Pisgah Stage Race- Stage 5 and Overall Results

Written by: Jen & Anthony Toops

Photos: Icon Media Asheville

Saturday, April 16th, 2022

The final stage of the 2022 Pisgah Stage Race is Industry Nine’s The Land of Waterfalls Route, named for the 250+ waterfalls in Transylvania County. The scenic route is 27 miles with 2301 feet in elevation gain that hits Butter Gap and Davidson River trails. Racers had a cold & wet morning to start but by the end of the stage the sun was shining bright. The final descent heads down the enduro, Bracken Mountain, and racers finish at Brevard Music center for awards and dinner.

Chris Tries (Men’s Masters) congratulated by Race Director Todd Branham of Blue Ridge Adventures
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Stage 5 Results

Women’s Open:

Kaysee Armstrong had a strong lead heading into the final stage. It was a battle for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th overall positions between Kait Boyle, Jocelyn Stel, and Taylor Kuyk-White who were only separated by a few minutes. It was unsure if Jocelyn Stel would be racing the final stage as she broke her frame on the Pilot rock descent on stage 4, but she was able to rent a bike for the day.

Kaysee Armstrong is all smiles after 5 stage wins!

Kaysee Armstrong took the stage 5 win, crowning her the overall cross county women’s winner. Kait Boyle finished strong and took 2nd, moving into 2nd overall. Taylor Kuyk-White was able to take Jocelyn on the final stage and finished 3rd moving her into the 3rd overall position.

Stage 5 women’s open podium: 1st Kaysee Armstrong, 2nd Kait Boyle, 3rd Taylor Kuyk-White

1st-Kaysee Armstrong 2:08:40

2nd-Kait Boyle 2:20:29

3rd-Taylor Kuyk-White 2:27:46

Men’s Open:

Kerry Werner had a comfortable lead heading into the final stage and was able to finish just a minute behind Carson Beckett and take the overall win. Carson Beckett was able to win stage 5 and finished 2nd overall. Cypress Gorry had another impressive finish taking 3rd on stage 5 and holding onto 3rd overall.

Stage 5 men’s open podium: 1st Carson Beckett, 2nd Kerry Werner, 3rd Cypress Gorry

1st-Carson Beckett 1:55:09

2nd-Kerry Werner 1:56:18

3rd-Cypress Gorry 1:57:22

Bracken Mountain Stage 5 Enduro

The final enduro was held on Bracken Mountain with a 1733 foot descent and 4.75 miles long. This was a fast flowing enduro with switchbacks and long pedal sections finishing at the Brevard Music Center.

Women’s Enduro:

Stage 5 women’s enduro podium: 1st Kaysee Armstrong, 2nd Kait Boyle, 3rd Jen Toops

1st-Kaysee Armstrong 24:16

2nd-Kait Boyle 26:30

3rd-Jen Toops 27:09

Jen Toops- racing co-ed duo with husband Anthony Toops snags a 3rd place enduro podium on the last stage.

Men’s Enduro:

Stage 5 men’s enduro podium: 1st Carson Beckett, 2nd Cypress Gorry, 3rd Kerry Werner

1st-Carson Beckett 21:15

2nd-Cypress Gorry 21:46

3rd-Kerry Werner 22:20

Watch the video recap!

Overall Pisgah Stage Race results

Women’s open:

Overall Cross Country women’s open podium: 1st Kaysee Armstrong, 2nd Kait Boyle, 3rd Taylor Kuyk-White

1st-Kaysee Armstrong (Liv) Knoxville, TN 13:02:40

2nd-Kait Boyle (Industry Nine- Pivot Pro Backcountry Team) Victor, ID 13:52:43

3rd-Taylor Kuyk-White (Philly Bike Expo P/B Industry Nine) Philadelphia, PA 13:59:14

4th-Jocelyn Stel (Cyclepath Oakville) Burlington, Ontario 14:08:11

5th-Nina Machnowski (Brevard College/Pivot Cycles/Pearl Izumi) Brevard, NC 15:42:53

Overall Pisgah Stage Race results

Men’s open:

Overall cross country men’s open podium: 1st Kerry Werner, 2nd Carson Beckett, 3rd Cypress Gorry

1st-Kerry Werner (Kona Adventure Team) Vinton, VA 10:39:44

2nd-Carson Beckett (Brevard College/Dirt Camp Devo) Brevard, NC 10:52:18

3rd-Cypress Gorry (Ride Kanuga/Specialized) Pisgah Forest, NC 11:21:02

4th-Nick Bragg (The Black Bibs/Starlight) Asheville, NC 11:26:55

5th-Kurt Refsnider (Industry Nine-Pivot Pro Backcountry Team) Prescott, AZ 11:43:43

Overall Women’s Enduro results:

1st-Kait Boyle (Industry Nine-Pivot Pro Backcountry Team) Victor, ID 1:08:51

2nd-Kaysee Armstrong (Liv) Knoxville, TN 1:09:12

3rd-Taylor Kuyk-White (Philly Bike Expo P/B Industry Nine) Philadelphia, PA 1:13:48

4th-Annie Schwartz (Team Noah Foundation) Saint Louis, MO 1:15:01

5th-Jen Toops (Pearl izumi/Pivot Cycles MTB Race Team) Marion, OH 1:17:08

Overall women’s enduro podium: 1st Kait Boyle, 2nd Kaysee Armstrong 3rd Taylor Kuyk-White

Overall Men’s Enduro results:

1st-Cypress Gorry (Ride Kanuga/Specialized) Pisgah Forest, NC 54:37

2nd-Kerry Werner (Kona Adventure Team) Vinton, VA 57:31

3rd-Carson Beckett (Brevard College/Dirt Camp Devo) Brevard, NC 58:55

4th-Ian Blythe (Flow Formulas TranPerfect) Broomfield, CO 1:00:29

5th-Nick Mackie, West Palm, FL 1:01:41

Overall men’s enduro podium: 1st Cypress Gorry, 2nd Kerry Werner 3rd Carson Beckett

CLICK HERE for overall stage results

Thank you to Blue Ridge Adventures team for putting on a great event!

Pisgah Stage Race- Stage 4- The Queen Stage

Written by Jen & Anthony Toops

Friday, April 15th, 2022

The Fox Factory’s Carl Schenck Route aka “The Queen Stage” was 31.5 miles long with 4113 feet of elevation gain. It included the most technical singletrack of all the stages plus a steep hike-a-bike. A cold 40 degree start gave way to sunny skies and temps in the 60’s.

