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.
When a Portland man had his $2,000 Fuji bike stolen, he took matters into his own hands. The man, who gave himself the alias Simon Jackson, watched Craigslist and Reddit until he found his bike for sale in Seattle. He gathered his friends and traveled 160 miles to the city and set up a sting. He disguised his area code so that the thief thought he was calling from Seattle, then set up a meeting. He notified police about when and where he was going to confront the thief, and recorded video when it happened. The police did not show up in time for that meeting, so Jackson chased the thief down. You can watch what happened next in the video above.
Two design students spent seven years crafting a new cycling safety device that's been dubbed the invisible bike helmet. They raised $10 million and spent years studying crash data in order to make their dream a reality. I won't ruin the surprise. Watch the video above to see the result of their innovation and hard work, then read on for more details and pictures.
Mountain bikers tend to get short shrift when it comes to high-quality apparel, especially shorts. While many companies make solid outers, the accompanying chamois is often thin and insufficient. We used to lament baggies that don't ship with pads but have recently changed our tune: Not only are they cheaper this way, but we always end up subbing our favorite bib or chamois underneath anyway. And while we've yet to find a combination set as good as the Mavic Stratos, we have come across a handful of solid performers. If you need a good pad, look no further than the Mavic Under Short ($80).
DYNAFIT SHORE U SHORTS ($130) These baggies would be our outright favorites except for one thing: Ours came in a bright white colorway, which quickly became stained and muddy brown. Dynafit has wisely discontinued the white, and while the green they've replaced it with is more durable, you have to be a Kermit fanatic to pull it off (we're not). Fashion aside, these shorts are brilliant. The stretch ripstop material is both comfy and bombproof, with baggy-but-tailored patterning that's flattering and smooth to ride in. The zip hip pockets aren't super useful since anything in them hops around with every pedal stroke, but the ample Velcro thigh pockets more than make up for it. Fit is dialed thanks to the elastic and Velcro band tucked in the rear of the waist, and our favorite feature is the venting, with the entire rear section of the short open and mesh-lined for air flow. Thankfully, along with the White Shore Us, Dynafit also discontinued the X4 Chamois Knicks, which were far too minimal for serious riding—don't get suckered into buying them on closeout.
BOTTOM LINE: Killer baggies. Now how about those colors...?
The International Olympic Committee formally stripped cyclist Tyler Hamilton of the gold medal he won in the 2004 Olympic Games just days before the eight year time limit for changing medals expires. Hamilton wrote to the I.O.C. roughly seven weeks ago to ask that his name be withdrawn from the record books.
"I very much appreciate that you have expressed regret for having used performance enhancing drugs and that you hope that, through your example and future efforts, this will discourage others from using performance enhancing drugs," I.O.C. President Jacques Rogge wrote in a return letter to Hamilton recently posted online by the New York Daily News.