Hump day Hump day, well it proved to be more than a hump for the both of us!
Wednesday's stage 4 was tough, on the map it looked hard and proved to be all that and a bag of your favorite chips especially following stage 3. Trust me when I say they plan it like that in attempt to test each and everyone of us out here just to see how deep you will dig to get to the end of the racing week and your prized belt buckle that only the riders who start and finish each stage recieve!
I'll start with Chris - He went out at a moderate pace knowing the length and amount of difficulty that layed ahead. He stayed steady early and said that on the big long climb after aid station 2 out of Keystone where you gain over 2,000 feet in about 6 miles was when he felt the best all day. Showing heart and determination through the demoralizing final 9 miles after aid #3 - he completed the day and is one day closer to fridays finale!
My stage went down like this. I got off to a great start and felt strong on the first 7 mile climb we faced right off the bat, went through aid #1 grabbing only some hydration and kept in contact with a big group over the 2nd climb and down towards Keystone. At about mile 18 I was pulling a big gear on a flat to slight downhill section when I came around a blind corner between a couple of trees and found a rider laying on the ground -- bad news! My split second reaction choice was to try and bunny hop him and his bike, veer to the right and try and squeeze by at 20-25mph or go left and fall down an imbankment. I chose to veer right, caught a tree branch and got tossed to the ground like a rag doll, all would of been ok had myself and the bike not landed on the biggest sharpest rock withing 20 yards. In the heat of the moment I got up right away, re-mounted the bike and pedaled off while getting passed by a couple of riders behind me. Aid #2 was only 1/4 mile away and when I rolled up they almost took me off the bike because one of the people who passed had told them I hit hard. After a short conversation asuring them i was ok to continue I pedaled off up the road, about 100 yards later i realized that I had smashed my bike in the crash and was going to have to limp it and myself home ( 24 lovely miles) So long story ends with me walking the hills and coasting the flats and downhills all the way to the finish where i somehow managed 14th on the day - losing one spot in the overall where i now sit in 13th. What happend today was unavoidable, the impact myself and the bike took was not good but I am just battered and bruised and have the igloo ice truck delivering a load as I type. As for the bike, parts are replaceable & I came with a backup and will ride Thursday's stage 5 - I'm not at all pleased about it and would of much rather taken all the beating and had the bike come out untouched but that's not how the cards fell today.
As for stage 5 - here is what the race director has told us in his words. 40 miles 7,700 feet climbing - Ok, Breck Epic'ers - you've seen just about all this old battle axe can dish out. You've suffered through the gut punch of Penn Creek on day one, possibly fell victim to the Colorado Trail's sweet siren song on day two and absorbed the blow of the thundering hand of the angry mountain goddess Guyot on day three. And if you're reading this, you faced the rabid Aqueduct stage down, met its stare and made it look away. You stood your ground.
Well this old bitch has one more card up her sleeve, one more knife in her boot and one more cruel sucker punch to throw before she'll kneel before you. And its name is Wheeler. You're going to top out at 12,500 feet, but only after hiking your blown ass up there. And you're gonna curse us all the way. But to the intrepid go the spoils. Once you get up there you're going to be treated to an experience few on earth can ever lay claim to - at that point on top of the Ten Mile Range you'll truly be at the top of Colorado and witness to our state's magnificent landscape.
So Sack up, riders. You made it this far. Do NOT go gentle into that good night. Do not give Wheeler the satisfaction. Do Not break against the shoals of despair. You're almost there, Get ready to punch it out one last time before the big-rin, big-grin glee feast of Gold Dust on Friday.
There you have it - We are ready to finish this sucker off and finish it off we will do!
There is not a single word that will sum up Stage 3 for Chris and I - so here are several that come to mind! Destruction, Frustration, Flats, Broken Wheels, But in the end rewarding!
