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Breck Epic Blog by Kevin Kane

The solo men all lined up for the final stage

The wrap

By:
Kevin Kane
Published:
August 22, 2011, 21:24 BST,
Updated:
August 22, 2011, 22:27 BST

2011 edition is in the books

Though I've had two full days of recovery from the Breck Epic, the last day of racing on the Gold Dust Trail is still fresh in my mind (and in my legs). Despite feeling good the morning of the final day, the previous five days of racing had obviously taken a toll on my body, and the last day ended up being mostly a parade lap recovery ride for me. Knowing that I had a 30 or so minute cushion on the place behind me, I wasn't too worried about losing any place in the GC.

After climbing several miles on Boreas Pass Road, the route took riders up some one of the best singletrack climbs in the County up to timberline on Baldy Mountain. After many switchbacks and a flowy traverse on the Bakers Tank Trail back to Boreas Pass Road, riders climbed up the road to the summit. From here, they dropped down the backside of Boreas into South Park, taking a sharp right turn onto the Gold Dust Trail.

Due to this trail's somewhat remote location and lack of signage, many consider it a hidden gem for mountain biking in Breckenridge. The trail follows an old mining flume, weaving along a contour of about 10,700 feet for several miles. Unfortunately for many, this extensive descent into Park County meant an equally long climb back up to the top of Boreas Pass Road.

Riders were rewarded here, however, with the final feed zone of the Breck Epic, including cold PBRs, fans, and one hell of a banjo-player, Summit Fat Tire Society Founder Mike Zobbe. A final rocky descent down into Illinois Gulch to the Blue River Trail led riders back to the finish, and the various delights of finishing a mountain bike stage race.
Overall, the week has been a phenomenal personal experience. Despite several days of poor form, I was able to pull off two top-10 finishes against a stacked solo field, and came away from the race with great fitness. With collegiate and marathon nationals coming up this fall, as well as a full cyclo-cross season, I look forward to another five months of racing before closing off the 2011 season.

As a final closing to my Breck Epic Blog, I'd certainly not forget to thank everyone for their support this season. To my sponsors, Rocky Mountain Bicycles, Maxxis Tires, Smith Optics, Mavic, and SixSixOne. Also a big shoutout to the Greenspeed Project, Mike McCormick, and the rest of the Breck Epic Staff. Thanks for a great race; I'll definitely be back in 2012!

Federico Ramirez

Breck Epic stage 5 takes riders to the brink

By:
Kevin Kane
Published:
August 19, 2011, 5:37 BST,
Updated:
August 19, 2011, 15:48 BST

Today's entry includes Tim Johnson’s secret sandwich recipe, the PB&TJ

After racing over four hours every stage for the last four days, many racers were pleasantly surprised with stage 5 of the 2011 Breck Epic, which the top-10 finished in under three hours. Without the neutral rollout at the start today, the pace set by the leaders headed up the first climb was a blistering one, and led to an early disintegration of the main field. Unfortunately for some, this fast start had its repercussions, as 10 or so of the lead riders followed eventual-winner Colin Cares off course in the first singletrack.

I started the day at my maximum, hoping to pull off another top-ten finish as I did on stage 1. Even so, I was not able to hold the high pace of the leaders on the road, and fell back just out of sight headed into the first singletrack. My lack of speed ended up being a blessing in disguise, since I did not see the lead group take the wrong turn at a fairly ambiguous Y-intersection. Without realizing it, I raced into the first climb of the day, The Burro Trail, in the lead position. It wasn’t until I reached the bottom of Spruce Creek Road, a steep fireroad leading up to the 10th Mountain Division Hut "Francie’s Cabin," that I realized the leaders’ mistake. Colin Cares and Federico Ramirez passed me as we reached the first Aid Station, which surprised me. I looked over to find a train of top contenders hot on my heels.

Once the groups had rejoined, we reached a pivotal part of the day’s course: The Wheeler Trail. Climbing across the Ten Mile Range at over 12,500 feet above sea level, The Wheeler Trail is the classic connector from Breckenridge to Copper Mountain... for hikers. Rarely is this trail ridden by cyclists, though the Breck Epic and the Breck 100 mountain bike races choose to make their fields brave this painfully-high hike-a-bike experience.

