Alexis Skarda and Cole Paton Take Opening Stage of Shortened Moab Rocks
Written by: Shannon Boffeli
After race officials neutralized stage one due to extreme conditions atop Moab’s famed Porcupine Rim trail racers started day two with everything in the tank. And despite the 28-degree temperature at the start nothing could cool this stacked field of North America’s best mountain bike racers.
Brave riders take on the elements on Porcupine Rim after the stage was neutralized. Photo courtesy of Transrockies/Tony Campono
Today’s stage was also slightly modified from years past due to the unending moisture that has blanketed the west this winter. The course changes meant riders would the final 4 miles on the unrelenting EKG trail named because its profile looks like a reading from a heart monitor; nothing but sharp ups and downs. A challenging end to a demanding stage.
Alexis Skarda (Santa Cruz HTsqd) had a smooth race moving to the front early and staying clear for much of the stage. After the race, she reported, “there were so many men on the course I got in with a few and never saw any women most of the day.” Also stating she had to slow her pace on EKG to prevent any missed turns that plagued riders on the exceptionally turny trail.
Juliana teammates Evelyn Dong and Kaysee Armstrong finished second and third respectively signaling a strong start to the season for the team.
Cole Paton (Orange Seal Academy) took top honors in a thrilling sprint finish against Andrew l’Esperance (Maxxis Factory Racing) taking the win by just 1/10th of a second.
The lead finishing duo was followed just 50 seconds later by Bradyn Lange (Scott Sports). Lange finished third in last years Moab Rocks.
The 2023 Moab Rocks is also round one in the debut season of the Singletrack Series. A 4-race series featuring some of the most-demanding, trail-focused mountain bike events in North America. Round two happens on May 5-6 at the Grand Junction Rides & Vibes in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Check back later for more…
Alexis Skarda (Santa Cruz HTsqd) 2.10.41
Evelyn Dong (Juliana) 2.12.06
Kaysee Armstrong (Juliana) 2.16.58
Ellen Campbell (Specialized/Rapha) 2.17.07
Deanna Mayles (Velocio) 2.17.07
Cole Paton (Orange Seals Academy) 188.8.131.52
Andrew l’Esperance (Maxxis Factory Racing) 184.108.40.206
In just a few hours many of North America’s top riders will be lining up in Leadville, Colorado, for the Leadville 100.
Saturday’s Leadville 100 course features just over 100 miles of mostly double track riding on an out-and-back style course. The Leadville course is more rugged than most in the Life Time Grand Prix which means all the top athletes will be on mountain bikes.
We got a sneak peak at what our favorite racers will be competing on as the Grand Prix turns to knobbies including top riders like: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Rose Grant, Keegan Swenson, Russell Finsterwald, Alexey Vermuelen, Melisa Rollins, Dylan Johnson, and more.
Sofia Gomez-Villafane: Specialized Epic Hardtail – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 1st
Sofia Gomez-Villafane’s Specialized Epic Hardtail. Photo by: Andy Cochrane
SGV is running Specialized Renegade 2.2 tires. Photo by: Andy Cochrane
SGV is running a full Shimano XTR bike with road pedals for better energy transfer. Photo by: Andy Cochrane
Photo by: Andy Cochrane
Keegan Swenson: Santa Cruz Highball – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 1st
Keegan Swenson’s Santa Cruz Highball
Swenson is running Reserve 28 wheels with Maxxis Aspen ST 2.4 tires
Keegan’s race set up includes a 38-tooth ring with 10-52 cassette
Keegan’s cockpit includes the SQ Lab Innerbarends
Evelyn Dong: Juliana HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 5th
Evelyn Dong’s Santa Cruz Highball frame custom-painted to represent Juliana. She’s running Reserve 28 wheels with Maxxis Aspen 2.25 tires.
Russell Finsterwald: Specialized S-Works Epic EVO – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 2nd
Finsterwald is running Shimano road pedals for better energy transfer and Specialized Renegade 2.2 tires
Rose Grant: Juliana HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 6th
Grant is full SRAM AXS with 32-tooth ring and Quarq power meter. She has custom 26oz bottles from The Feed with Gu Roctain fuel.
Grant has a Rockshox SID Ultimate 100 fork with Reserve 28 wheels and Maxxis Aspen 2.25 EXO tires and Orange Seal sealant
Her race bike will feature ESI grips and Hammerhead Karoo 2 computer
Alexey Vermuelen: Factor Lando HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 3rd
Alexey Vermeulen will be running the Factor Lando HT at the upcoming Leadville 100
Vermeulen will be running Enve 525 wheels and Kenda Booster tires
Vermeulen runs a full Shimano XTR rig with ESI grips
Melisa Rollins: Trek Supercaliber – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 6th
Melisa Rollins Trek Supercaliber with Bontrager Kovee XXX wheels
Rollins is running Kenda Booster Pro 2.4 tires
Hannah Otto: Pivot Les SL – Life Time Grand Prix rank 10th
Hannah Otto’s Pivot Les SL with DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheels and Kenda Rush 2.2 tires. She also runs full Shimano XTR with Stages dual power meter. She’s using a 32-tooth chainring for Leadville.
Dylan Johnson: Factor Lando HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank 15th
Dylan Johnson’s Factor Lando HT
Johnson’s bike features Black Inc wheels with Continental Race King 2.2 tires.