Here is how the story goes, Chris had a great pace set for the first 9 miles when he got to the top of Little French. The locals say that a monster storm rolled through a few weeks ago and did 50 years of erosion in three hours on Little French, needless to say the descent is full of sharp mining rock, scattered tree branches and a newly formed 4-5 foot ravine. On the way down Chris had one of said rocks kick up and in the process rip out 4 spokes from his rear wheel, fortunatley aid station 1 was only a half mile away where he was fortunate enough to get a replacement wheel from one of the bike techs. From there he had a solid ride and took in the awesome views that you can imagine come with crossing the continental divide twice (picture seeing as far as your eyes will go) Chris finished up the day, feels refeshed and is ready to get stage 4 on!
My day started out with a bang & was in the top 3 of my class making it down Little French with no issue and arrived at aid station 1 right around the 1 hour mark. After a very brief stop to fill up the water bottles while grabbing my pop tarts and rice crispy bars I was off to climb French Pass which went well 3/4 of the way when I started to hear hissing sound. So off the bike I go looking to see where the flat was and it happened to be in the side wall, Hoping that my tire sealant would take care of it and being in a section where you had no choice but to hike a bike I walked to the top and It had appeared to seal up... So i thought! I gambled that the tire would hold to aid station 2 which was about 5 miles of downhill away, we crossed the small snowfield and headed down the singletrack where I made my way past several riders coming up to a section that the promoter had told us the day before to walk down, I chose not to walk it and made it down the vertical pitch with no issue. Shortly there after is when it all came unglued! Right after a small water crossing the tire blew out and lost all the air, so i got off and threw in a tire boot to cover the gash, put some air in the tire and headed down the trail. I made it about another mile and the patch job gave out, off the bike again this time throwing in a tube.. that lasted about 5 minutes when it blew out again so i rode the rim to the aid station where I put on a brand new tire that was in my aid bag. At this point I have seen a dozen or more riders in my class go by and am madder than a hornet to put it nicely, it had taken me 1 hour 45 minutes to go roughly 8 miles. What now came to mind was either to salvage the day and ride the remaining 24 miles at a leisurely pace and enjoy the views or put in the charge of my life and pin it all the way to the finish. I chose the latter and charged up the 4 mile climb on Georgia pass at a pace that I never knew I could achive (amazing what pissed off adrenaline can do for you) What lies after the summit of Georgia is the section I've been waiting for all week, I picked off other racers one by one and made it all the way to the bottom of the most techincal section we will see all week with out un-clipping once so my spirits were back up a notch. Aid #3 awaited us at the bottom, I enhaled 2 Honey Stinger waffles and set out and for the last big climb of the day, knowing after this climb the final 10 miles was mostly flat or with elevation loss. After it was all said and done I finished the stage in 5 hours 15 minutes, according to my gps stats I lost 33 minutes with the whole tire issue and finished the stage in 14th - dropping me to 12th overall. These things happen in racing, what makes it frustrating is that it unravled on a day where my mind and legs were stong. I've got some serious work to do if I want to get back into the top 10 with my goal of top 5 being almost unattainable. With all the negative has to come a postive, that positive is I found a new level of mental toughness and a internal drive that I didn't know I possessed which will carry me to a new level going forward.
3 down 3 to go - Stage 4 is another doozie with 42 miles and 8,800 feet of climbing. We make our way over to Keystone in a round about way and back.
The rant is over, the sun will come up, we live to race another day and it's time to hit the hay!
Day 1 is in the books for Christopher and I - The terrain on today's course was brutal on the body and on the equipment but we both made it back to the house in one piece and proceeded to refuel the body in preparation for Monday.
For myself it went very well for the most part, I had a great first 45 minutes followed a short 30 minute lull before getting my steam back and feeling great for the rest of the race. My Supermatic 120 worked great with the SRAM XO 2x10 drivetrain and XX Revelation fork, not once did i need a higher of lower gear and the fork sucked up all the nasty rock fields and gnarly descents. For me it was a pretty uneventfull day with the only miscue being a small collision with a pine tree (tree 1 StevieT 0) if it were a boxing match the tree would of won by decision but not by KO and that's the important part! I finished the course in 4:21 putting me in 9th place in my class, only a small time gap stands between 5th and 15th. On a day where flat tires were more the norm than the exception I look forward to stage 2 minus the short fade that I experienced today.
