Breck Epic Stage 4. Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Dunn Photo
This week, several hundred mountain bike racers are depriving themselves of oxygen and beating themselves silly in the fourth annual Breck Epic. In the spirit of the BC Bike Race and the TransRockies Challenge, this rapidly growing event attracts pro and amateurs alike to race approximately 40 miles each day for six consecutive days. (For the less robust racers, like me—though I prefer to think of it as "more reasonable"—there's also a three-day version.) Each day's stage starts around 9,600 feet in Breckenridge, Colorado, and notches between two-thirds and 1.5-miles of vertical on a mix of singletrack and fire roads. The leaders take between three and 3.5 hours to finish each stage—mortals spend up to double that.
I finished the three-day race on Tuesday and managed to secure a spot on the men's open podium. (Proceed to #5 before you get too impressed.) The course features tons of grin-inducing riding, the vibe is as friendly as a small-town diner waitress, and in spite of a few logistical snafus I'd do it again. Here are a few lessons and impressions.
1. Neutral support is the shit. Ten minutes before the race start while I was warming up, my recently tuned front brake ceased all stopping duties. Five minutes before race start, I sprinted over to Ryan Gaul and Jamie Bissell at the Shimano Neutral Support Van and they said they could install a loaner brake but it would probably delay me. Four minutes before race start, they began installation. Two minutes before race start, I had a brand new, fully optional XTR front brake. I was dazed and still trembling with adrenaline when the race commenced and we rolled. If it hadn't been for these guys, my race might have been done before I began. And I heard of them making similar F1 pit-style repairs throughout the event. If you're ever at a race and see a neutral support van, Shimano or otherwise, go over and say thanks. In fact, take a six pack. These guys are unsung heroes.