Breck Epic: Stage 5, Wheeler Pass
By Eddie Clark
(August 16, 2012) BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—The most talked about stage of the Breck Epic where riders climb to the highest point of the race at 12,400 feet was contested under perfect conditions or all to get it their best effort. For this fourth running of the Wheeler Pass stage, the course was shortened by a few miles with the omission of the start and finish sections that went through the resort property. The shortened version was actually better since the not-as-fun sections were left out.
Going out hard, Matthys Beukes set a crushing pace on the lower flanks of the climb up to Wheeler Pass to distance himself from the field. Close behind, Ben Melt Swanepoel was also on pace to gain time on the overall leader Ben Sonntag, which he did once he bridged up to his teammate Matthy on the bike path section heading into Frisco. Once on the path, the teammates worked together to increase their lead, and when they hit the Peaks Trail back to Breckenridge Matthys gave it his all for the stage win with a time of 2:20:53. Swanepoel took second and downhill speedster Ross Schnell blazed the downhill off Wheeler Pass to set himself up for a thrid place finish with Sonntag finishing fourth at 6:14 back.
Women's racing saw singlespeed leader Jennifer Wilson take an early lead on the ascent to Wheeler Pass. Amanda Carey eventually passed her on the downhill to take the lead, and Yolandi Du toit also rode herself into second place on the Bike Path to Frisco, but finished a further 13:21 to virtually rule out a chance for the overall win.
Macky Franklin put in another notable ride on his singlespeed to keep Brady Kappius in sight and protect his lead for the overall. Kappius took the stage win with Macky just seconds behind him, and Dax Massey sealed up third again.