Although sad to see it end, I’ll admit to a slight sense of relief as I woke up early one last time for the last stage of the Breck Epic. Racing, riding, and even just being at altitude is like no experience or exertion I’ve ever felt, and it’s been interesting seeing how my body reacts to such a unique environment. Everyone reacts a bit differently of course, but I found I just never had that extra gear, punch, or ability to turn up the suffering an extra notch. Just riding I was already at maximum exertion and suffering, and I was really surprised just how long it took to recover from even brief efforts out of the saddle. I don’t think I’ve ever sat so much on my seat mountain biking. My ass tells me so anyways. This race certainly exposes you to the extreme highs and lows of riding, and my face muscles are as tired as the rest of my body from smiling and grimacing so much.
Stage 6 was a great way to end the week with less overall climbing and distance than the previous five stages, and knowing there was no racing the following day, one could ride just a little harder since there was nothing left to save for. The course profile consisted of two long climbs and two really fun descents, and while I won’t miss the long climbs, I will miss those long descents and really savoured them on the last day searching for any extra air and the accompanying laughs and whoops wherever I could. As you can probably imagine, the mood at the finish line was quite jubilant as everyone shared congratulations, high fives, and fist bumps, as well as tales of woe and triumph from the week.
The festivities carried through to the awards dinner and banquet. Don’t be fooled by the term “banquet” – mountain biker formal attire consists of everyone wearing their cleanest leftover T-shirt and pants or shorts. Being the bucket of awesome-sauce that she is, Karen and her massive entourage of post-surgery bells and whistles came with us, and she was able to steal a lot of thunder from the top finishers as people came to see how she was doing and wish her well.
For completing the race and riding over 380 km and climbing over 12000 meters over six days, we received a massive Breck Epic belt buckle and a black and white print of a picture the event photographer had taken of you immediately after the first stage. Neat and unique memorabilia for sure. You may remember I pursued a slight detour (i.e., I got lost) on Stage 1, and I think my expression in the photo captures both how happy I was we had finally found the finish that day and generally just how happy biking makes me.
Reflecting back as we’ve been driving home (Wyoming took just as long btw), we all agree the Breck Epic is without a doubt one of the most well-organized and smoothly operated events any of us have ever attended. From registration to shwag (jersey, T-shirt, and socks!) to aid stations to course marking to the final wrap-up, everything was top-notch, and I have no complaints aside from my own inability to function very well physically at altitude. On top of all that, the dollar value was exceptional; registration is up to $300-$400 less than comparable events, and being able to stay in one place for the entire event makes things much more enjoyable and easier logistically.
Finally, it’s been really great travelling and hanging around with Steve, Karen, and John from Hardcore for the last ten days and also good for the heart and soul to just generally hang around people that love bikes. My first trip to Colorado will not be my last, and I would recommend the Breck Epic to any fellow racer or rider. As I’m just getting Edmonton levels of oxygen in my system now, I’ve likely missed a lot in these little reports, and I’d be more than happy to share stories, answer any questions, or give any insight if you’re curious about something. Especially if a beer or two is involved.