Sunday, August 29, 2010

Breck Epic '10 - Stage 6

This past Friday was Stage 6, the last and final stage of this year's Breckenridge Epic mountain bike stage race. It was fast. I am not sure where I got the strength and speed from to finish the stage in well under 3hours but I did.

Dubbed: "Gold Dust Loop"
37miles and 6,000 feet of climbing. An out and back, if you will, with slightly different trails leaving the ice rink and returning to the ice rink.

The alarm clock went off at 6am and I did not want to wake up. It was my turn to sleep on the pull-out couch and I did not get much sleep. Knowing this would have been the last time we got up and got ready to race our bicycles in Breckenridge this summer also somehow got me into a procrastination mode of not wanting to get moving. Needless to say we (Peter, Thom, Dicky and I) found a way to get moving and started our day.

Race start and finish was back at the Ice Skating Rink where stage one took place. Every stage since then has started in downtown and finished just outside of downtown. Another classic CO neutral start up Boreas Pass Road and then a left onto some sweet singletrack as we climbed part-way up Bald Mountain. (Some of that singletrack we rode in the opposite direction in Stage 1.) Out of the singletrack and up the unpaved portion of Boreas Pass Road to crest at Boreas Pass (11,500ft). Right into some very technical singletrack descending down the south side of Boreas Mountain. This singletrack (Gold Dust Trail) was fast and sweeping that included banked turns and a whole slew of fast bits. Gold Dust Trail put us out down around 10,200ft and we had to then climb back up to Boreas Pass and then down Boreas Pass road towards Breckenridge. Just before coming near the paved section of Boreas Pass Road we turned onto some singletrack that we rode in Stage 1 (in the opposite direction). That, ultimately, put us out at the ice rink.

Mike McCormick kept stating how this was going to be a 'big ring' stage but I was initially skeptical based upon looking at the elevation profile. The elevation profile does not explain that the two big climbs are on a dirt road. No wonder this was going to be a 'big ring' stage.

I tried to start slightly better than I have been. In other words, I wanted to start hard but at a pace I felt I could ride consistent throughout the stage. I did not want to get to the 5-10mile mark and have to back off my pace because my body can't keep up (something that was reoccuring throughout the week).

Well, it kind of worked. I was middle towards the back of the neutral start and as in every stage up to this stage, I got dropped on the neutral start not that far up Boreas Pass road. To my surprise a lot of the other singlespeeders also got dropped so it was not at bad as I thought. The hard part occurred once we got into the singletrack.

The entrance to the singletrack contained a large bottleneck (typically can't be avoided). When I entered the bottleneck was not that large and a quick trackstand allowed me to hold my own while the two to three geared guys infront of me bobbled. From this point on we were fighting for position within the singletrack. Dan Durland was not that far ahead of me and I eventually got around the riders between Dan and I.

Now that I was on Dan's wheel my plan was to try and stay on his wheel. When he'd find a location to pass I'd try to match his surge and pass that individual immediately after he did. Onto the doubletrack I gave it a few quick high cadence bursts and rolled past Dan.

"Would it stick? Why am I burying myself this early in the stage? Dan is over an hour ahead of you in the GC."

Well, it did stick.. For a few hundred feet. I then found myself needing to slow my pace slightly when we turned onto the next grouping of singletrack. Dan also smacked himself back together and surged past me again.


Trying to recover and still ride a relatively fast pace I pushed on. Then, whilst riding the Baker Tank Trail, Jeff and Sonya came flying past me like I was standing still. Granted the gentle downward slope of the trail prevented me from pedaling any faster than I already was but it still felt like I was not moving when they passed me. I increased my pace and tried to catch back up to Jeff and Sonya. This got me onto the dirt road portion of Boreas Pass Rd right behind them. Within sight, up the road, was Dan pedaling his 32x21 as best as he could.

There is Dan right up the road from me..

Looking out towards Red Peak from Boreas Pass road.

I rode with Jeff and Sonya for a little bit whilst pounding my bottle of Perpetuem and eating a package of shot bloks. The carrot of Dan hanging out infront of me was weighing.

"Should I bridge the gap or stay where I am?"

Feeling pretty good I opted to bridge the gap and ride with Dan. At the time I was not sure if I would attack him or ride with him but I had to get up to him first. Increase that cadence and bump the pace up to 14-15mph from the 12mph we were cruising with. That got me up to Dan and he chuckled when I announced my arrival. We rode up Boreas Pass road together and he gave me a quick synopsis of what was in store for us on the back-side.

I left Jeff and Sonya to fend for themselves. (Sorry guys, was feeling good and had to see what I could do with Dan just ahead of us)

By now my slight change in morning ritual was making things difficult for me. Earlier in the morning I actually checked my tire pressure and got worried when I read 15psi so I pumped them up to around 23psi. From the get-go I realized 23 was too much air as I was bouncing all over the singletrack and now the dirt road was really rough underneath me. I decided that I would stop at the aid station at the top of Boreas Pass and let some air out of my tires. By this time I also barely touched one of the two waterbottles on my bike.