Black Inc’s sleek one-piece stem/bar combo
Hannah Shell: Santa Cruz Blur – Life Time Grand Prix rank 17th
Hannah Shell will be riding the Santa Cruz Blur with the as yet unreleased HUNT Proven Race XC wheels and Pirelli Scorpion hard terrain tires.
Pirelli Scorpion tires and HUNT Proven Race XC wheels
Shell’s Blur is stacked with full Shimano XTR
Hannah is using the Garmin 1040 solar for navigating the 100 mile course.
Alexis Skarda: Santa Cruz Highball – Life Time Grand Prix rank 17th
Alexis Skarda will be aboard the Santa Cruz Highball with full SRAM XX components, 34 tooth chainring and Quarq power meter. Photo by: Devon Balet
Skarda will be running Reserve 28 wheels and Maxxis Aspen 2.4 tires. Photo by: Devon Balet
Stephen Davoust: Giant Anthem – Life Time Grand Prix rank 23rd
US marathon national champion Stephen Davoust on the Giant Anthem he will race at the Leadville 100
Davoust’s Giant Anthem sports the Fox Live valve system and a Fox 34. He’ll be running Giant XCR0 wheels and Maxxis Aspen 2.25 tires.
Stephen Davoust runs full Shimano XTR cockpit with Shimano Pro stem and bar
Many of the world’s best riders are lining up in Emporia, Kansas, for the Unbound Gravel event – round two of the Life Time Grand Prix.
Saturday’s Unbound course features 200 miles of rolling gravel and dirt roads through the Flint Hills in eastern Kansas. Riders have chosen a wide variety of race set ups to get the most from their bikes in the first gravel race on the Life Time Grand Prix calendar.
We got a sneak peak at what our favorite mountain bike racers will competing on as the Grand Prix turns to gravel including top riders like: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Alexis Skarda, Rose Grant, Keegan Swenson, Russell Finsterwald, Melisa Rollins, Dylan Johnson, and more.
Sofia Gomez Villafane: Specialized Crux – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 2nd
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-ace/XTR/GRX with double chainring
Cockpit: Aero package
Tires: Specialized Pathfinder with inserts
Keegan Swenson: Santa Cruz Stigmata – Life Time Grand PrixRank: 1st
Drivetrain: SRAM Red 48-tooth single ring & 10-50 SRAM Eagle cassette
Wheels: Reserve 40/44 with Fillmore valves
Tires: Maxxis Refuse 40c with inserts – 28 psi front 30 psi rear
Cockpit: Zipp 40cm Service Course SL bar and stem
Computer: Garmin Edge 530
Bike Bags: Zipp Speed Box top tube bag & Almsthre saddle bag
Extras: 3 tubes, Stan’s NoTubes Dart, 3 Genuine Innovations Plugs – Loaded, 4 CO2s and hand pump
Alexis Skarda: Santa Cruz Stigmata – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 3rd
Drivetrain: SRAM Red 44-32t double chainring
Wheels: Reserve 34/37
Tires: Maxxis Refuse 40c with Tannus inserts
Stephan Davoust: Giant Revolt – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: DNF at Round 1
Drivetrain: Shimano GRX Di2
Tires: Maxxis Rambler 45c silk shield with Cushcore
Cockpit: Giant D-Fuse handlebar and seatpost
Bike Bags: Giant frame bag
Evelyn Dong: Juliana Quincy – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 5th
Drivetrain: SRAM XPLR 46-tooth single ring with 10-44 cassette and k-edge chainguide
Wheels: Reserve Gravel 32
Tires: Maxxis Refuse with Mynsweeper inserts
Russell Finsterwald: Specialized Crux – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 2nd
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace/GRX 48-tooth single ring with 11-46 cassette
Tires: Specialized Pathfinder Pro 42c
Cockpit: Specialized bar with Farr Bars aero package
Extras: Wireless speaker on stem for tunes to get him through the dark times
Kaysee Armstrong: Liv Devote – Life Time Grand Prix Rank:9th
Drivetrain: Shimano GRX/Ultegra double chainring
Wheels: Giant 35 carbon
Tires: Maxxis Rambler 40c no inserts
Dylan Johnson: Factor LS – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 13th
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace/GRX double chainring with Quarq power meter
Wheels: Black Inc
Tires: Specialized Pathfinder Pro with tubolight inserts
Cockpit: Black Inc carbon bar/stem combo
Computer: Wahoo Roam
Rose Grant: Juliana Quincy – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 8th
Drivetrain: SRAM Red with 44-tooth single ring 10-46 rear cassette
Wheels: Reserve 25
Tires: Maxxis Ramblers 40c with Orange Seal sealant
Melisa Rollins: Felt Breed – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 11th
Drivetrain: SRAM XPLR etap AXS with Quarq power meter
Riders are lining up in Monterey, California, for the Sea Otter Classic and round 1 of the Life Time Grand Prix.
Saturday’s Sea Otter course features two 40-kilometer laps on the super-fast, hard pack at the edges of Laguna Seca Raceway. Riders have chosen a wide variety of race set ups to get the most from their bikes in Saturday’s marathon event.
