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Bishop and Plews lead favorites at inaugural Breck Epic

Evan Plews will be a man to watch at the Breck Epic

Evan Plews will be a man to watch at the Breck Epic (Image credit: Dave McElwaine/trailwatch.net)

The inaugural Breck Epic mountain bike stage race will kick off on Sunday, July 5 in Breckenridge, Colorado, and despite being a first-year event on a crowded calendar of off road stage races, it has drawn a high quality field of competitors.

In the men's side, reigning US National Short Track champion Jeremiah Bishop will be the man to beat. Whether or not Bishop will still be the reigning National Marathon Champion at the time the race starts still remains to be seen. He will be competing in the US Marathon National Championships on Saturday, one day prior to the start of the Breck Epic.

Former top racer Travis Brown and current endurance pros Evan Plews, Harlan Price and Jeff Kerkove will be there to challenge Bishop. Colby Pearce is also expected to attend.

On the women's side, endurance racer Christina Begy will match up against Jen Gersbach. The latter has been having a sort of breakout season at the Mountain States Cup events. Katie Compton will be on hand, but she will not be competing. Instead, she will be supporting husband Mark Legg as he competes in the men's race.

Team Dickie's Rich Dillon and veteran Charlie Hayes will duke it out in the singlespeed category.

Stage four, the circumnavigation of Mt. Guyot, will be the deciding stage," said promoter Mike McCormack. "It's only 45 miles, but they'll be racing at 12,000 feet (elevation) at times and will cross the Continental Divide more than once."

Another tough stage will be stage 2 on the Colorado Trail. "We're having a hard time finding a place for the aid station because the trail is in an area that's so remote." That stage is 43 miles long, but mostly singletrack.

McCormack predicts that altitude will only be a factor among the elite racers. "Most people who are coming here are not here to win. It will, however, play a crucial role among the lead guys. However, I think that that dehydration and recovery will be the two biggest issues." It is difficult for racers to stay hydrated in stage races, particularly at such high altitudes, where the effects of the low humidity and sun's intensity seem greater.

The Breck Epic will run from July 5 to July 10 in and around Breckenridge, Colorado.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.