Riders today reached the top of Wheeler today in less than 1.5 hours after more than 30 minutes of hiking above timberline. The most stubborn racers, such as Macky Franklin and Travis Brown, took any opportunity provided to get in the saddle, but such efforts were short-lived.

At the top of the saddle, I found myself in the top-10 after a strong hike. My riding legs felt great, having exercised a different set of muscles, and I was able to descend into Copper with a hefty bit of local knowledge up my sleeve. Luckily, there were no outstanding crashes on this descent today, since any error speeding down into Copper might take you 2000 feet down to the highway below.

After a quick jaunt down the recpath to Frisco, the course took a right onto one of the highest-trafficked trails in Summit County: The Peaks Trail. What 10 years ago was one of the most technical rides in the County has now become a multi-use super highway due to over-compensation "for all abilities" by the Forest Service. Despite this "paving," the Peaks remains one of the most fun trails in the area, and riders certainly enjoyed it’s fast and flowy route back to the finish in Breckenridge.

Leader "Lico" Ramirez finally got a dose of Colorado competition today; former U23 National Champion Colin Cares was able to pull off the win by holding his own against an ever-dangerous Ramirez and Josh Tostado. After three days of poor form, I was finally able to bring things around today on one of my favorite local rides, holding off strongmen Travis Brown and Chris Baddick to finish fifth.

I’ll end today’s post with a scene from today’s finish... I know present to you, what I’ve come to call the PB&TJ SANDWICH (a Tim Johnson creation):

In the following order, and with ample amounts of each ingredient: Wheat Bread, Crunchy Peanut Butter, Nutella, Sliced Banana, Ruffles Chips, Pretzels,Marshmallow Fluff, Wheat Bread. Are you satisfied?

Stage 6 tomorrow: We’ll be conquering a local big-ring gem known as the Gold Dust Trail. Then the party begins.

Kevin Kane (Rocky Mountain Factory Team) rides into the finish.

Cruel and unusual punishment

By:
Kevin Kane
Published:
August 18, 2011, 4:35 BST,
Updated:
August 18, 2011, 17:30 BST

Racers face another day of 8000+ vertical feet

It is unclear what exactly course designers were thinking when designating a route for stage 4 of the 2011 Breck Epic, but the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment” is probably close. As promised in the course description, climbing was the name of the game today. From the gun, racers faced a menacing slew of notorious Summit County climbs. The first of these climbs, as on stage 2, was Heinous Hill. From there, riders descended the sketchiest mining road of the week, Galena Gulch, down to the Dredge Trailhead and entered the singletrack heaven known as Horseshoe Gulch.

Despite literally hundreds of miles of incredible singletrack in Horseshoe Gulch, race organizers had to consider conflict with daily users when routing through this popular area. For this reason, riders were once again routed on the painful Vomit Doubletrack, this time in the opposite (and more difficult) direction. These first two aptly-named climbs were only the beginning of the stage’s vertical, however.

Riding from Horseshoe Gulch to Keystone Gulch served as a nice break from the day’s climbing. I was excited to ride one of my favorite backyard trails, The Aqueduct, which led riders to aid station 1. It was at this point in my race when I decided to back off the pace in conservation for the rest of the week. From aid 2 to aid 3, along a section of the Colorado Trail, I tried my best to enjoy the flowy singletrack and give my legs a break. During this section, riders climbed the West Ridge logging road, which switchbacks up nearly three miles to the Colorado Trail.

My tactic of slowing down for part of the day paid off, and I was able to climb the last ascent up Rock Island Gulch at full-gas. At the end of the day, I sit in a solid 12th place overall, 15 minutes behind Epic Endurance rider and fellow CU student Sam Morrison in 11th.

After today’s stage, riders are finally over the hill of the week. With two more “honest,” yet difficult stages left, hopefully everyone will be able to make it all the way to their Breck Epic belt-buckle at the end of day 6. Tomorrow, we face the hike-a-bike sensation known as the Wheeler Trail, which climbs up above 12,000 feet en route to Copper Mountain. After this brutal climb (with a snowfield on top), and a wicked fast descent, riders will loop around to Frisco on the bike path and trek south back to Breckenridge on the famous Peaks Trail. Possibly the biggest obstacles of the day will be blisters (from all that hiking) and tourists on the bike path. The Wheeler Loop is one of my favorite day-rides here in Summit, and so I’m excited to see if my time spent recovering today will pay off with another top-10 finish tomorrow.