We got a sneak peak at some of the fastest rides that will be on course this weekend including top riders like: Rose Grant, Geoff Kabush, Melisa Rollins, Dylan Johnson, and many more.
Rose Grant: Juliana Wilder
Drivetrain: SRAM AXS with Quarq power meter
Fork: Rockshox SID 100mm
Shock: Rockshox SID Luxe 100mm
Seat Post: SRAM AXS dropper
Wheels: Reserve 28 carbon
Tires: Maxxis Aspen 2.4 with Orange Seal sealant
Grips: Chunky ESI
Melisa Rollins: Trek Supercaliber (Melisa is sponsored by Felt who do not currently produce a mountain bike)
Drivetrain: SRAM AXS
Fork: Fox 32 Stepcast 100mm
Shock: Fox/Trek ISO strut 65mm
Seat Post: Bontrager Kovee XXX carbon fixed
Wheels: Bontrager Kovee XXX carbon
Brakes: SRAM Level Ultimate
Tires: Kenda Saber Pro 2.4
Hannah Otto: Pivot Les SL
Drivetrain: Shimano XTR 12-speed with Stages Double Side Power Meter
Fork: Fox 32 Step Cast 100mm
Seat Post: Fox Transfer SL
Wheels: DT Swiss XRC 1200 carbon
Tires: Kenda Rush 2.2
Cockpit: Race Face Next SL
Grips: ESI Fit CR
Evelyn Dong: Custom Juliana SC Highball
Drivetrain: SRAM AXS
Fork: Rockshox SID ultimate 100mm
Seat Post: SRAM Explr AXS dropper 75mm
Wheels: Reserve carbon
Tires: Maxxis Aspen 2.4
Saddle: WTB Silverado
Taylor Lideen: Pivot Les SL
Drivetrain: Shimano XTR 12-speed with 4iiii power meter
Fork: Fox 32 Stepcast 100mm
Seat Post: Fox Transfer SL dropper
Cockpit: Pro Bike Gear
Wheels: Boyd Trail Blazer
Tires: Kenda Saber Pro 2.4
Computer: Wahoo ELEMENT Bolt GPS
Dylan Johnson: Factor Lando
Drivetrain: SRAM AXS with Quarq power meter
Fork: Fox 34 Step Cast 120mm
Seat Post: Fox Transfer SL
Wheels: Black Inc Twenty Seven
Tires: Maxxis Aspen 2.25
Cockpit: Black Inc bar/stem combo
Tires Inserts: Tubolight EVO SL
Stephan Davoust: Giant Anthem Advanced Pro
Drivetrain: Shimano XTR 12-speed
Fork: Fox 34 Step Cast Live Valve 110mm
Shock: Fox Live Valve 100mm
Seat Post: Fox Transfer SL dropper
Wheels: Giant XCRO carbon
Tires: Maxxis Aspen 2.25
Inserts: Cushcore front & rear
Geoff Kabush: Yeti SB115
Drivetrain: Shimano XTR
Fork: Fox 34 Fit4 Step Cast
Seat Post: Fox Transfer SL
Wheels: Stan’s No Tubes Podium SRD
Inserts: Cushcore front & rear
Tires: Maxxis Aspen 2.25 EXO 120tpi
Cockpit: Pro Bike Gear
Grips: Lizard Skins 32.2 DSP
You can follow Shannon Boffeli on Instagram @shan__solo
After taking the 2020 season off due to Covid, Utah’s most-anticipated mountain bike race each year returned for its 13th edition. Taking in over 75 miles of Park City, Utah’s, world renowned singletrack and 10,000 vertical feet of climbing, the Point 2 Point is known as one of hardest single-day mountain bike races in the country.
This year riders from across the country came to the destination town of Park City to be challenged by technical trails, grueling climbs, breakneck descents, and moose.
Rains on Friday helped clear out some of the smoke that has plagued the west throughout the summer and provided endless hero dirt for the riders to enjoy their P2P experience.
As the race kicked off just after sunrise it was clear both elite fields were ready to push the pace early.
Two-time winner Evelyn Dong (Juliana/SRAM/No Tubes) took the early lead pushing what challenger, Melissa Rollins (Team Twenty24) described as, ‘cross-county Olympic speeds.’ Dong was joined early on by Caedran Harvey with Rollins not far behind.
The punishing early pace broke up the women’s field and saw Evelyn Dong establish a solid gap that continued to grow throughout the day. The Juliana rider rode clear throughout the day and not even getting stung by a bee on the lip would slow the lone leader.
At mile 55, Dong passed through the crowds at the Park City Mountain feed zone taking in the cheers from hundreds of local fans lifting her spirits to finish the final 20 miles showing strong form.
Behind the leader Melisa Rollins had moved into second place after Harvey got off course in the mid-mountain section of the course.
Rollins was followed by the hard-charging Virginian Andrea Dvorak (Cutaway), who is battle-tested in all forms of endurance cycling.
No one would be catching Evelyn Dong on the day as she finished the race with a smashing time of 7:30:18, well inside the top-20 of the 350 men and women in the race.
Rollins final push to the finish was temporarily delayed as a mother and baby moose took up residence on the trail. The 25-year-old Rollins was forced to bushwhack her way around the pair before getting back on course and finishing her day at just over 8 hours.
