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By Brandon Dwight
For those of you who have read my Chocolate, Waffles and Cross journals from cyclocross seasons past, this is a little out of character for me. Let’s just call it base training for cyclocross season. A while back I caught wind of the inaugural Breck Epic, a six-day ultra-endurance mountain bike stage race held in the sprawling backcountry of Breckenridge, Colorado, and thought it sounded like a good time.
And, since it’s just a short drive from my home in Boulder, it seemed like a fine excuse to take time off from work and ride my mountain bike for a week. The race kicked off with a 10-mile time trial on Sunday and will be followed by 200 miles of trail and 40,000 feet of climbing over the next five days. Now that is my idea of a vacation.
The time trial prologue was basically a hill climb from downtown Breckenridge, 2000 feet up to an old abandoned mine. The course had to be shortened a couple miles due to a horrific thunderstorm that rolled through just as the first wave of racers were to start. It was a good call by Breck Epic officials because the finish was well above tree line and completely exposed to the high mountain winds. Luckily, by the time I started the rain had stopped and the sun was starting to shine through the clouds.
Before the race, I decided to do a short ride, scope out the time trial course and loosen up my legs after the two-hour drive from Boulder. Upon finishing I bumped into a character I hadn’t seen in over 10 years. I actually heard his thick French accent before I even saw him, but I knew it had to be him. I am not even sure what his real name is, but back in the day we used to call him Frenchie.
When I used to race mountain bike in the mid-90s, he was an icon of the once famous Colorado Off-Road Point Series. Like most healthy, fit elderly cyclists, it’s hard to tell how old Frenchie is. He could be 70. He could be 90. I have no idea. But what I do know is even though I haven’t seen him in over ten years, he doesn’t look like he has aged a bit. I think cycling is good on the body like that. When I saw him I yelled, “Hey Frenchie, where is your cabbage?” You see, back in the day when it was hot out, Frenchie used to put a piece of raw cabbage underneath his helmet when he raced. An old French Tour de France trick to keep you cool, he said. Sure Frenchie, whatever you say.
Following Sunday’s race there was a rider meeting where race promoter Mike McCormack briefed competitors on the upcoming stages. He provided us with intimate details of the pain, suffering and, most importantly, the fun in store. As he stood on his soapbox describing each stage, he spoke like a enthusiastic preacher, an evangelist of the sweet singletrack that Summit County offers. It was like listening to the local bike shop rat telling you how to find the local secret trail and how stoked you are going to be when you ride it. Mike and his Maverick Sports Promotions (MSP) crew truly put forth a concerted effort to make sure racers have a good time, get treated well, score some sweet swag and most of all, ride truly epic trails.
For those of you who don’t know MSP, they are the same crew who host the Firecracker 50, USA Cycling’s Marathon National Championships. When MSP started the Firecracker 50, it was a small regional race and it has grown to be one of the premier mountain bike races in the country. This year’s Breck Epic is what the Firecracker 50 was a few years ago. A vision. A vision to create a truly awesome mountain biking event. There are only 140 or so racers in the inaugural Breck Epic, but based on what I have seen thus far, I think this race is going to become a true multi-day classic right up there with the likes of the Trans Alps and the BC Bike Race. I’m stoked to be a part of it.
The next stage is a 41-mile loop with 7300 feet of climbing on what sounds like quintessential Colorado singletrack. If my hands haven’t cramped up too much and I can still type tomorrow, I’ll be sure to report back.
Following each stage of the Breck Epic, I will be rewarding myself with a tasty local Colorado brew and reviewing it for you. Today’s beer is Upslope’s India Pale Ale from Upslope Brewing. This tasty ale hits the spot on a hot day. Its appearance has a deep orange color with a thick creamy head and the taste starts off sweet with a bitter hoppy finishing flavor. Not too heavy at all. I also like the fact this beer comes in a can, which makes it great for any back country excursion. Maybe I’ll pack one for the next stage!
Thanks for reading.
Brandon Dwight lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife Heather and chocolate lab, Oban, and is part owner of Boulder Cycle Sport. He is also the founder of Doperssuck.com. His sponsors include: Scott Bicycles, Crank Brothers, and Clif Bar.