Kevin Kane fights against a quickly on-setting bonk during Stage 3.

The Impervious Wall of Bonkdom

By:
Kevin Kane
Published:
August 17, 2011, 4:49 BST,
Updated:
August 17, 2011, 17:32 BST

As forewarned, the incoherent rambling has begun

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.

Kevin Kane (Rocky Mountain Factory Team) descends the Colorado Trail before Aid 2.

Singletrack dreams on stage 2

By:
Kevin Kane
Published:
August 16, 2011, 0:56 BST,
Updated:
August 16, 2011, 16:09 BST

Unfortunate racers from Stage 1 get their revenge on the Colorado Trail

During stage 1 of the Breck Epic yesterday, I made good use of other racers' misfortune to ride into second place. Today, the tables turned on me, and proved that karma always has the last laugh.

Stage 2 of the 2011 Breck Epic was a singletrack dream, and a great route for those handful of unlucky racers from yesterday to plot their revenge. After a police car-mandated neutral roll-out up through the Wellington Neighborhood, racers entered a section of Breckenridge’s trail network known as the Golden Horseshoe. This area is aptly named for the extensive gold mining industry that boomed Breckenridge and surrounding areas in the 1800s.

The course climbed sharply off the start and then mellowed out a bit before hitting the wall known to locals as "Heinous Hill." This mile and a half long leg-breaker allowed race leader Fredrico Ramirez, former champion Josh Tostado, and a select group of other riders to break away from a quickly deteriorating main group. Riders like Colin Cares and Macky Franklin fired off some heavy firepower following Ramirez and Tostado in hopes of regaining time after mechanical issues during stage 1.

Of the unlucky riders from yesterday, most rode away unscathed today. Josh Tostado and Colin Cares both rode to top-five finishes after mechanical failure yesterday. Unfortunately, all were not so lucky… Despite riding strong during both stages, Macky Franklin is one rider that has not seen the results he’s hoped for due to mechanical issue. After breaking a cable yesterday and having to shove a rock in his derailleur to find an opportune climbing gear, Macky flatted today, and changed this flat only to miss a turn on course while putting in a solid effort to catch back up to the competition.

After the group break-up on Heinous Hill, riders descended down to the Middle Fork of the Swan section of the Colorado Trail - a flowing singletrack dream which parallels Tiger Road near the Good Times sled-dog facility. Continuing across the North Fork of the Swan, the Colorado Trail climbs up to the top of West Ridge, which served as the main climb of the day. Riders were awarded after this long climb by arguably one of the best descents in Summit County on the CT.

Unfortunately, this descent led to the bottom of another infamous climb, the Vomit Doubletrack, which led to many riders (including myself) cracking on this latter section of the course.

Until this point, I had a fairly good day on the bike, riding in the top 10 and feeling pretty good. The Vomit climb is a mere 10 minutes from my house by trail, and there are many reasons why I never ride it. Today only heightened my hatred for this climb and only ten miles from the finish, I cracked hard. With another two large climbs to go, I tried to settle into some kind of rhythm and refuel, only to acquire a large rusty nail in my rear tire after aid station two. While racing in Breckenridge, one rarely notices the extensive mining history until it’s wreaking havoc on your equipment.

Recovery is key after today’s stage, as stage 3 plays host to what locals refer to as the "Circumnavigation of Mount Guyot." With over 9000 feet of climbing over 45 miles, it is unquestionably the queen stage of the 2011 Breck Epic. If this blog is filled with incoherent ramblings tomorrow, you’ll understand why. Until then, enjoy the ride.

At the start of stage one of the Breck Epic.