Headed down Pilot Rock

Racers started at the The Cradle of Forestry-Birthplace of Forest Conservation in America inside Pisgah National forest. This stage is named after Dr. Carl Schenck who was brought to the area in 1895 by the Vanderbilt family to manage the forest. The race started on gravel and hit trails: Funnel Top, Squirrel Gap, Laurel Creek, FS5016, Laurel Mountain and Pilot Rock.

Watch the video recap!
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Women’s Open:

1st Kaysee Armstrong 3:15:31

2nd Kait Boyle 3:20:41

3rd Taylor Kuyk-White 3:23:33

Kaysee remains in the overall lead heading into stage 5. Taylor Kuyk-White in 2nd and Kait Boyle in 3rd. The women’s open class will be interesting to watch on stage five with Kait, Taylor and Jocelyn all about a minute and a half apart! Jocelyn unfortunately broke her frame heading down pilot rock so she will need to find a bike to ride for tomorrows stage.

Women’s open podium: 1st Kaysee Armstrong, 2nd Kait Boyle, 3rd Taylor Kuyk-White

Men’s Open:

1st Carson Beckett 2:38:10

2nd Kerry Werner 2:38:11

3rd Ian Blythe 2:46:19

Kerry Werner continues to lead the overall men heading into stage 5. Carson Beckett in 2nd and Cypress Gorry in 3rd.

Men’s open podium: 1st Carson Beckett, 2nd Kerry Werner, 3rd Ian Blythe
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Stage 4 Enduro- Pilot Rock

The Queen stage enduro was on the infamous Pilot Rock trail. The enduro was 2.25 miles long with a 1478 foot descent, plenty of rocks, tight technical switchbacks, roots, a creek crossing, hecklers, and a steep uphill pedal section at the end. A beast of a downhill to say the least.

Women’s Enduro:

1st Kait Boyle 12:24

2nd Annie Schwartz 13:30

3rd Kaysee Armstrong 13:31

In the overall women’s enduro, Kait Boyle remains in the lead going into the final stage. Kaysee Armstrong in 2nd and Taylor Kuyk-White in 3rd.

Women’s enduro podium: 1st Kait Boyle 12:24, 2nd Annie Schwartz 13:30, 3rd Kaysee Armstrong 13:31

Men’s Enduro:

1st Cypress Gorry 9:40

2nd Ian Blythe 10:45

3rd Nick Mackie 10:59

In the mens enduro, Cypress Gorry absolutely crushed the enduro segment and won by almost a minute. He leads the overall enduro heading into the final stage. Kerry Werner crashed heading down Pilot but remains in 2nd overall and Ian Blythe in 3rd.

Men’s enduro podium: 1st Cypress Gorry, 2nd Ian Blythe, 3rd Nick Mackie
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CLICK HERE for full results from each stage

Pisgah Stage Race- Stage 3

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Sycamore Cycles’ White Squirrel Route

Stage 3 is sponsored by Sycamore Cycles and is aptly named the White squirrel Route since Brevard is well known for white squirrels. The area was populated with white squirrels after a circus train carrying them tipped over quite a few years back. This stage offers 29.5 miles and 6000 feet of climbing. The forecasted rain held off and racers were welcomed with sunny skies later in the stage.

The race starts at the bottom of Black Mountain. Racers immediately funnel into double track up Grassy Rd and over to a rooty fast decent down Sycamore Cove. From there, they loop back around to Thrift cove and climb Black Mountain. Racers then climb up Clawhammer road and descend down Avery Creek which is a fun technical downhill. After some more gravel climbing racers head down Bennett Gap which is the Enduro for stage 3. One more gravel climb and racers headed down Black Mountain to the finish line.

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Women’s Open

1st- Kaysee Armstrong 3:24

2nd- Taylor Kuyk-Whit 3:37

3rd- Jocelyn Stel 3:43

Kaysee Armstrong (Liv) continues to add to her overall lead after her third stage win in a row with a cumulative time of 7 hours 38 minutes. Taylor Kuyk-Whit moves into 2nd overall with a cumulative time of 8 hours 7 minutes, Jocelyn Stel just a minute and a half back in 3rd. Kait Boyle moved into fourth overall but still in podium contention with a time of 8 hours 11 minutes.

1st Kaysee Armstrong, 2nd Taylor Kuyk-Whit, 3rd Jocelyn Stel

Men’s Open

1st- Carson Beckett 2:37:07.275

2nd-Kerry Werner 2:37:07.708

3rd- Nick Bragg 2:54:12

Kerry Werner holds onto the overall lead with a cumulative time of 6 hours 5 minutes. Carson Beckett in 2nd overall with a time of 6 hours 18 minutes and Cypress Gorry in third overall with a time of 6 hours 33 minutes. Nick Bragg is sitting in 4th overall just 5 minutes back.

Men’s open podium: 1st Carson Beckett, 2nd Kerry Werner, 3rd Nick Bragg
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Stage 3 enduro was a 2.5 mile 1230 ft descent down Bennett Gap. This enduro had something for everyone with a hike-a-bike, pedal sections, rock drops, massive roots and plenty of Pisgah gnar.

Women’s Enduro:

1st- Kait Boyle 14:26

2nd- Kaysee Armstrong 15:14

3rd- Taylor Kuyk-Whit 15:17

Kait Boyle continues to lead the overall women’s enduro with a cumulative time of 29 minutes 55 seconds. Kaysee Armstrong in second with a time of 31 minutes 24 seconds. Taylor Kuyk-White is hot on Kaysee’s heels with a time of 31 minutes 35 seconds.

Women’s Enduro Podium: 1st Kait Boyle, 2nd Kaysee Armstrong, 3rd Taylor Kuyk-White

Men’s Enduro:

1st- Cypress Gorry 9:47

2nd- Kerry Werner 10:40

3rd- Carson Beckett 10:43

Cypress Gorry continues to lead the overall men’s enduro with a cumulative time of 23 minutes 9 seconds. Kerry Werner in 2nd with a time of 23 minutes 59 seconds. Ian Blythe holds down 3rd place with a time of 26 minutes 11 seconds. A very close race in the men’s overall enduro with Carson Beckett, Nick Bragg, and Nick Mackie just seconds from a podium position. How will tomorrow play out after the famous Pilot Rock enduro descent?