Despite encountering the late moose challenge, Rollins managed to stay over 20 minutes clear on third-place rider Dvorak who finished at 8:24:55.
Chelsea Bolton finished fourth in the open women’s field but took top honors for best quote of the day for her comment after finishing the punishing Steps trail climb exclaiming, “Before today, I’ve only ever gone up that trail by mistake!”
Courtney Boyd (Wattie Ink) rounded out the women’s podium in fifth place with a time of 8:47:14
The open men’s race got off to a similarly rapid pace with relative youngsters Truman Glasgow (Rouleur Devo) and Tanner Visnick (POC) pushing hard early accompanied briefly by Australian Lachlan Morton (EF Foundation) who was fresh off a podium finish at the 6-day Breck Epic and his Alt Tour De France effort where he rode the entire Tour De France course solo.
Morton suffered an early flat before exciting the Round Valley section of the course. This left Glasgow and Visnick out front, a strategy that Visnick had envisioned. “Going out hard early is typically my move,” the 24-tear-old Visnick said. “Unless I’m marking another rider and don’t know the course well, I prefer to be in front setting my own pace on the climbs and descents.”
Despite throwing down early speed, Visnick was unable to shed Glasgow who worked his way into the lead by the top of Deer Valley resort. The 21-year-old Glasgow stayed clear on the following descents and through the tortuous John’s trail where a mother and baby moose forced some brief detours.
At 50+ miles in both riders descended into the Park City Mountain feed zone just seconds apart.
Morton was slowly working his way through the field jumping into 5th place by the Steps trail climb and taking over 4th before making his way into the feed zone.
In front the racing was all out with less than a minute between the two leaders and Tanner Visnick now being out front, barely.
Despite being young, Visnick is no stranger to distance events having already won the Gunnison Growler, Emerald Epic, and Big Sky Biggie in 2021. After a quick stop at the final feed zone, Visnick used his endurance experience to hold onto a 20 second gap over his challenger needing to essentially sprint the final 5 miles of downhill to cross the line with just 39 seconds in hand.
After almost six and a half hours of racing Truman Glasgow finished less than a minute behind the leader.
Lachlan Morton worked his way up to third place by the finish, passing another youngster, Cameron Larson (Summit Devo Team), in the final miles of the race.
Larson took fourth in what was his longest-ever mountain bike race effort.
Fifth went to Danny Van Wagoner with a time of 6:45:29.
In a tradition unique to the Park City Point 2 Point, a special award is given to the final racer to finish each year’s event; in special recognition of their perseverance making it to the finish line.
This year’s red lantern award went to Kristine Thompson, who finished, in the dark, with a time of 13:58:44. The longest-ever finishing time for the P2P.
For the first time three riders on the men’s podium were former NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) racers. Truman Glasgow and Cameron Larson both raced in the Utah league, while race winner Tanner Visnick raced in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Instead of tapering the weekend before the Park City Point 2 Point, race winner Tanner Visnick, was getting married in Bozeman, Montana. Congratulations Tanner!
Skarda overcomes midrace stop to win second straight stage
Epic rookie leads Evelyn Dong by 2:30; Swenson dusts Mejia on Colorado Trail descent
By Devon O’Neil
BRECKENRIDGE — Shortly after starting Monday’s second stage of the Breck Epic, Alexis Skarda felt it. A familiar fluttering in her chest. As the pro women’s leader in her Epic debut, with a scant lead over former champion Evelyn Dong, Skarda knew she didn’t have time to spare. She also knew she had no choice but to stop.
So Skarda, a 31-year-old from Grand Junction in the midst of the best season of her pro career, pulled off the trail and dismounted her bike. She drank water and breathed. She watched other racers fly past her, agonizing at the time she was losing.
For much of her cycling career, Skarda has managed a rare congenital heart defect known as supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, an erratic heartbeat that comes from faulty electrical connections in her upper chambers. “It feels like a butterfly in your heart and lactic acid in your legs,” she said. She first felt it when she was 21. Ever since, it shows up periodically and unpredictably. It is caused by stress, but there’s no way to know exactly when or why certain moments trigger it, Skarda said. The first time it happened, her heartrate spiked to 260 beats per minute. On Monday morning, her rate rose into the 250s—an alarming number for someone who tries to stay around 170. “You have to relax to make it slow down, but it’s hard to relax when you see all these people passing you,” she said.
Since the episodes are random, Skarda often tries to build an early gap during races just in case it flares up. When asked if the condition—which is not dangerous in a mortality sense—has ever cost her a race, Skarda said, “It’s cost me a lot of races.” But she downplayed it being called a disadvantage. “I think everyone has something they deal with. This is just what I have to account for. I call it a body mechanical. It’s sort of like a flat tire.”
SVT didn’t cost her Monday’s race. Skarda got back on her bike once her heartrate slowed and rode strong to the finish, winning in 3:53:22. Dong finished second again, 56 seconds back, followed by Rose Grant in third. Skarda’s overall lead now stands at 2 minutes 30 seconds.
