By far the most frustrating parts of mountain bike racing (and life in general) are the misfortunes that occur out of one’s control. For example: when a self-empowered motorist decides to remove course arrows and re-flag a section of trail in the opposite direction of the actual course. Now, I’m only speculating here… there are multiple explanations (none of which will ever be proven) regarding the misplacement of the arrows around mile 30 on stage 3 of the Breck Epic, but reassuring myself that some unnamed non-cyclist is to blame makes me feel better. Needless to say, course sabotage sucks. If you’re feeling self-empowered, think again.
Despite such setbacks, I and the 20 or so other riders at the front of the race today will agree-what happened happened, and there’s really nothing we can do about it now. After much deliberation at the rider’s meeting this evening, it was decided that, however unfortunate the circumstances, the results from today will stand as they are. With this decision, only one rider really came out with an upper-hand today. Josh Tostado, who has raced this course numerous times, didn’t think twice about making the left up American Gulch, and took the stage win, despite his double-flatting on course before this point and being several minutes behind the leaders.
The route for stage 3 is a true Summit County classic, and unquestionably the hardest stage of this year’s race. After climbing up through the Golden Horseshoe for the second day in a row, riders descended back down a severely washed-out Little French Gulch to Aid 1, where they began the second of the four major climbs of the day. Of the 40,000 feet of vertical elevation gain over six days, no other climb besides the Wheeler Trail of stage 5 climbs higher and steeper than the singletrack to the top of French Pass.
After this brutal hike-a-bike section, racers were rewarded with a four-mile long high-speed descent into Park County above South Park (yes, the same South Park of that one television show). This section of trail even included such delights as a 50-yard snowfield and water crossings to boot.
A third climb up to the top of Georgia Pass spilled racers onto the most exciting section of singletrack of the entire week: the North Fork section of the Colorado Trail. This sweeping section of delicious dirt is a 20-or-so minute descent that ends with a two-mile length of derailleur-breaking technical rocks. Finally, (when riding the correct route) riders climbed up the heart attack climb known as American Gulch once again into the Golden Horseshoe, and weaved the last 10 miles through the mining trails to the finish at the Country Boy Mine.
Riders will enter the Golden Horseshoe for the fifth and sixth time this week tomorrow in stage 4 on their way out and back to Keystone. After coming undone for a second day in a row in the last 10 miles today, I will be looking for some rebuttal on tomorrow’s 40-mile stage through my backyard trails. Though I try not to get too emotional, tomorrow’s stage brings back memories of my first ever mountain bike ride with my dad up Keystone Gulch (one of tomorrow’s main veins) nearly 10 years ago. Hopefully I will find a way to climb over the Impervious Wall of Bonkdom, seeing as we’re only halfway done with the 2011 Breck Epic. At least the glass is half-full now.