Russell Finsterwald and Amy Kranhenbuhl Coquer Mount Wheeler Stage
Written by: Uncommon Communications
The night before the penultimate stage, riders laid down for bed with the threat of rain looming. In typical Breckenridge- fashion, riders were greeted with clear skies and sun for the morning to get up and over Wheeler Pass. The rain still rolled in around 11am, giving most of the field a good shower.
As race director Mike McCormack says, “it’s not called the Breck Tickle Fight.”
Russell Finsterwald, Todd Wells and most of the leaders in the men’s pro/open field stayed dry throughout the day and got to enjoy the massive views from the top of Wheeler Pass.
Finsterwald took a couple of seconds back from his teammate Wells (SRAM / Troy Lee Designs) after dropping Wells on the descent off of Wheeler Pass.
“I thought yesterday was my favorite stage, but now this one is,” recounted Finsterwald. “The views were awesome and the descending was next level. I was having the time of my life on that second descent.”
Though it wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns for Finsterwald, who took a digger on that second descent he was loving so much.
“I was riding in control, but going across one of those bridges there were a couple logs parallel to one another. My front wheel got caught between, and sent me sailing. I tried to ride a good pace, just to make it into the finish. I knew Todd wouldn’t be too far behind.”
Finsterwald ended the day just 11 seconds up on Wells with Ben Sonntag in third, all but cementing his place on the podium.
“My legs felt pretty empty from the beginning, so I let the group go,” said Ben Sonntag (Clif Bar) about starting in wave one with the top-8 riders overall. “I don’t know, it was just ‘keep pushing’ today. There was no snap, explosiveness, or thoughts like, ‘I’m flying up this right now,’ it was just a grind.”
The elevation profile of day five had many riders opting for longer-travel bikes to better take advantage of the longer, more technical descents. Since the trails were so steep and often quite narrow, riders were forced to their feet.
“We had a lot of fun coming down [from Wheeler],” said Jake Wells who is leading the Duo Open category with his partner Ciro Zarate. “We rode our bigger bikes today — 5” fork, dropper post. It was a lot of fun going down, but it was a lot of pushing on the way up.”
In the women’s open category, Amy Krahenbuhl has a 54-minute lead over Emma Maaranen (Rolf) and Ksenia Lepikhina (Tokyo Joe’s) sits another 13-minutes back in third.
With the final stage – Gold Dust — being all that lay ahead of riders, overall leads are not likely to change hands in many categories. At under 30-miles, the Gold Dust loop packs in fast climbing and screaming singletrack descents into the shortest mileage of the week.