First day, stage 2.5
Today was the first stage of the 2012 Breck Epic. Well, for almost everyone, it was stage one but for me it was stage 2.5, because I had the bright idea to race the Leadville 100 yesterday.
Why would I race a 100-mile MTB race and then follow it with a 6 day MTB stage race? It was a function of timing really, which is out of my control. I’ve raced the Breck Epic every year they’ve put it on. It’s 240 miles of pain, suffering, and roller coaster shit-eating grin singletrack in my back yard.
The race has a refreshing low-key vibe that embraces all that’s important about bike racing. By default, it also therefore casts aside all the bullshit…which is also part of bike racing. Because of those two facts I feel compelled to come and enjoy. Every year. Even though it doesn’t really suit my riding strengths (no wood sections or banked turns) even remotely.
Sometimes you just have to show up and get your teeth kicked in. It keeps you from feeling too self important, which is something many people on this planet could use some work on.
So I had a seven-hour warm up the day before. Leadville is always a race I’ve wanted to experience, and it didn’t disappoint. The 2,000 riders descended upon a mining town of modest roots, which has been resurrected from the dead by the LT series of races, who’s riders feed upon it like locusts.
Riders crashing, going off course, some of the most dangerous feed zones I’ve ever seen, endlessly enthusiastic crowds and an extremely challenging, albeit mostly dirt road course. Despite all that, it’s an amazing event and should be on every serious off-road racer’s bucket list. Its half race, half circus, and was a total blast.
Technically I think I could call today’s stage 3.5 after the week I’ve had, but I won’t digress into my personal challenges. Suffice it to say that by the time I (barely) made it to the line at LT100, I was thinking something like “well, I’m here, let’s see how it goes.” Every time during the race that my mind drifted to the six subsequent races I had scheduled post LT100, I forced an immediate change of thought. There are some facts you can’t look straight in the face.
The pre-race meeting for LT100, which was 2,000 riders crammed into the Leadville HS gym (maximum capacity: 1200) felt more like a Sarah Palin rally than a pre-bike race meeting. Ken Chlouber, the promoter has a reputation for speaking in a rather evangelical manner. He told us how we were now part of the Leadville family, and how he wanted to meet every one of us, invite us into his home, and have us meet his dog. His living room must be a lot bigger than that gym.
All said and done, I finished the race in 24th, ate an entire pizza and drove to Breck for the next chapter. Today’s open men’s stage was won by Ben “Melt” Swanepoel (Squirt), a nice chap from South Africa who showed up in CO about 2 months ago before the Firecracker and unassumingly has been kicking ass all over the place ever since.
I finished about 35 minutes behind him, which isn’t bad considering it’s the first time in my life I didn’t clean the Little French section of the Epic, and how unbelievably slow I was going at times.
I don’t know what “Swanepoel” means translated from Afrikaans but I am pretty sure it must be “Hi! I’m Swannie…and I’m going to kick your ass in this mountain bike race now. SUPER nice to meet you!” (Ben really is exceedingly nice.)
Today my middle name was “Eddie” (as in Steady, Eddie!) and I made a conscious effort to not dig deep in the first 2 hours of racing, which proved to be smart because that’s about when the bottom started to fall out and I had to have a serious caloric replacement episode. It all worked out in the end, however. I was just operating with zero top end at this point as I left it all out on the course yesterday, passing 10 riders on the way home from the turnaround including one guy in the last 400 meters (poor dude looked back at me 7 times in the last KM and probably had no idea he was racing a trackie!). Yesterday was 4800 KJs and 7:20 of racing, with the last 2 hours pretty much flat out. The tank was empty today.
We had minor drama today as some riders went off course, but not do to sabotage (like last year here) or confused course marshals (which happened in Leadville) but because someone accidentally parked on top of the course arrow. What can you do?
In the end, after much discussion, no adjustments were made and riders just had to deal. Five more days of racing and it will all come out in the wash. Otherwise it was a perfect day of racing with ideal weather and lots of fun trails.
Later this week: more details, photos, and other fun stuff you never thought could be included in a race blog.
Thanks for reading,