Photo: Yuki Saito

As we rolled across Boreas Pass Dan kept going and I stopped to drop the air pressure in my tires. One of the volunteers also topped off my bottle for me and then I was off in pursuit of Dan again.

I was warned of how the top of the singletrack was quite technical but I dropped into it very aggressively anyway. Plowed my way through the upper section without any flat tires or mechanicals and rallied the remainder as best as I could. This was probably the fastest I've ridden singletrack all week and somehow I was able to keep the bike pointed in the right direction as my body was getting thrashed around by the unsuspended bike beneath me.

Came around one turn and saw Thom sitting trailside tending to a flat tire. We both laughed (a mechanical on Thom's behalf is the only way I'd see him this late in the weeklong race as he finally got his legs underneath him) and I kept going.

Enter the Gold Dust Trail.

This was the last trail we rode before the climb back up to Boreas Pass. It reminded me of that speeder bike sequence in Return of the Jedi. Banked turns to carry your speed. Smooth bottom. Dense trees lining the sides. 15mph pace. Yes, Speeder Bike!

Every now and then I'd see a cloud of dust but I didn't see any rider. By the time I finished the Gold Dust Trail and turned onto the Jeep trail climb I saw that rider creating the dust clouds... Dan Durland. Yup, caught back up to him and we also caught up to a few geared guys that were ahead of us.

Dan and I climbed back up to Boreas Pass together. I've been riding at 110% since the day started and it became difficult to maintain the pace Dan was setting (12mph I think). Once we got onto the dirt road we were also faced with a headwind which made it even more difficult for me to maintain pace. Dan let me draft him and I sat on his wheel as he mustered on. I did everything I could to stay on his wheel. It became very difficult and painful but I buried myself to stay with him. He kept shouting words of encouragement and letting me know we're almost there (he did this race last year and knew the day's course).

Within probably a mile of the summit I couldn't hold his wheel any longer and fell off the back. Dan hesitated but I told him to go and I'd recover and catch back up. He surged on and I drifted back as the space between us grew and grew with every foot I'd propel forward with. This was very frustrating for me but I fooled myself into thinking I'd catch him on the descent once we crested Boreas Pass.

Photo: Yuki Saito

I finally made it to Boreas Pass and kept on going without stopping. I had one water bottle full and figured this was enough since the remainder of the day was all downhill. Once I couldn't pedal any faster I got into a crazy tuck like I had on the bike path in stage 5.

Coasting, Coasting.... back down the mountain towards town. No one within sight ahead of me and no one within sight behind me.

"Hmmm. Where did Dan go?"

Next thing I know Peter Butt is in his big ring pedaling his ass off and he passed me like I was standing still. I could do nothing but sit there and coast. Peter disappeared off into the distance. All the way down the road and past where we got onto it for the climb out of town. Then a sharp left onto the singletrack.


Just bombing the techy trail with no care as to what happens yet somehow keeping that front tire where it needs to go. A few hundred feet into the trail we had to cross a very small creek.

Guess who is on the other side of the creek?

Yup, Dan Durland.

"Hiii Dan! I'm baaack! haha"

Dan got another chuckle and we were off bombing the descent together hooting and hollering. Knowing Dan was over an hour ahead of me in the GC I did not feel it was prudent to attack him and ride on ahead. Knowing Jake Kirkpatrick was behind the two of us meant that we were 5th and 6th place singlespeed right now.

"Hmm. better than my GC position of 7. Lets see if we can hold together and I can finish the stage higher than 7th."

Dan and I chatted and decided we'll stick together and keep trying to put more time between us and Jake. Dan wanted to finish ahead of Jake and so did I. We've already rode most of the day together so lets round this one, and this whole event, out with an awesome descent of some very fast and tight singletrack.

"We'll cross together and hold each others' hands" said Dan (with a laughter).

Not that far from the finish we had a short (50ft maybe) climb that Dan warned me about. It really wasn't much of a climb but more of a grunt up a few rocks. Dan was pretty tired but I kept yelling at him to get those pedals turned over and we'll be on our way. He did it and we were back descending and leaning those tires into the turns.

A few turns later we're crossing the creek outside the ice rink and crossing the finish line together.

2hours 41mins 51sec to cover 37miles and 6,000ft of climbing. WOW

I say we tied for 5th but the results have me in 6th for the stage.

I also took 7th singlespeed overall for the whole week. Not bad for a guy that lives at sea level and rides once or twice a week.

What an event! It was definitely a challenge but like any stage race I've done, it was such an experience where I learned a lot on many levels and met many new people. I'll write an overall recap soon.


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