Course knowledge counts for nothing on stage 1

By:
Kevin Kane
Published:
August 15, 2011, 5:17 BST,
Updated:
August 16, 2011, 16:06 BST

A solid start on problem free stage

Today’s first installment of the 2011 Breck Epic, The Pennsylvania Loop, seemed to test the rider’s equipment as much as it did their physicality. The loop, which weaves through a combination of the famed Firecracker Fifty loop, and two local Summit Mountain Challenge race courses, climbed 5419 feet over a distance of 39.5 miles. Over the course of the day, it became apparent that tire choice was as pivotal a factor as any other race preparations.

The moderate pace set by the group up Boreas Pass road caused quite a bottleneck funneling into the first singletrack of the day—a local’s favorite known as Aspen Alley. True to it’s name, this trail descended through one of the largest aspen groves in Breckenridge and through some of its founding mine sites. This quick descent spilled into the buttery and oh-so-enjoyable Blue River Trail, which rolled the racers out to the entrance of The Pain Cave (not the actual name, mind you.) From here on, it seemed as though the climbing was never going to end. Even for a seasoned summit man like myself, course knowledge today meant one thing: "I know this climb… and it’s going to hurt." Only time will tell if course knowledge will help me over the week, or if ignorance truly is bliss.

From this first climb of the day, a group of three riders—former U23 National Champion Colin Cares, endurance phenomenon Josh Tostado, and five-time La Ruta de los Conquistadores winner Federico Ramírez—was able to break away from the field. Besides these three, the following riders in the top 10 fought mostly alone; despite many changes going on in placement, passes were rarely followed, and everyone seemed to settle into their own pace for the day. After a long climb up Illinois Gulch, riders opened up onto Boreas Pass road once again, and descended to Bakers Tank, where the conjunction with the Firecracker 50 course began.

After several miles of winding singletrack and worn mining roads, the course dropped into the French Gulch climb, which ultimately leads into the infamous Little French Gulch. Due to a 'gully-washer' earlier in the summer, where a record rainfall flushed much of the two-track down the mountain, Little French was even tougher to climb than usual.

Upon reaching the top, however, many of the top 10 found themselves battling not physically, but rather against the detrimental effects of Breckenridge’s signature baby-head rock-strewn mining roads on their bikes. Just as is seen in the Firecracker every year, flatting became as much a part of this course as anything else, and even the most skilled riders met a heavy contention of sidewall-slicing rocks.

It was in this section of the course that I suddenly found myself, having ridden through without mechanical issue, in contention for a top three spot. After descending the sketchiest of sections known as Rich Gulch, I felt home free, despite 10 miles more of racing. This false sense of security was only heightened when I suddenly found myself climbing on the wheel of none other than Josh "Toast" Tostado. For several seconds, I thought I had ridden my way up to a cracking legend, when, in reality, Josh had slit his sidewall so badly that putting a tube in was out of the question. Josh walked all the way to the third aid station before being able to fix his tire and ride into the finish.

Meanwhile, despite meeting some heavy, confidence-jarring contention from the riders behind, I was somehow able to save my second place on the last (and best) singletrack descent of the day from Sally Barber Mine all the way into Carter Park.

With this newly added weight to my shoulders, it appears that I’ll have a large target on my back for the coming stages. Federico Ramírez won the day by a large margin of over five minutes, though with the large amount of stage racing (and winning) under his belt, he shouldn’t be too fazed. Tomorrow we head over to the beautiful Colorado Trail, where riders who met mechanical issue today will be plotting their revenge on this singletrack-lovers stage.

Author
Breck Epic Blog by Kevin Kane

Kevin Kane is a 20-year-old professional mountain bike racer for the Rocky Mountain Factory Team. He is also the Vice President of the Summit Fat Tire Society, and a creative writing student at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Kane is competing in the 2011 Breck Epic mountain bike stage race in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  Follow his adventures throughout the race here.

Kane has been racing mountain bikes professionally for the last three seasons--ever since he turned 18. He raced in World Cups for the U23 National Team and earned two top-10 finishes at U23 nationals before even turning 20.

After a last minute invitation to do the BC Bike Race this year, he began to focus more on the endurance side of cross country racing, despite his relatively young age among the endurance set. At the BC Bike Race, his first-ever stage race, he pulled off a top-20 solo finish despite mechanical issues and sickness early in the week.