Men’s Enduro podium: 1st Cypress Gorry, 2nd Kerry Werner, 3rd Carson Beckett
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Watch the video recap!

CLICK HERE for full results from each stage

Written by Jen & Anthony Toops

Photos by Icon Media Ashville

Pisgah Stage Race- Stage 2

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

Athletic Brewing CO’s Promise Land Route

Stage 2: Todays stage started with a police escort out of the Black Mountain trail head on 6.2 miles of pavement leading racers to the Turkey Pen area where the race started full gas. From here stage 2 showcased that true “Pisgah” style with technical roots and rocks. This stage had the highest amount of single track and included popular trails such as Mullinex, Squirrel Gap and Buckhorn Gap. Racers endured a long hike-a-bike up to Buckhorn Gap but were rewarded with the full Black Mountain decent all the way to the finish line.

Women’s Open:

1st- Kaysee Armstrong 2 hours 53 minutes

2nd-Kait Boyle 2 hours 59 minutes

3rd- Jocelyn Stel 3 hours 2 minutes.

Kaysee leads the overall women after stage 2 with Kait Boyle moving into 2nd and Jocelyn Stel 3rd.

Women’s Stage 2 Open Podium: 1st Kaysee Armstrong, 2nd Kait Boyle, 3rd Jocelyn Stel

Men’s Open:

1st- Carson Beckett 2 hours 18 mintues

2nd- Kerry Werner 2 hours 19 minutes

3rd- Tyler Clark 2 hours 20 minutes.

In the men’s open Kerry Werner takes the overall lead, followed by Tyler Clark 2nd and Cypress Gorry in third.

Men’s Stage 2 Open Podium: 1st Carson Beckett, 2nd Kerry Werner, 3rd Tyler Clark

Stage 2 Enduro was the Black Mountain descent. Black Mountain is one of the most popular trails in Pisgah with a mix of flow and technical riding losing 1320 feet over 2 miles.

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Women’s Open:

1st- Kait Boyle 9 minutes 12 seconds

2nd- Hannah Arensman 9 minutes thirty-five seconds

3rd- Kaysee Armstrong 9 minutes thirty-six seconds

Kait Boyle took the lead for the overall enduro going into stage 3. Hannah Arensman in second and Kaysee Armstrong in third.

Women’s Enduro: 1st Kait Boyle 9:12, 2nd Hannah Arensman, 3rd Kaysee Armstrong

Men’s Open:

1st- Tyler Clark 7 minutes thirty-seven seconds

2nd- Kerry Werner 7 minutes forty-three seconds

3rd- Cypress Gorry 7 minutes forty-six seconds.

Heading into stage 3, Tyler Clark is leading the overall enduro, Kerry Werner in second and Cypress Gorry in third.

Men’s Enduro: 1st Tyler Clark, 2nd Kerry Werner, 3rd Cypress Gorry
Cypress Gorry

Written by: Jen & Anthony Toops

Photos by: Icon Media Ashville

CLICK HERE for full results from each stage

Pisgah Stage Race- Stage 1

Blue Ridge Adventures

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Squirts Looking Glass Route

For 2022, a new opening stage was unveiled, making it logistically easier on everyone. This allowed racers to start and finish in the same location for 3 days in a row. The new opening stage had a 5 mile warm up ride from the on the Brevard pathway. After arriving at the Railroad Depot park, the 15.5 mile adventure begins with a heart pumping climb up Bracken Mountain, a mix of machine built trails, showcasing the newest trail Stoney Knob, and a high speed Enduro down Joel Branch.

  • 15.5 miles / 25 km
  • 2,200 ft / 670 m  elevation gain
  • Named for Looking Glass Rock – a nearly 4,000′ tall piece of exposed whiteside granite

Women’s open:

Coming off racing the Cape Epic and the Lifetime Grand Prix, Kaysee Armstrong (Liv), from Knoxville, TN, took the win with a time of 1:20:30. Taking second with a time of 1:23:14 was, Jocelyn Stel (Liv), making the trek down from Canada to race. Rounding out the women’s open podium was, Taylor Kuyk-White (Philly Bike Expo, Industry Nine) with a time of 1:24:55

Women’s Open Podium-1st: Kaysee Armstrong, 2nd: Jocelyn Stel, 3rd: Taylor Kuyk-White

Men’s Open:

A very close race in the men’s open division. Local Cypress Gorry (Ride Kanuga Specialized), took the win on stage 1 finishing with a time of 1:08:09. Hot on his heels was another local, Tyler Clark (Brevard College), taking second with a time of 1:08:11.0. PSR veteran, Kerry Werner (Kona) from VA, rounded out the podium with a time of 1:08:11.04. This will be an exciting division to watch over the next few stages!

Men’s Open Podium- 1st: Cypress Gorry, 2nd: Tyler Clark, 3rd: Kerry Werner

Enduro: Within each stage of the Pisgah Stage Race there’s a timed Enduro segment. Racers are competing not only for bragging rights but also a cash purse given out to the overall top female and male riders at the end of the 5 stages.

Todays enduro was an all-out attack down the Joel Branch gravel forest road. Riders had to manage maintaining speed throughout the segment, with a lack of traction in the corners. The gravel definitly presented a new challenge for an enduro win.

Women’s Enduro:

1st: Hannah Arensman 6:16.4, 2nd: Kait Boyle 6:16.6, 3rd: Jocelyn Stel 6:22.3

Women’s Enduro podium-1st: Hannah Arensman, 2nd: Kait Boyle, 3rd: Jocelyn Stel

Men’s Enduro:

1st: Cypress Gorry 5:35.5, 2nd: Kerry Werner 5:35.5, 3rd: Tyler Clark 5:36

Men’s Enduro Podium: 1st: Cypress Gorry, 2nd: Kerry Werner, 3rd: Tyler Clark

CLICK HERE for full results from Stage 1

Written by: Jen & Anthony Toops

2022 Pisgah Stage Race Preview

Written by: Jen & Anthony Toops

After getting postponed for several years due to the pandemic, the Pisgah Stage Race is officially ON for 2022. Presented by Blue Ridge Adventures, the Pisgah Stage Race takes place April 11th-16th, 2022 in Brevard, North Carolina. The PSR is officially sold out for 2022, but mark your calendars for mid May when registration opens for 2023.

