6 days, 240 Miles, 40,000 feet of climbing, cross the Continental Divide Multiple times, this is XC Racing! This years edition was at its finest, including representation from 25 countries, and 350 athletes.
During the 6 days, a lot can happen when you are racing in the rarified air of Breckenridge. Bikes and Bodies are run to the limit, and preparation in both departments is key. Arrive to this race fit, and with a well prepped bike.
In addition to fitness and a good bike, bring your nutrition. You will be consuming 5000 calories per day. This starts on day -1 (day before stage one). This was my mistake during this years edition. We were so busy, working, travelling, packing, unpacking, etc… that I neglected to start the cycle of eating.
Extra bike parts are key as well. If you have them you probably won’t need them is the normal adage. In this case, you will use them. Normally in 6 days of riding, the only maintenance that occurs is chain lube. Breck Epic changes that. Every day, you wash, inspect, and repair / replace parts. Each stage has tremendous support, but each stage is a really big loop out in the back country. A hike back to support can take hours. A few things we replaced this year (they were new when we started).
- Brake Pads Replaced after stage 4. Yea, I know. It’s a race, what are you using brakes for.
- Tires replaced after stage 4 (side knobs were shredded).
- Flat tire stage 6.
Stage 1 – Pennsylvania Creek – 35 Miles, 6000′
As Mike McCormack (race promoter) says, welcome to Breckenridge, let the Gut Punching Begin! My lack of nutrition the day prior really set me up for a long painful day in the saddle. The category we compete in, “Old Guys that are looking for the fountain of youth” is generally huge. This race is no exception. At least 40 males, and I was behind most of them at the finish of this stage… Ouch!
Stage 2 – Colorado Trail - 43 miles, 7200′
The gut punches are rewarded with a descent down Colorado Trail that left a grin on my face for the rest of the day!
Stage 3 – Mt. Guyot - 46 miles, 8100′
This is the Queens Stage of this race. It is my personal favorite that mixes high alpine meadows, brutal climbs, 30% grade technical descents, and bacon feeds.
Stage 4 – Keystone Aqueduct - 44 miles, 6300′
The spectators were out in force as everyone tried to climb up Vomit Hill. Vomit Up!, Vomit Up! was the cheer on the day. Vomit Hill was followed up by Keystone Gulch Road Climb. 2000′ of vertical. In case you were wondering, the Aqueduct part of this stage gets it’s name from the old mining flumes that the race route follows around Keystone Ranch.
Stage 5 Wheeler - 32 miles, 4900′
Up and over Breckenridge Ski Area at 13,000 feet! Descend to Copper Mountain, then off to Frisco to ride the Peaks Trail back to Breckenridge. We covered a lot of ground and elevation on this day. I have to say, the hardest part of this day is the climb back from Frisco to Breckenridge. We came back a road as opposed to the “proper” Peaks Trail. Sections of 30% grades combined with babyheads made this a particular FM section.
Stage 6 – Gold Dust - 28 miles, 4800′
Last Stage! This is the shortest stage, and huge fun. At the summit of the first climb, we are greeted by a banjo player. Once we summit the second climb (cross the Continental Divide) the descent is singletrack luge style run. We then start the last climb of the day, and the race entirely. The feed zone at the top is full of bacon / skittles / whiskey, pick your poison!
I ended up in 8th overall. After finishing nearly last at the beginning of the first day, I felt pretty good climbing back up to 8th.