SWENSON BUILDS SIZABLE OVERALL LEAD
In Monday’s pro men’s race, reigning champion Keegan Swenson sent a message that echoed across Summit County—and perhaps down to South America. Swenson had narrowly beaten Colombia’s Luis Mejia in Sunday’s opener, winning by four seconds, and the two were tightly packed again until they began descending the Colorado Trail from West Ridge—one of the highlights of the week in terms of views and pure fun. Swenson sensed Mejia struggling to keep pace on the technical descent and rocketed away from his rival. Once out of sight, he built a seven-minute gap over the final 15 miles, winning in a time of 3:08:52. Lachlan Morton overcame a crash that bloodied his elbow to take third in 3:18:41.
BAD LUCK HAS NO GOOD TIMING
The Epic has exacted its share of bodily damage over 12 editions, and this week, although young, has been no exception. Monday a pair of unlucky racers sat next to each other at the Tiger Dredge aid station, commiserating over their mutual misfortune. Rich “Dicky” Dillen, one of the Epic’s most popular characters and familiar faces, had crashed earlier in the day, breaking his carbon-rail saddle, twisting his ankle, crunching an already injured right side, and realizing he had to withdraw from the race. His shoulder was bloodied and smeared with dirt. His morale was crushed. After finishing eight prior Epics, Dillen—a professional bike messenger from Charlotte, North Carolina and nationally known singlespeed racer who competes on rigid frames—struggled to accept he won’t be going home with a BMF belt buckle. “I bought a geared bike a month ago and I think God hates me until I sell it,” he joked. To his point, he’d broken a carbon rim, bruised his ribs and cracked his helmet, all before Monday’s crash. The 52-year-old sat beside the trail and cried when he realized he couldn’t continue the race.
Then Dicky found Bob Orlikowski, a 47-year-old nuclear regulator from Illinois, and plopped down next to him. Orlikowski had trained for the Epic for a year and a half—or, as his wife put it, “his whole life”—before arriving with two buddies to toe the line this week. Twelve miles into the first stage, while pushing his bike up Little French Gulch, Orlikowski heard what he described as two rocks hitting together. “I actually turned around to see if somebody was running up on me,” he said. “But I think the noise was just my Achilles tendon rupturing.”
He made it back to an aid station and found his wife, who drove him to the hospital. Monday his leg was splinted up to his knee; a pair of crutches rested against his shoulder. And yet, as he watched racers pedal by at the dredge, Orlikowski was smiling. “It’s sad, but to me it’s nothing I had control over,” he said. “It’s just bad luck.” Dicky, resting in the dirt a few feet away, added: “It helped to sit down next to Bob. It could be way worse.”
A MOMENT FOR BEN
Shortly before Monday’s start in downtown Breckenridge, racers and staff held a moment of silence for 2012 Epic champion Ben Sonntag. Sonntag, a longtime pro cyclist and beloved member of the fat-tire community, was hit and killed by a pickup truck traveling at 69 mph in a 35-mph zone on March 4, 2020, during a training ride outside his hometown of Durango. He was 39.
Swenson picks up where he left off in Epic’s opening stage
2019 champ shows no ill effects after winning Leadville 100 on Saturday; Skarda takes lead among women
By Devon O’Neil
BRECKENRIDGE — Two years after the last Breck Epic was staged in Colorado’s singletrack kingdom, much of what we know about the world has changed dramatically. But a few things haven’t, foremost: Keegan Swenson is still the man to beat in Breckenridge. Swenson, the 27-year-old defending champion from Heber City, Utah, made a late pass Sunday to beat a familiar foe in Colombia’s Luis Mejia and start the six-stage Epic with a four-second victory. He completed the 36-mile course in 2 hours 44 minutes.
The duo distanced themselves early on from the rest of the field, with Mejia—still smarting from a series of flat tires that derailed his 2019 bid to challenge Swenson—turning the screws on America’s most versatile racer. Swenson had won the Leadville 100 the prior day in 6 hours 11 minutes, the eighth fastest time in that race’s history. He’d also defended his XC national title in July and narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics. He showed little weariness Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after his Leadville win, as the Epic kicked off on perfectly tack-ified dirt thanks to a brief rain shower. Content to chase Mejia’s frequent uphill surges and set the pace on the descents, Swenson found himself trailing the 36-year-old Colombian on the final downhill, until they reached the mini freeride features on Barney Flow. There, Swenson saw a window.
“He wasn’t jumping the doubles and I started jumping the doubles and gained some time,” Swenson said. “Then I took one of the log skinnies and made the pass.”
Longtime World Tour racer Lachlan Morton of Australia held third for much of the day until a sprint for the finish with Costa Rica’s Carlos Herrera saw Herrera edge him by a few thousandths.
SKARDA’S FAST START
Swenson wasn’t the only Santa Cruz Bicycles team member who enjoyed a happy Sunday. Breck Epic rookie Alexis Skarda of Grand Junction led from start to finish ahead of Epic veteran Evelyn Dong and a host of other challengers, winning by 25 seconds. Skarda said she concentrated on staying under her target heartrate of 170bpm to preserve energy for the subsequent stages. She’d trained for the Epic by riding—and winning—the Telluride 100 last month. She also finished second at XC nationals to 2021 Olympian Erin Huck, another Epic vet. Though Skarda won on the same bike as Swenson—a Blur CC—she rode a 100mm fork while he opted for the cushier 120mm.
Skarda and Dong figure to see more challenges later this week from five-time national marathon champ Rose Grant, who won Leadville on Saturday and finished TK SUNDAY.