This 5-stage race takes riders on a tour of Pisgah, through the temperate rain forest sampling some of the best singletrack Pisgah has to offer. The race traverses over 140 miles and climbs 20000+ feet with scenic views, waterfalls, creek crossings and is a mix of 76% singletrack, 19% dirt road, and 5% asphalt. As always, racers can also test themselves in the timed enduro section on each stage which has its own unique awards and overall crown.

NEW for 2022

A new opening stage has been unveiled for 2022 making it logistically easier on everyone. This allows racers to start and finish in the same location for 3 days in a row. The new opening stage has a 5 mile warm up ride on the Brevard pathway. After arriving at the Railroad Depot park, the 15.5 mile adventure begins with a mix of machine built trails, and as always a taste of that technical backcountry Pisgah singletrack.

PSR: 5 days, 140 miles, 20,000+ft of elevation gain. 76% Singletrack- 19% Dirt road – 5% Asphalt. 5 stellar MTB routes in Pisgah National forest.

2022 Pisgah Stage Race Amenities: included with entry

  • 5 well marked courses with enduro segment each day
  • Instant chip timed results
  • Daily leader’s jersey for all categories
  • Fully stocked rest stops including mechanical and medical assistance
  • Drop system
  • Recovery zone after each stage
  • Bike wash station
  • Breakfast each morning: Scones, coffee, granola, yogurt and fruit
  • 6 locally sourced dinners: Click Here for 2022 dinner menu
  • Finishers T-Shirt
  • PSR jersey for all participants registered by March 15th
  • Custom Crafted Prizes –  Awarded to top three in each category. $750, $500, $250 to top three overall men and women for the cross country. $150, $130, $120 to the top 3 overall enduro men and women.

Additional add on services that are still available for purchase: CLICK HERE to purchase

  • Mechanic service from Sycamore Cycles
  • Daily post race massage: 15 minutes for $30, 30 minutes for $60
  • Training plans from previous PSR winner Tristan Cowie
  • Nutrition plan by Emily Werner. Zoom presentation on 3/28/21
  • On site Cabins – single room weekly rental for $600

New for 2022- Stage 1: Squirts Looking Glass Route- Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Stage 2: Athletic Brewing Co’s Promised Land Route- Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

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Stage 3: Sycamore Cycles’ White Squirrel Route- Thursday, April 14th 2022

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Stage 4: Fox Factory’s Carl Schenek Route- Friday, April 15th 2022

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Stage 5: Industry Nine’s The land of the Waterfalls Route- Saturday, April 16th, 2022

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Is hiring a mountain bike race coach the right decision for you?

The question of coaching and being coached often comes up with women mountain bikers when they set their sites on training for a race or event.  Below ALP Cycles founder and coach Alison Powers and Mtbracenews.com professional mountain bike racers Jen Hanks and Marlee Dixon share their experience regarding coaching female mountain bikers.  

Alison Powers: Head coach and founder of ALP Cycles Coaching with 10+ years of coaching experience. Alison is also the only person in history to win the road race, time trial, and criterium National Championship titles in one year (2014).  Her certifications include- USA Cycling Level 2 coach, BICP Level 2 Skills Coach, TrainingPeaks Level 1, Road and Cyclocross racing coach from USA Cycling, Wilderness First Aid, BICP Ride Leader, and NICA Level 2 coach.

Please tell a little about yourself and your coaching business.  I am the owner and head coach of ALP Cycles Coaching, and have been coaching cyclists for more than 10 years. After 7 years on the US Ski Team as a downhill ski racer, I raced bikes professionally for 8 years both nationally and internationally. I have two female coaches who work for ALP Cycles as well. We make a great team of coaches, and training and racing knowledge base. 

 Is there a specific level of racing, commitment or timeframe that you recommend women to get a coach? No. I recommend anyone wanting to get better on their bike to get a coach. Coaches can help with fitness, racing goals and tactics, skill building, nutrition for training and racing, etc. A coach will help you fast track your way to reaching your goals on the bike.

What are the biggest benefits to getting a coach? See above. Same answer.

Are there any drawbacks to getting a coach? A good coach will hold you accountable for your training and your learning. The athlete has to make time to communicate with their coach. The more communication, the better. Sometimes a coach will take out some of the things that an athlete likes to do. Reaching goals and getting better takes work and sacrifice and that can mean getting rid of a ride or a workout or a food that doesn’t help the overall goals for the athlete. 

I know you’ve done research based on women’s bodies and training differences from men.  In what ways do women’s training structures differ from men? The biggest difference are our hormones and menstrual cycle. Our hormones can really affect our training, our sleep, and our recovery. If we can first recognize our cycle and be ok with how it affects our bodies and our training, then we start to work with it and make great gains.

We are coming into off-season for many racers, do you have any recommendations for exercises or strength work to focus on? The off season is the best time to become a better cyclist. Most of our gains, as an athlete, are made out of race season. For mountain bike racers, it is a great time to work on bike handling skills. Riding flat pedals, working on wheel lifts, balance on the bike, etc. I am also a big supporter of strength training and becoming a really well rounded and strong athlete– get rid of muscle imbalances and build power. 

Are there any specific certifications or trainings that are beneficial for coaches who are working with female athletes? Stacy Sims has published really great work on training as a female athlete throughout life. All coaches should be familiar with that work. 

Any additional advice for female racers? Don’t be afraid to accomplish your goals. If you have always dreamt of doing something or being something, then go do it. When given tips on how to get better, do those tips. Become your dream. :) 

Jen Hanks: Mtbracenews.com professional mountain bike racer.  Jen Hanks is a USA Cycling Pro mountain bike racer (since 2007) and certified coach. She enjoys racing a variety of disciplines including XC, Marathon, MTB Stage racing, and cyclocross. She has competed in mountain bike stage races around the world including TransAlp, TransRockies, Breck Epic (3rd Pro/Open women), Moab Rocks (1st Open Women), TransAndes (3rd Co-ed duo), Titan Tropic (1st Co-ed duo), and 4-Islands (3rd Co-ed duo). Over the years, Jen has worked with a small handful of excellent coaches.

