The Evil Genius Behind Breck Epic 2011

Mar 24, 2011
Outside Magazine

Before the third year of the now famous Breck Epic Stage Race, I got a chance to catch up with race director Mike McCormick. This year he's offering up a shorter version for those not ready for the whole enchilada and new categories for the diehards—Solo 30+ (Ouch!) and a two person relay. Want course maps? Check out the AccuTerra app in iTunes, which cost about $5. Just try not to drool on your phone.

Still not sure if you want to enter? Read this interview with the man behind the race—he sounds off on the UCI, the lack of people involved in mountain bike advocacy, and the unique benefits of social media for mountain bikers—and you'll get a pretty solid sense of the ripping community showing up for this year's event.
--Heidi Volpe

How was the queen stage this year?
Oh yeah – you skipped 2010, Volpe. Forgot about that. I know you raced with us in 2009, but in 2010 the race kinda hit the weightroom. I think we had three stages that qualified for “Queen” status in ‘10. Big, brawling bare-knuckled was awesome.

Why do you think there are so few female mountain bikers? Your women's duo had only one team this year as did Moab 24 hr Nationals this year.
Mountain biking can be a huge sausage party sometimes and we men are just not that welcoming. Or at least we don’t get that we’re not. It’s an intimidating sport. You’ve got exposure—suffering to come to mental and physical terms with—plus a whole empirical knowledge base to build before you can confidently venture off on our own. Maybe there are more men because general stupidity gets us past all of that? Kinda reminds me of that old t-shirt that describes the four stages of tequila; “I’m funny/handsome/bulletproof/invisible.” That’s us. Absent the irony, unfortunately. I’m not sure why. I see some pretty cool stuff being undertaken by individuals inside and outside of the industry intended to break down some of those barriers, but my particular windmill is the public lands protection debate and I’ve really only got so many brain cells to spread around. I’ve been getting along by just focusing on being nice and not being a dick. Amazing how far that simple doctrine can take you.

Which stages are in the 3-day Breck Epic?
We’re gonna offer stages 2 through 4. After sitting down with Aaron McConnell from TransRockies at Interbike it seemed like an intriguing way to develop participants for the longer race.

In a nut shell what is wrong with mountain biking right now? What needs to be changed?
What’s wrong with it? Nothing. This is the golden age. Bikes are rad, the racing/riding scene is better than ever and there’s a sense of community that’s been enhanced and augmented by the advent of online forums and other manifestations of social media. The stigmas that have historically divided cycling’s disciplines have ceased to exist, or at least we mountain bikers have stopped caring. In the end it’s the same thing. One observation that I will make is that I have a hard time reconciling the fact that by and large, the MTB community are staunch preservationists, yet the people willing to roll up their sleeves and actively engage in advocacy are relatively few. It’s like 2% of the people are doing 99% of the work. It seems like most folks would rather ride their bikes than devote a minute to preserving their right to ride. Yet if we were able to fully harness the voice of the MTB community we’d be a force to be reckoned with. But that’s kind of a potshot lobbed from the perimeter. People are busy. We get that. So we’re coming up with plan to teach people a little bit of lo-fi advocacy as well as providing them with the tools and the framework to act upon it.

Breck Epic has it's own FaceBook page , and following has it's own flavor. How would you describe it?
Juvenile? I dunno – that’s like trying to describe yourself to a blind date. We suck at some things. We rule at others. We try not to burden the experience with unnecessary rules or red tape. We also try not to take ourselves too seriously (are you listening, UCI? You fucking fun-hating soul-leeching stiffs.) We started this because some of the grander things that we’ve done on bikes have for better or worse defined the entire experience for us – we simply wanted to contribute to that dynamic. And cool t-shirts. This is all just an elaborate (and massively expensive) mechanism to make cool t-shirts. I’m not sure that I’ve described our social media philosophy or approach, but in a way I’ve also just perfectly described it.

Have you ever posted something and think you've crossed your own line?
I was so pissed at Ken Chlouber’s ego-driven mistreatment of the two racers who switched bibs at Leadville last year that I sort of went on and on about it until I had to be reminded that life outside did in fact still exist. I’ll pop off at Sarah Palin once in a while and I always seem to lose a few fans or friends when I do that (but they’re quickly replaced by 10 more who look just like ‘em, so I’m not losing any sleep really). When it comes to farts, boogers and poo I pretty much don’t have a line. I mean after all, I do have two little boys. If I was a tightass about that stuff it’d be pretty grim around here.

What's been the best thing about Facebook for you?
It’s a vent for my anti-social tendencies. The irony that it’s called “social media” isn’t lost on me. The best thing that’s come from cultivating a large online community is that we’ve been able to repurpose its messaging attributes in the service of some pretty altruistic initiatives. The strength of Breck Epic’s Facebook following was pivotal in getting a massively overreaching Wilderness proposal to address the issues of accountability and ethics. More recently it’s served as the foundation for a new movement called “Wilderness B”, an initiative undertaken to allow mountain bikers to join the public lands protection dialogue as vested partners, not the red-headed stepchild-kids-table screw job role the older and more established Wilderness community continues to force upon us.

Filed To: Adventure, Biking

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