“I figured if I didn’t go too crazy, I wouldn’t ruin it for the rest of the week,” Skarda said at the Carter Park finish. “But it’s tough when you’re feeling fresh to not go too hard.”
BIENVENIDO A LOS TICOS
Though the pandemic changed many racers’ plans, especially international competitors, plenty still braved the travel it took to get here. They include two dozen Costa Ricans from San José, who are riding in custom white jerseys this week. Due to a 9 p.m. curfew imposed in their country, riders couldn’t count on night miles to build their training base. Instead, they rose early—and often. Epic rookie Isaac Centeno, 26, trained six days a week for six months, starting at 5 a.m. “My friend Pablo told me to come because it’s his fourth time here,” Centeno said. “I just want to explore different landscapes and weather.”
STATS AND STUFF
Sunday’s opening stage saw 387 riders start. More than seven hours later, all but one crossed the finish. Pro racer Kyle Trudeau crashed hard coming down the notoriously tricky Grind into Indiana Creek, telling a teammate he thought he’d broken some ribs. He abandoned the race—but not until he’d finished a grueling climb to Boreas Pass Road. In all, the stage covered 36 miles and roughly 5,000 vertical feet. Full results can be found here:
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
Each day, we ask this very simple question at some point on course, usually at the top of a merciless climb. Today it was posed near the top of Little French.
“Legs don’t feel great, but it’s the first day, they’re not supposed to.”
“Like 50 cents.”
“Pretty good. Actually, great.”
“This is heinous. Wait, is this Heinous?” [Ed’s note: No. Heinous Hill will introduce itself in Stage 2.]
“Could be worse.”
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Millard Allen won the singlespeed division at Leadville on Saturday and stayed in the Cloud City for the awards Sunday morning, which meant he arrived late to start the Epic. He hopped on course at 10 a.m. and caught the sweep halfway up Pennsylvania Gulch, eventually finishing in 3:54 on a geared bike.
Stage 2 takes riders across multiple drainages highlighted by the locally famous West Ridge descent on the Colorado Trail. Real-time results can be found at itsyourrace.com.
Slated for August 14-19, 2022, 400 riders. In the words of race director Mike McCormack, “Sometimes bigger is better. We feel that in Epic’s case, better is better. There’s a balance we need to strike. To us, that means enough riders to create that special big race feel, but not so many that we experience crowding on course. We want our riders to experience the soulfulness of Summit County’s trail system and backcountry–that’s hard to do if you’re riding nose-to-tail all day.”
McCormack added, “Additionally, while our trail system holds up very well, fewer riders means less impact. We love our trails…we just don’t want to love them to death.”
Cannondale announced today a partnership with SUGOI Apparel and 360fly to create North America’s most powerful cross-country mountain bike team for the 2016 season – Cannondale 360fly, powered by SUGOI.
“Cannondale 360fly, Powered by SUGOI brings together three innovative brands with trailblazing technology to fuel North America’s fastest domestic mountain bikers,” said Matt Ohran, Team Director, Cannondale 360fly, powered by SUGOI. “This team has the talent to stand atop any North American XC race podium.”
Evelyn Dong seen here winning the 2015 Park City Point 2 Point. Photo by: Angie Harker
The team will be comprised of five standout athletes:
Raphaël Gagné, Canada: 2015 Pan Am Games Gold Medalist, 2015 Canadian National XC and CX Champion, 2015 Pro XCT Overall winner
Alex Grant, USA: 2015 US Nationals 3rd place in both XC and Short Track and winner of the Grand Junction Off-Road
Evelyn Dong, USA: 2015 Go Pro Games Champion, Overall Winner at the 2015 Breck Epic MTB Stage Race, 2014 3rd place at US XC Nationals
Keegan Swenson, USA: 2015 2nd place at US XC Nationals, 2014 U23 US National Champion, 4x Junior US XC National Champion
Tinker Juarez, USA: Multiple USA National XC and 24-Solo MTB Championships, 2x Olympian, 22-year Cannondale athlete and general bad-ass bike rider
The team trucks will be loaded with the Scalpel and the F-Si, two of the most race-proven bikes in the world, and the athletes will choose the ideal machine depending upon course demands. The Cannondale Scalpel delivers the ultimate XC speed in a full suspension bike and the F-Si boasts maximum performance in a cross-country hardtail.
“In supporting this team, Cannondale is turning up the level of excitement in elite racing in North America,” said Hannah Parish, Marketing Director for Cycling Sports Group, North America. “This roster is incredibly talented on the bike and remarkably engaging off the bike and that personality and performance will get our fans on their feet and cheering.”
SUGOI will be supporting the Cannondale 360fly team as the Official Performance Apparel sponsor. Team riders will enjoy the brand’s latest advancements in pro apparel, including the all-new 2016 Racing System Elite (RSE) Jersey and Bib Short. The RSE kit is SUGOI’s lightest kit ever, engineered to provide maximum performance and comfort, anchored by the Formula FXE chamois with pioneering cradle design. Team replica kits will be available for sale at select SUGOI dealers around the continent.
“Having elite level athletes working in collaboration with our product teams to design and develop the next generation of XC race apparel is invaluable to Sugoi,” said Ian Domaas, Vice President & GM, SUGOI.
