I’m sitting wearing pyjamas at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. Unlike most people who are currently in this position, I’ve already raced 40 miles of sublime Breckenridge single-track this morning. Stage one of the Epic was as hard as expected.
A brief synopsis for anyone not interested/has better things to do:
I finished somewhere around 10th place, crossing the line with my Epic Endurance teammate Sam Morrison. I rode conservatively, and feel like I came out of the stage in good shape for tomorrow.
The detailed version:
The neutral start rolling up Boreas Pass road was jovial and chatty. Most people seemed to have no interest in hitting the first 5 miles of this race hard, so a big group of 15 or so formed and pedalled sedately to the first single-track. Obviously, this didn’t work so well when we arrived at the single-track: jostling for position ensued and everyone but the front few came to a stand still. Then followed a procession for the next 5 miles of rolling trail as no one wanted to make a break. Only when the course hit the first big climb did the gaps start to appear, and soon the group of 15 was splintered into smaller chases. I rode with Blake Harlan (Jamis factory racing) and teammate Sam for the first 15 miles, before Colby Pearce (Panache) joined us with some lewd jokes. We stayed together for the next 10 miles, the pace slowly creeping up, until we hit Little French Gulch, where Colby and Blake rode away from Sam and I. This climb is famously included in almost every race ever staged in Breckenridge, and basically involves riding the steepest imaginable grade up a river bed for 5 miles. With a storm of ‘biblical’ proportions just a few weeks ago, the trail was in terrible condition, with sections entirely unrideable. Although jumping off the bike was a lovely rest for my back, my heart decided that walking was a lot more effort and proceeded to beat out of my chest every time I dismounted. Apparently, hiking with a bike at 3200m isn’t easy. Somewhere along the line I managed to bend my front derailleur so I was dealing with some weird shifting issues until I doused my chain in lube at the Mile 26 aid station. The next 6 miles were a loop coming back to the same point, and as I felt like I was nearing the point of hunger and serious tiredness, I eased back just a tad and was re-joined by Sam who had been hanging 30 seconds behind me for a while. Sam and I have never raced without finishing in consecutive positions, and that’s how it stayed for the next 7 miles to the finish. The long drag of a climb to the top of sally barber mine was a drag, but as I’d just eaten a copious amount of honey based products, I felt really good and got into a groove, speeding up a little. Although Sam fell a little off my wheel at the end of the climb, with only 15 seconds separating us, we rallied the last downhill into Breckenridge together and crossed the line even.
so, now for the real skill of stage racing: eating sleeping and drinking! Merely 20 minutes after the finish I was tucking into copious quantities of cheesy chips (fries for the Americans) and a juicy bacon covered burger. With my bike being fixed up by the lovely people at Shimano and Cannondale, I’m free to sit here, drink as much water as possible and relax. The evening plan is to have a beer, eat an early dinner and get to sleep by 8:30ish.
Day 2 will bring more of the same: higher single-track percentage should make for a tough but hopefully fun day. The weather forecast for the week is rather varied, and we only just missed the rain today – hopefully we’re just as lucky tomorrow.