Jen Hanks enjoys some airtime on her way to a win in the 2-person female event at 12-Hours of Mesa Verde.
Photo by: Barak Naggan High Desert Photography

Do you have a coach? Over the course of my (very long) cycling career, I have worked with a small handful of excellent coaches. I have learned a lot about effective training and how my body responds to training. Over the past year, I have continued my personal growth and became a certified USA Cycling coach. That, along with my lack of solid goals in part due to the pandemic, has resulted in me currently being self-coached.

If so: do you work with them year-round? In the past, when I worked with coaches, I would typically work with them year-round. Good coaches will build in some off-time throughout the year.

What do you feel are the biggest benefits to working with a coach? I can think of an entire laundry list of benefits of working with a coach. Personally, I never thought I struggled with accountability, however I am finding that as a self-coached athlete my workouts are becoming less and less structured. If my goal is to race to the best of my ability, this is probably not a good thing! Coaches are great for accountability. Having a coach also takes out the guess work and mental bandwidth required to create an effective personal training plan. With limited time between commitments, I would prefer leaving that to someone else and being able to give myself 100% to my workouts. When you have a good coach, you trust that they will have you prepared to the best of your ability for key events which increases confidence.

What do you look for in a coach? There are a few key things I look for in a coach such as being certified and invested in their careers through consistent continuing education. I also want a coach who believes in my goals but will be honest when perhaps they are not realistic. It is important to find a coach who works well with your personality whether that be to push you out of your comfort zone, encourage more rest, be a cheerleader, be tough, or just be kind. I look for a coach who will be flexible with their training program. Athletes don’t live in a bubble and training plans need to take into account other aspects of our lives.

What advice would you give to women racers who aren’t sure whether to invest in a coach? Women are predisposed (more than men) to overtraining and burn-out due to their unique physiologic make-up. Hiring a coach to create an effective, efficient training program is a great way to reach your personal goals.

If you don’t have a coach, what are the benefits/drawbacks to not working with a coach? I think it can be a good learning experience to be responsible for putting together your own training plan. It is fun to experiment with different workouts and your body’s response. However, if you are serious about improving and performing to the best of your potential, self-coaching may just be a good way to help you appreciate the services of a good coach!

Marlee Dixon: Mtbracenews.com professional mountain bike racer. Marlee has been racing for 10 years and has had many successful race results including 3x Firecracker 50 winner, previous 1st place finishes at 12 Hours of Mesa Verde, 12 hours of the Wild West, Aspen Power of 4, The Grand Traverse and True Grit 50.  

2020 True Grit 50

Have you worked with a coach? If so, how do you feel it’s benefited your racing? I have worked with a coach for most of my racing career.  At first, I didn’t want to work with a coach because I was nervous to trust anyone else with my training schedule and I wasn’t ready to make the monetary investment.  I often talked to other female racers and questioned if I needed a coach, how much it would cost, was it worth it, could I be a better racer if I had a coach? And who would I choose?

As other female racers have done before me, I first tried to schedule my training similar to the male racers that I knew.  I tried to follow their workload and often listened to their advice. It didn’t take long to figure out that this did not work for me. I was exhausted and I burned out fast. I was over-training and not taking important rest days. I was also not consistent with my training.  It was after I started finally working with a coach that I began to train consistently, my workouts were structured around my races and I had a training regimen that was met for me; a female athlete.

I feel the biggest benefit for me is accountability and the team aspect of working with a coach!  I often like to keep my schedule full and therefore I would miss workouts because I was busy with work, social life, etc.  Having a coach, especially one who kept me accountable, kept me on a consistent schedule every day.  I went into races having done the work and feeling confident in my fitness levels.  I also loved the dialogue with my coaches.  I felt like I always had someone on my side; cheering for me when I was doing awesome and also there to listen and offer advice when races didn’t go well.  When things didn’t go well, I was able to journal to my coach on training peaks and I learned more quickly from my mistakes because I was able to use their expertise and knowledge. 

What advice would you give to women racers who aren’t sure whether to invest in a coach? I’ve worked with a coach for 7 years and I feel it has been the best investment in my racing career.  It freed up my time so I didn’t have to think about my training instead I had a plan every day to follow and I didn’t have to prepare workout plans.  Coaches know more about training, statistics, workload, food, etc. than I do, so hiring a professional helped me to achieve my goals in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to do alone. Working with a coach also gave me confidence at races because I knew I had the fitness to race well. 

What do you look for in a coach? I look for someone who has either personally been an athlete at the top of their sport or has successfully trained athletes at the top of their sport.  This shows me that they understand how to get an athlete to perform their best and also that they have the experience and expertise to work with top athletes.  For the beginning of my racing career, I was lucky to work with Alison Powers.  She was my first mountain bike coach and she opened my eyes to the difference between men and women racers, she helped me feel empowered in my race training, she kept me accountable and always improving.  One of my favorite words of advice from her was, “you don’t make the same mistake twice!”.  These words among many other words of advice in our back-and-forth pages of notes on Training Peaks, helped me to dial in my training and race day goals. 

I think in general, finding a coach that you feel comfortable with and are able to easily talk to is very important.  There are many coaches out there so do research, interview different coaches and feel out who will help you most obtain your goals!  

NUE-Shenandoah 100Mile

The 23rd annual Shenandoah 100 is the oldest race in the NUE Epic Race Series held over Labor Day weekend in Stokesville, VA. Shenandoah now includes a 100k option of racing on Saturday and the classic 100 mile race on Sunday.

Early 630AM race start

Held within The George Washington National Forest of Virginia, Shenandoah marks the start of the fall season of the NUE Series with just a few races remaining that will determine this year’s champions. Shenandoah is a highly anticipated showdown showcasing top level talent in a festive atmosphere with most racers choosing to camp out at the Stokesville Lodge and campground which is included in registration.

Womens Open Toops with second NUE win

Women’s 100 M podium: 1st Jen Toops, 2nd Leila Husain, 3rd Laura Hamm, 4th Kaitlyn Maddox, 5th Lynn Faust

Making the trip down from Ohio, previous NUE marathon series winner Jen Toops (Pearl Izumi/ Pivot Cycles), took the top step with a time of 9:17:59. Toops now leads the 21 NUE epic series with a win at Mohican and second at Wilderness earlier this year .