Alex leads a group down the Beatrice descent at the world cup in Mount St. Anne
As the official camera, 360fly will capture fully immersive 360° video content. The interactive 360° video is easily shared to social channels such as Facebook and YouTube via the 360fly smartphone app. Additionally, by pairing the video with Google Cardboard, fans can experience the team’s videos in virtual reality.
“We’re excited to be partnering with such great brands and supporting such a talented team of riders,” said Peter Adderton, 360fly CEO. “For the first time fans will be able to view videos and experience them as if they were there.”
Cannondale 360fly, powered by SUGOI will also be supported by these important partners:
Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB): For tires, saddles, and grips
ENVE: For wheels, handlebars, and seatposts
Shimano: For components and shoes
Stages Cycling: For Hollowgram crank arm based power meters
Axial Racing: The official RC Car of The Cannondale 360Fly, providing “off the bike fun” for the team and support staff
Rob Squire and Evelyn Dong Take Down Point 2 Point
Written by: Shannon Boffeli
Once again the Park City Point 2 Point lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest endurance races in the west. 78 miles, 90% singletrack, 12,000 feet of elevation gained, and stacked fields make the Point 2 Point a serious brute of a race and a major accomplishment for all who finish. Most riders will tell you racing the Point 2 Point makes the Leadville 100 seem easy.
The 7am start was unusually warm this year. Blustery winds made pack riding popular in the opening miles of the race.
After the first hour, a lead group of 12 riders took up the front of the open men’s race. As riders started the long, slow climb up to Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Lodge Hincapie Racing rider Rob Squire made the first acceleration of the day, jumping around a pack of riders on a short section of road and putting in a hard effort on the following climb.
Squire’s “test” of the leaders proved to be a major selection as he quickly built a lead on the way to Silver Lake and kept the hammer down using his impressive climbing speed to open a sizable gap on the hour-long climb through Deer Valley.
Justin Lindine (Competitive Cyclist) proved to be Squire’s closest competition but struggling with a softening tire for part of the day insured he would not be able to close the gap on the lone leader which stood at 9 minutes after the Park City feed zone just 22 miles from the finish.
Josh Tostado putting in a hard effort to catch Justin Lindine. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli
At that point Lindine was feeling a threat to his own position coming from a hard-charging Josh Tostado (Santa Cruz). Tostado had Lindine in his sight at the base of the day’s final big climb up Armstrong trail.
Shortly after leaving Park City Resort the Point 2 Point unleashed some added brutality on the racers as a brief storm dropped temperatures 20 degrees and pelted the lead riders with hail and rain.
Freak hailstorms weren’t enough to slow down Rob Squire as he powered through the final miles of singletrack, so cold he couldn’t feel his fingers on the brake levers.
Squire crossed the line with a time of 6:32:29 and claimed his $2,000 for the win. Over 12 minutes ahead of Justin Lindine who surged in the final portions of the race to maintain his position.
That left three riders to battle for third place, which all came down to the final mile before the finish. With just minutes left to race Drew Free (Revolution) occupied the third position with Josh Tostado just behind him and Park City resident Sam Sweetser (Cole Sport) bearing down on them both.
Aaron Campbell throwing down a big effort on the enduro segment just 5 months after breaking his femur. Photo by: Angie Harker
Sweetser had planned a late charge from the day’s start and the race was unfolding according to his plans. Shortly after making contact with Tostado the Santa Cruz rider dropped his chain and was forced to pull over. This allowed Sweetser to sprint past quickly bridging up to Free.
“I saw Sam coming for me,” Drew Free shared after the race. “I knew there was one short little climb before the finish and I sprinted up that pretty confident that I would leave Sam behind. At the top I looked behind again thinking he would be gone but he was passing me!”
With the finish line just ahead Sam Sweetser wrested third place from Drew Free and crossed the line just 10 seconds clear of the Revolution rider with Tostado crossing the line 11 seconds later.
Evelyn Dong handles the roots and everything else at the 2015 Point 2 Point. Photo by: Angie Harker
The women’s race had a very different feel. With several of the best ultra-endurance racers in the country on hand, there was no clear favorite at the start.
Fresh off a win at the Breck Epic, Evelyn Dong (Sho-Air/Cannondale) was clearly in good condition but so was Sonya Looney (Freakshow Defeet) who recently won the Rincon de Viaja 100-miler in Costa Rica.
To confuse things even more, the field included Marlee Dixon (Pivot/Epic Brewing) who finished second at Breck Epic taking a stage win in front of Dong. Also sure to be in the mix was Steamboat Springs rider Kelly Boniface (Moots) and locals Sarah Kaufmann (Stan’s NoTubes) and Meghan Sheridan (UtahMountainBiking.com).
Sonya Looney got off to a great start. Opening up a lead early on in the winding singletrack of Round Valley. Unfortunately for her, about 45 minutes in she followed an open men’s rider off course and lost about 5 minutes before returning to the missed corner.
Her misdirection dropped her back in the field and allowed Evelyn Dong to get out front.
Once the climbing started Dong was in her element. A long-time resident of Park City the Sho-Air rider has spent hours and hours riding the limitless singletrack of Park City and polishing her climbing skills. Once out front she used her light, high-cadence climbing style to stretch the gap on her competitors.
