Marlee Dixon opts for a handful of skittles. – Photo by Liam Doran

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.

Click Here for full results from stage 5 and updated GC standings