Breck Epic: The Bell Has Tolled
By Jason Sumner
Full disclosure, I’m smashed.
And no, not in a “deep in the cups” kind of way. That’s tomorrow after the last stage. Right now it’s all bike induced thanks to five hard days of racing at the Breck Epic. The legs hurt, the arms ache, the hands throb, and my brain’s hard drive is skipping like a scratched record.
Wednesday, I had my best day. Decent legs, no mechanicals, and a strong stage 4 finish resulted in a place on the 40+ podium’s short step (aka third place). Today, there was no such glory. Just suffering. And a flipsy daisy tumble over the bars. Hello again, seventh place among the middle aged man crew.
Stage 5’s Wheeler Loop circuit wasn’t particularly mammoth from a numbers perspective: 26 miles, three and a quarter hours of saddle time. But factor in the primarily hike-a-bike ascent of Wheeler Pass (peak elevation 12,485 feet), an eyeball rattling rowdy downhill off the top of the Ten Mile Range, and an endless finishing stretch of hellish rooty, rocky, relentless track called the Peaks Trail, and your author was not a happy boy. Hard tails and rowdy, rooty, rocky just don’t mix. Welcome to the No Flow Zone.
Total climbing was 4,250 feet according to the Garmin. I really don’t know if that’s right or not. I just remember the pounding headache that kicked in around 11,000 feet and never went away. And if that memory somehow fades, I can just look down at the bruises on both palms, the result of my failed Triple Lindy about halfway down from the top of Wheeler when I stuffed my front wheel like a Thanksgiving Turkey. Some days you eat the bear. Some days the bear invades the race’s campground under the cover of darkness and raids the garbage (true story).
On the upside, the trip up and over Wheeler was about as spectacular as it gets from a scenery standpoint. And the super fans (including Team Topeak Ergon’s Jeff Kerkove) were back, this time passing out bacon at the top of the pass. You may remember that the same crew was doling out Skittles during the Guyot Loop stage a few days back.
Sadly, I was too cross-eyed to grab a slice of salty goodness. Instead, the stress level was high because my brakes had stopped working, which Kerkove explained was likely a result of the altitude. Fortunately, the combination of some rapid pumping and the precipitous descent brought my stoppers back to life. Unfortunately, it did not prevent the aforementioned trip over the bars into a pile of rocks. (Sorry snapped brake shifter. It really was an accident.)
In other news, Ross Schnell turned in the ride of the day, taking it to the XC crowd with a third place finish. The open men’s GC battle tightened up, with GC leader Ben Sonntag now leading South African BenMelt Swanepoel by just six minutes with one stage to go, and Amanda Carey consolidated her advantage in the women’s open standings. She now leads South African Yolandi Du Toit by 23 minutes and change.
But perhaps most importantly, for anyone considering a run at the 2013 Breck Epic (and you should) now is the time to act. Early bird registration for the August 11-16 race opened Thursday. Cost is $599 for a 6-day entry.
Next up: The final of day of the Breck Epic (aka the Gold Dust Loop) is billed as more fun, less pain. Total distance is 33 miles and there’s “only” 3,500 feet of climbing, most of it done on smooth road, not hike-a-biking toward Base Camp, or Vomit Hill climbing. In fact, race director Mike McCormack promised, “No gut punches, just lots of flowing singletrack.”