It is very impressive when a mountain bike race can be known as one of worlds hardest stage races within the first five years that is has run. The Breck Epic has developed that status since 2009 – being known as a hard race using tough mountain bike trails. Each race is different, but the Breck Epic should be able to shut up the riders who complain about too much fire trail, or not enough singletrack.
The event has grown since the first running in 2009, with well over 200 riders attending in 2012. And it’s a good field too, containing top American Pro racers, a selection of South African pro’s and a multitude of elite amateurs and keen mountain bikers. It’s a race designed for people who enjoy racing their bike in a big mountain environment – and this stands out on the start line. There were little nerves on show, just people keen to get racing.
With either a six or three stage version of the Breck Epic on offer, both of these races started at 8:30am Mountain Time on Sunday 12th August. Starting on the line, it was clear there were a lot of experienced racers around, and plenty of Colorado locals. That means people who can actually still operate at about 3000m altitude. I didn’t fit in, as when we took off up the hill it felt like I was breathing through a straw.
The course today was spectacular – sunny skies, great singletrack and everyone on the course was friendly.
That didn’t make it easy though. There were plenty of steep climbs and loose descents, and some super fast singletrack traverses. Fast if you could breathe anyway. I’m never really sure what ‘true’ mountain biking is, but today seemed close. Even when you came up behind someone on singletrack, they were really chilled and would tell you to just ask when you wanted to come by. That’s not to say it’s a race where it isn’t cool to go fast – the guys at the front were killing it!
We didn’t venture above the treeline today, but we passed by a lot of the Breckenridge mining refuse, and a skidoo that must have been left there a while. To be honest, from halfway it was all a bit of a blur for me, due to a lack of eating early on. But it’s a six day stage race, so hopefully there will be some adaption from here!
The best sign was how stoked people were at the finish. Finishing down a singletrack (albeit rocky) descent and onto a grassy field was a great way to finish. Knowing that we have only touched on a small part of the riding that Breckenridge means there are a lot of people amped for the rest of the week.
The first man across the line was Ben Swanepoel and the first woman was Yolandi Du Toit – good South African domination!