” I’ve been signed up for Shenandoah for the past couple years but couldn’t make it for various reasons. I was very excited to finally make it down to VA and see what Shenandoah was all about. My brother Shane Cusick came to cheer and is a Shenandoah veteran so we spent race eve going over the course. Game plan: the “death climb” is tough so save some matches and ride my own race. Some jerk on Saturday threw tacks out on the beginning of course and I got one in my front and rear tires. Luckily Stans sealant did the job and I was still able to run my Maxxis ikons with no issues.

Toops navigates one of many water crossing

All the women were lined up together for start of the race in about 100th position. Julia and I rode most of the beginning gravel together and then I lost sight of her (turns out she had some tire issues and had to DNF). When the race entered the first singletrack there was a lot of Congo lines and hike a bikes. I think this helped in the long run by not burning too many matches in the beginning of the day. I continued to ride a steady pace, keep up on nutrition, and save plenty for the “death climb”. Then the moment of truth…. the so called death climb. Turns out what I envisioned was way worse than it actually was. The 17 mile death climb is long but never super steep and you even get some breaks here and there. I kept looking back and asking at aids if anyone knew time gap and no one knew. I just kept pushing a tolerable pace and ended up taking the win! Super excited to celebrate with my brother and Ohio crew that made it to the event. Sponsors: Pearl Izumi, Pivot cycles, Ergon, Fox, Maxxis, Stans, Scc, Honeystinger, Carborocket, Lazer. Next up in Marji Gesick in MI. ”

Putting in a lot of training this year for Shenandoah led to happy tears at the finish line for Leila Husain. She took second place with a time of 10:11:33.

An emotional finish for Leila Husain taking 2nd in the women’s 100 mile open

Laura Hamm made a weekend out of racing. She completed the 100k race on Saturday and also the 100 mile race on Sunday. Taking the Stan the woman award she finished the 100 mile in a time of 10:32:13.

Laura Hamm completed both the 100k and 100 mile races

Finishing fourth was, Kaityln Maddox with a time of 11:27:26 and Lynn Faust finished fifth in 13:03:03.

Mens Open- Johnson gets Shenandoah win

Previous NUE epic series and Shenandoah winner, Dylan Johnson took the overall 100 mile race with a finish time of 7:29:21.

Johnson leading 100 mile race

About 20 minutes back, Ian Schwing took second with a time of 7:50:34.

“My favorite race of all time had awaited me Sunday. The legs were fired up from the day before having my second collegiate race in UVA. 6:30am start is always majestic at sunrise with hundreds of people riding together in the woods. Fireworks and moves happened early and many people flatted. Worked my way through traffic until finally at the bottom of Tillman, found myself in the lead group, racing through almost 20 places. Dylan was already out of sight and put in what seemed like a death march of an attack for 90 miles, and nobody followed. Dropping into aid 3 only 3 of us were left in our group. On braileys decent, Jake got a flat and I rode passed him. A very very lonely death climb was ahead of me, and lonely it was. I shared a few miles with Bobby Lea before regaining the gap on Chestnut and hammered to the finish to ensure a second place.  Thank you to Flowformulas for all the support and fueling these massive efforts! Next big race on the calendar is a full collegiate season, collegiate nationals, and marathon nationals!”

Taking third place was Bobby Lea finishing about three minutes off second place with a time of 7:53:21. Fourth place went to Jimmy Klose crossing the line in 7:54:40. Hot on his heels was Heath Thumel just one minute back in 7:55:39. Bishop had mechanical issues and finished 14th.

Singlespeed- Holle with 3rd NUE SS win

Singlespeed 100M podium: 1st Justin Holle, 2nd Lance Byrd, 3rd Anthony Toops, 4th Patrick Blair, 5th Joe Fraas

The single speed division put on quite the show with the top three just four minutes apart. Making the trip from Colorado, Justin Holle, took the single speed win with a time of 8:07:51. With previous wins at High Cascades and Lumberjack he now leads the NUE epic singlespeed series.

Holle congratulating Toops after a close race

Just over a minute back, Lance Byrd took second in the singlespeed division with a time of 8:09:09.

“The Shenandoah 100 single speed division went full-dramatic in 2021.  The lineup contained multiple previous winners (Justin Holle and Patrick Blair) and 39 registered single speeders.  With a neutralized socially distanced mass start, the pace remained sane early, keeping every possibility alive.  Justin Holle (current NUE SS series leader) wouldn’t waste his premium starting position and led the entire field up the gravel climbs to the singletrack.  His confidence paid early dividends as Adventures for the Cure teammates Lance Byrd and Pat Blair were trapped behind a pileup that caused the first decisive split on mountain 1.
Furious chasing towards mountain 2 ensued.  Lance, Pat and Anthony Toops were hanging onto geared riders for dear life as those who were held up tried to bridge back to the leaders.  Pat Blair tried eating gravel at speed, with only a chipped tooth and the dust of his competitors to show for it.  He would fall further behind but wasn’t done!  Lance and Anothony attacked mountain 2.  Lance bridged to leader Justin Holle on mountain 2, ripping Wolfe descent.  The race was on.

Just a minute back, Bryd finishes second in SS. Look at those bars!

Lance and Justin joked that it would be a battle the rest of the day.  They marked each other over mountains 3 and 4.  They climbed similarly, Lance hiked and descended a little faster, Justin would repeatedly pedal him down and take control of the race.
Heading to The Death Climb of mountain 5 the stakes were raised… Anothony Toops bridged, Pat Blair (chipped tooth) bridged.  The top 4 single speeders entered The Death Climb together.  In slow motion they tested each other, some were faster on the steeps, others faster in the mud.  But, even another hour of brutal climbing couldn’t separate them by more than a few seconds.
Lance attacked the 5th and most epic descent.  It seemed to work.  There was no one in sight as he turned onto the gravel leading to the finale, mountain 6.  But Justin would not be denied.  He clawed Lance back on the roads, bridging just before the start of the climb.  The two were inseparable and they even discussed how this would play out.  They decided at the same time that Lance would attack near the top.  It seemed scripted, inevitable.  Justin responded to the final surge and then pulled away over the final kicker.  He ripped down the final descent, sealing his Shenandoah 100 and NUE SS series victory.”

Previous NUE marathon SS series winner, Anthony Toops (Paradise Garage) of Ohio took the third spot with a time of 8:12:01.