Christopher put in a solid ride, probably the finest in his short racing career! One small get off and a bike issue that slowed him down a little bit but not to the point of losing any significant time, in a ultra stacked class he came in under 5:10 good for 19th. The race leaderboard reads like this. 1st - Federixo Ramirez - 2nd Kevin Kane - 3rd Ben Aufderheide - 4th Colorado Springs own & 2 time single speed 24 hour national champ Cameron Chambers (with a flat) - 5th Colby Pearce. The leader Ramirez is here from Costa Rica where I hear he has won the LA RUTA DE LOS CONQUISTADORES multiple times.
Tuesday's course description from the Breck Epic staff reads like this 41 miles 7300 feet climbing - "The Colorado Trail stage" Prepare for a couple of juevos-shrinking descents, a climb or two where some decisive moves might get made within your category ( and where you might hear or even spout some colorful language) and a few sections of high-speed singletrack that just go on and on and on. Stage 2 is good, stuffed chock full of terrain that brings us all back to those core components of why we all ride. To test our legs and lungs against mother nature. To pin our ears back and feel the wind against our faces, and to pilot your bike for a few moments as if you were a golden god. Today is that day! Starting elevation 9,600 highest elevation reach 11,200 batabing bataboom there you have it
Adios to all and to all a good night.
Stage 2 is in the Books and it was a good day for me and not so great for Chris
As with everyday the start gun went off at 8:10 am, today we started the stage smack dab in the heart of downtown Breckenridge with a 2 mile nuetral start police escort into the Wellington area where the climbing and jockeying for position began. A late day storm rolled through on Monday which dropped some much needed moisture into the area and made for some great traction for the entire day.
Chris had the misfortune of a early flat rear tire that actually sliced a good size gash into his sidewall, after a patch job and new tube he limped the bike to aid station one at the 15 mile mark where he mounted a brand new skin and went on with his day. He is however in good spirits, is in bed early with a belly full of food and will wake up to fight another day!
For myself I started strong & had a solid day on the bike, we faced three pretty good sized climbs today so I loaded up the jersey pockets with extra Honey Stinger products and also made some extra strength Acli-Mate Endurance for the water bottles. after the climbs we were rewarded with some fairly long and fast descents & The word of the day for me was VELCRO - the dirt was so tacky & my all mountain Supermatic 120 felt like it was on a rail the whole time as I made up a good amount of time on the downhill sections. At one point I managed to take a less than optimal line and passed four bikes at one time with one of the riders shouting out "that just isnt fair" I have so much confidence in that bike & never second guess taking a rougher line at any time to gain an advantage, following some riders at a slower pace than you are used to puts you at the mercy of them making a mistake with zero time to avoid going down with them. At the finish after it was all said and done I lost 6 seconds and dropped back to 10th overall in the standings but with four days to go there is a very small time gap between 4th and 14th so nothing is set in stone yet!
Stage 3 looks like this - 44 miles, 9,400 feet of climbing - We cross the Continental divide twice and were told that there is still a snow field to cross on the top of French Pass (elevation over 12,000) The promoter was quoted saying "you might look like circus clowns on rollerskates in the snow" Insert Huge Smile! That being said the strategy for stage 3 is to stay in the lead pack early, avoid the sharp mining rock on the Little French descent and be in contact with the leaders going into a section of the Colorado Trail which has a long rocky, tree rooted & very techincal descent where I know my downhill skills and bike set up will enable me to put a time gap on anyone thats close.
Stay tuned for more Breck Epic Adventures and thanks for reading, Everyone's comments, emails and text messages keep us fighting!