Few can match Dong’s climbing speed especially at altitude and it showed as she quickly made her way through much of the open men’s field who had started 2 minutes in front of her.
Behind the leader Colorado riders Marlee Dixon and Kelly Boniface were once again locked in battle as they both crested the climb out of Deer Valley within seconds of each other.
Looney was solidly in 4th position now with Meghan Sheridan in 5th.
By the time riders reached Park City Resort Evelyn Dong had increased her lead but now Marlee Dixon occupied second place just in front of Boniface.
Kelly Boniface sits in 2nd exiting the Deer Valley climb. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli
Neither Colorado rider had anything left to chase down Evelyn Dong who was too far out front and eventually crossed the line with a nine minute advantage.
Marlee Dixon used the final 22 miles from Park City to the Canyons to open up a slim one-minute advantage over Boniface to finish second with Boniface taking third.
Sonya Looney stayed steady in fourth all the way to the finish.
NoTubes rider Sarah Kaufmann showed good form late in the race, overtaking Meghan Sheridan for the final podium position.
For the second year the Point 2 Point featured a mid-race enduro segment that included one of the long downhill sections on course. Justin Lindine took the title in the open men’s race while Marlee Dixon claimed the title for the women. Each racer took home $100 for the win.
The Breck Epic is a 6 day stage race held in Breckenridge Colorado that features six big backcountry loops. Each day starts and ends in Breckenridge while taking racers on 25-45 miles around Summit County. Each day is very challenging with most days averaging around ~5000 feet of elevation gain at elevations above 9600’. Hundreds of racers come from all over the world to do the Breck Epic each year covering a total of 240 miles and ~40,000 feet of elevation gain.
Day 1 of the Breck Epic is called Pennsylvania Creek: it’s 35 miles and ~5000 ft elevation gain. Day 1 is a hard day mostly because it’s the most uncertain day. What to expect? Talking to other racers; most seemed to feel the same way, get Stage 1 over with and I’ll feel better.
Racers roll out on Stage 1 of the 2015 Breck Epic
Day 1 starts at 8:30am at the icerink in town. It’s a fast “neutral” roll out up the paved road towards Boreas Pass Rd. About a mile up the road, the traffic cop leaves and the race starts. It’s another couple of miles on the road until the first descent- Aspen Alley. Last fall Aspen Alley was redone and is now a fun mellow descent with a bunch of bermy switch backs. It’s a great new trail, although I do miss the old steep, loose and a little sketchy Aspen Alley. Then it’s up the Blue River trail single track all the way to the first major climb of the day- Royal Bypass to Penn Creek Rd. This is a long double track, steep, loose climb that leads to a paved road and then back onto a double track climb for a few miles. Once at the top, it’s a loose, steep descent down a road called the “Grind”. Then it’s back up for another few miles on a jeep road climb, Indiana Gulch road, before racers get to Boreas Pass Rd. Racers descend down the dirt Boreas Pass Rd into Aid 1 at Bankers Tank. Back onto single track it’s up and down Bankers Tank Trail to Pinball Alley, True Romance and down Nightmare on Baldy. Then it’s a fast descent on the non-motorized Sally Barber road to aid 2. New this year, racers rode a short climb up humbug hill to the new Wire Patch Trail. Wire patch trail is a fun up/down trail that parallels French Gulch Road. Then it’s on to the legendary Little French Climb- a 2 mile climb that’s loose and rocky. From there racers head onto the Little French Flume and back into the French Gulch area onto some fun single track: Harum Trail and Chantilly Trail, and also climbing and descending jeep roads: Spruce Rd and Prospect hill road. I’ve been riding these trails for the past 4 years and still get lost when I’m back in French Gulch due to the high amount of jeep roads everywhere. Finally we descend Gold Run Rd to the Wellington Neighborhood and then it’s a short climb up the road and the B&B Trail to V3. V3 is the last climb of the day and from there it’s a fun descent down Barney Ford and the new Barney Flow (yo!) trail to Carter Park.
Evelyn Dong (Sho-Air Cannondale) leads the Women’s 6 Day after Stage 1.
This year for the men and women there are a lot of extremely fast racers in the first 3 day Epi-curious race. Leadville 100 falls a week later and many of the top Leadville racers are putting in 3 hard days this week as they get ready to race the Leadville 100 on Saturday. The marathon distance world champion, Alban Lakata, the women’s multiple time Leadville 100 winner, Sally Bigham, are among a few of the epic-curious racers this year. For the Pro men 3 day stage 1 results – the top three men were: Alban Lakata (02:35:06), Kristian Hynek (2:35:09), and Jeremiah Bishop (2:42:37). For the Pro Women , Sally Bigham, although busting her wheel and getting a new one at Aid 1, won by 30 minutes in a time of 03:21:20. In 2nd was Mayalen Noriega with a time of 03:53:00 and in 3rd was Kata Skaggs with a time of 4:15:04.
For the Epic, 6 day race, for the pro men Frans Claes won in a time of 2:43:18. Ben Swanepoel came in 2nd at 2:45:57 and Carl Decker was 3rd with a time of 02:48:17. For the pro women Evelyn Dong won in a time of 3:15:17. In 2nd, despite getting a flat, was Serena Bishop Gordon in a time of 3:16:52 and in 3rd was Kelly Kim Boniface with a time of 03:17:33.