“What a race this turned out to be!  This was my first SS race since 2019 and I really didn’t know what would happen out there.  I went into the day with no expectations and no pressure other than riding hard and NO CRASHES!
The race started pretty easy and I just focused on my own race.  Justin Holle went off the front going into the first singletrack section and I wasn’t sure if I would see him again.  After I think aid two, I started to see a group up the road and it turned out to be a few geared and SS racers.  I latched onto them on a road section and from then on it was 4 SS racers battling it out for most of the day.
The pace was quick but there weren’t any all out attacks yet, just steady efforts to wear everyone down.  We were all anticipating fireworks on the death climb and everyone was riding really strong. Justin dropped back a little going into  aid 5 (mile 75) at the top and it was Lance, Patrick, and I together in and out of the aid.  I was wondering if he had cracked… but Lance quickly replied “He’s not gone yet. He always comes back!”.  Wouldn’t you know it; by the time  we were almost to the longest downhill of the day, here comes Justin! 
Lance was in the lead by about 25 yards and I had a small slide out in some mud so Justin went by going into the downhill(Chestnut).  I quickly popped back up and caught his wheel.  Patrick was in 4th and taking it easier on the downhills after a crash earlier in the race.  Justin and Lance were absolutely flying on the downhills and keeping their wheel was difficult since I was having some pretty bad hand cramping issues.  The legs were feeling strong but the hands couldn’t safely hold on so I had to back off and would loose some time going into aid 6 (mile 88).
At aid 6 I quickly grabbed a can of coke and got pedaling again.  Justin and Lance were just up the road about 200 yards. I spun like crazy and was closing the gap going into the final climb.  I was all in and went as deep as I could and almost caught them, but they put in a big attack before I could close the gap.  They would again gain some time on the final downhill and at this point I was yelling at my hands they hurt so bad!  At the line we would finish just a few minutes apart. 
This is the best battle and the most fun I’ve had in a 100mi race and couldn’t have asked for better competition on the day. Looking forward to doing it again at the Marji Gesick 100! Sponsors: Paradise Garage. Bike setup:Frame – Pivot LES size largeGearing – oval 32x19Tires – front Maxxis Aspen 3c exo 29×2.25, rear Continental Race King protection 29×2.2″

Rounding out the podium was Patrick Blair finishing fourth in 8:30:58. Fifth place went to Joe Fraas in 8:52:56.

Masters- Weaver gets win

Masters podium: 1st Dave Weaver, 2nd Eric Magnuson, 3rd Amir Matityahu, 4th Keith Papanicolas, 5th Garth Prosser

Taking the win in the Masters division was Dave Weaver (Rapha/Canyon) with a time of 8:43:05.

“Last week my rear hub cracked and a replacement never made it by Friday. My mtb shoes and helmet were still lost in shipping from the Last Best Ride in Whitefish, MT. So I threw my mtb in the car without a rear wheel along with my roadbike, in case I couldn’t race, I was just going to ride Reddish and camp out with  friends. Fortunately, Jeremiah came through with a loaner rear wheel Saturday afternoon! 

I’ve only done one other 100 miler and it was the SM100 in ‘19. I wasn’t prepared for the attrition and pain it took…and my bike setup was all wrong. My goal for Sunday was not to go out too hard on the first two climbs and stay between 10-15th overall hanging close to  Pat, Lance, and Anthony. It’s easy to get caught up in fast starts. The masters guys at this level are all very strong and know how to ride bikes in the backcountry-I knew Amir is leading the NUE Series, kept an eye on him early, and was able to pull ahead on the technical Lynn Trail climb, only to lose time to Dan Atkins on the decent-he’s fast. 

On the flats going into the Death Climb I hear Nathan and Jeremiah charging back calling my name, and was motivated to jump on that train the entire climb as I was seeing some dark moments. It was great to be with two friends on the worst climb of the day. I pulled ahead of Dan again only for him to drop me on the descent again. After a season of flat tires, I took it easy on all the downhills making sure I didn’t flat, or crash. Both are likely at the SM100. Hats off to Chris Scott, who always works hard putting together the best bike racing experiences for everyone! We’re fortunate to have beautiful places to race bikes and volunteers who put in their time to help make the race possible. I’ll definitely be back next year!”

About twenty minutes back was Eric Magnuson finishing second and crossing the line in 9:02:51.

“Taking my son on a college-campus tour through PA, DC, and VA, I figured I’d take a slight detour to race the Shenandoah 100. Glad I did. The course mixes a range of surfaces (rocks, dirt, gravel, and pavement) with suffer-inflicting climbs and smile-inducing descents. The result: a stellar MTB race. I finished where I finished (second place Masters) by pedaling with some luck and sticking to a run-of-the-mill plan, which consisted of going hard at the start; settling down to an all-day pace; and avoiding direct conflict with trees, boulders, and other hazards. There’s a band of people to thank, including family, friends, racers, race organizers, and volunteers. Special shout out to Riverside Cycle for all they do to keep my “lightly used” bikes in working order. Next up: something on the NUE 2022 calendar—perhaps True Grit.”

Only a minute back from second was, Amir Matityahu took third place in 9:04:12. In what looks like a sprint finish fourth place went to Keith Papanicolas in 9:04:14. After a broke derailleur Garth Prosser ran the last few miles finishing in 9:05:53.

Written by: @jentoops

Photos by: @Shenandoahmountaintouring

For full results CLICK HERE

Next up on the NUE Marathon Series is the Marji Gesick in Ishpeming, MI on September 18, 2021. See you all there!

Breck Epic 2021 Stage 4: Aqueduct

Longtime World Tour pro Lachlan Morton finding beauty in Breck Epic debut

Lachlan Morton enjoying his time in the mountains. Photo by Eddie Clark

Swenson and Skarda remain unbeaten this week

Alexis Skarda extends her lead on day 4. Photo by Eddie Clark
Keegan Swenson on his way to another stage win on day 4. Photo by Eddie Clark

By Devon O’Neil

BRECKENRIDGE — When Lachlan Morton rolled through the Stage 4 finish Wednesday afternoon, word already had reached those in attendance. He’d suffered another flat deep in the backcountry, his third in two days, and was left to get out on one wheel, hemorrhaging time. Placing eighth on the stage dropped him from third to fifth overall. Suddenly he had an eight-minute gap to close in the final two stages to claw back onto the overall podium.

Morton explained that his flat on West Ridge, high on the Colorado Trail after climbing from Keystone Gulch, had left little hope of repair. Yet he spent 10 minutes trying in vain on the side of the trail, before limping down to the final aid station and bumming a replacement wheel from the Santa Cruz team. “I tried to rim it as soft as I can,” he said, “because I need to ride this wheel tomorrow.” He’d also crashed during Stage 2, shredding his forearm, and generally had not been on lady luck’s good side since Sunday’s start—which, ahem, came one day after he finished second to Breck Epic leader Keegan Swenson in the Leadville 100.

Yet to understand Morton, one of cycling’s most meditative characters, is to understand he did not come here for the number next to his name at the end. “Focusing on results is in the past for me,” he said.

Morton, 29, has become a singular professional because of his refreshing approach to a sport that gobbles up talent and often spits it out. A member of the EF Education-Nippo team and a World Tour rider since 2012, Morton started mountain biking two years ago. During his career he has ridden the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España grand tours, finished the Colorado Trail in under four days, set a fastest known time on the Kokopelli Trail, and won the Tour of Utah. Earlier this summer, he made international waves by riding the entire Tour de France course, plus transfers, faster than the peloton. He averaged 190 miles a day for 18 days, sleeping outside sans support. “I just try to be genuine to things that motivate me and inspire me in a certain way,” he said.

The Breck Epic fit that mold long before he was given bib No. 2 behind Swenson’s No. 1. “It’s just a race I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. Morton’s parents first brought Lachlan, a native of New South Wales, Australia, to Breckenridge when he was 12, then every year thereafter until he was 16. The junior team that the Mortons ran, Real Aussie Kids, trained here each summer. “Breckenridge was the first place I ever visited in America. Well, that’s a lie. I went to Disney World first,” Morton chuckled. “It’s probably my favorite place in America. I would live here, but my wife [a graphic designer] would rather be in Boulder.”

Morton has no support this week. He’s racing a two-year-old Cannondale frame with gaping chips in the paint. After Stage 1, he sipped a Modelo at the finish while his competition sucked down recovery drinks. “I’m just doing the best I can with what I’ve got,” he said. Yet he’s found the race fulfilling, as he does with any adventure. “You’re basically getting shown around the best local rides for a week, and I get to mix it up with some of the fastest racers too.”

Morton’s approach is as rare as it is intentional. “When I started mountain biking, I said I would never do it competitively because I didn’t want to ruin it,” he said after finishing in 3 hours 32 minutes. “So when I’m on course, I’m having a good time and giving it a go, but if I were really serious about results, I’d go home today really disappointed. Instead, I’m going home to have a shower and then have a nice afternoon.”

GC TAKEAWAY

Keegan Swenson won his 10th Breck Epic stage in 10 tries Wednesday, crossing the line after riding 41 miles in 3 hours 10 minutes, a minute faster than his 2019 time. As he has for the entire week, Swenson waited until late in the stage to put time into his Colombian rival, Luis Mejia, who finished in 3:12. The victory was a nice salvage for Swenson, who clipped a stump in Keystone Gulch and bent his derailleur hanger, leaving him without the use of his easiest gears. “The stump caught me on a hard right turn and lifted me up,” Swenson said. Morton witnessed what happened and was shocked Swenson didn’t go down. “That was a nice save,” he told his friend at the finish. Swenson now leads Mejia by 9 ½ minutes overall. Costa Rica’s Carlos Herrera moved into third overall Wednesday, while Nash Dory enjoyed his best finish of the week in fourth.

Nash Dory on his way to a top-5 finish in stage 4. Photo by Eddie Clark
Keegan Swenson chases Luis Mejia on Henious Hill. Photo by Devon Balet
Luis Mejia leading Keegan Swenson early on stage 4. Photo by Devon Balet
Luis Mejia walks the tightrope to stay on. Photo by Devon Balet
Swenson and Mejia on Heinous Hill. Photo by Devon Balet

On the women’s side, Alexis Skarda won her fourth consecutive stage in 3:52. Rose Grant ended Evelyn Dong’s second-place run in 3:56, though Dong (4:02) remains comfortably second overall. Skarda leads by 19 minutes in the GC standings.

Evelyn Dong stays strong for another runner-up spot on day 4. Photo by Eddie Clark
Alexis Skarda regroups after another tough stage. Photo by Eddie Clark
Rose Grant eyes up a tight corner. Photo by Devon Balet
Alexis Skarda stays out front on stage 4. Photo by Devon Balet
Amy Chandos is having a good week riding near the top-5 all week. Photo by Devon Balet

FIELD NOTES

For those outside the field, it’s hard to comprehend just how fast even the midpack racers cover ground at the Breck Epic. But that’s especially true of the top third. Among this week’s standouts is Macky Franklin, a 34-year-old fat-tire chameleon from Taos, New Mexico. Franklin won the Singlespeed title at the Epic in 2012 and is the current Singlespeed national champion. He’s also competed in more than 20 Enduro World Series events, and makes a living as a pro racer and YouTube personality. This week he’s swept the Singlespeed division and finished 14th, 12th, 12th, and 13th overall, crossing in 3:42 Wednesday.

Singlespeed leader Macky Franklin is forced to push on Heinous Hill. Photo by Devon Balet

Franklin keeps more meat on his bones than the father-son duo of Chris and Justin Peck, who have run away with the usually tight Duo Open Men division. Chris, a 51-year-old engineer at Apple, and Justin, an 18-year-old college freshman-to-be (and one of at least a dozen teenagers in the race), hail from Los Gatos, California. Chris weighs 140 pounds and ski bummed in Breckenridge in his early 20s; Justin weighs 115 and can sometimes be heard hooting on the trail. They finished in 3:56 Wednesday and hold the 28th fastest GC time overall.

Christopher Peck and his teammate navigate the steeps in Breckenridge. Photo by Devon Balet
Matt Pike emerges from the trees. Photo by Eddie Clark
Justin Desilets starting his ride back to town on the Aqueduct stage. Photo by Eddie Clark
Photo by Eddie Clark
Evelyn Dong grinding her way up Heinous Hill. Photo by Devon Balet
Chris Mehlman charges through the water. Photo by Devon Balet
Photo by Devon Balet
Photo by Devon Balet
Jacob Miller gets low on stage 4. Photo by Devon Balet

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.”