Skip to main content

Mike McCormack’s leadership and visionary ideas have turned Breck Epic into a global sensation: from its humble beginnings with 87 riders, this event has grown to host over 650 riders from 42 countries. After 11 years, this six-day, 215- to 250-mile race across the high-alpine trail network above Breckenridge now attracts the biggest names in mountain biking and has left its mark on the sport’s history. 

In this episode, I sit down with Mike Mac to talk about the arc of Breck Epic. He shares how he ventured into the world of event and race production, the importance of putting people first, and how he uses humor as a superpower to fuel his race event’s success. Plus, we will uncover the founding principles that guide Breck Epic’s growth, development, and its impact on the sport. 

What makes Breck different? Tune as Mike Mac take us behind the scenes of Breck Epic’s growth and shares some killer advice for starting your own race. Breck Epic is proof that if you put people first, have a passion for what you’re doing, and maintain your integrity, you can have a legendary event with a long-term impact on the sport.

Breck Epic Key Takeaways

  • How Mike uses humor as a superpower how it fuels his race event success
  • The mountain biking microcosm and the importance of putting people first 
  • How Mike ventured into the world of event and race production
  • From humble beginnings to a legendary race, discover the inception of Breck Epic 
  • The founding principles that guide Breck Epic’s growth and development 
  • Uncovering the origins of mountain bike stage races and their evolution 
  • How Mike’s commitment to integrity has steered Breck Epic’s direction and why he didn’t sell
  • Advice for starting your own race 
  • Striking the balance between challenging and fun in race planning 
  • The Women’s Cycling Summit and its impact on the sport

One of the biggest challenges with supplements is that there are so many out there and it’s so difficult to understand and figure out the right ones to take. If you’re looking to level up your health, I highly recommend checking out Previnex and their supplements! Previnex uses the highest quality forms and levels of each and every ingredient, all are manufactured at pharmaceutical grade levels (meaning Previnex does ingredient testing on each and every ingredient, production run testing, and finished product testing). In addition to the quality of their products, I love their mission. Previnex is on a mission to improve health for everyone. For every order or any products, Previnex donates a bottle of their premium children’s multivitamin, Super Vites, to malnourished children throughout the world. To try them out, use the code sonya15 and get 15% off your first order!

Listen Now


Episode Chapters

  • Where did Mike’s sense of humor start? 0:03
  • Mike’s advice to his son. 5:09
  • The importance of forgiving yourself. 11:54
  • When things go wrong, raise your hand. 16:37
  • Central location of the race. 24:19
  • How has the stage race changed over the years? 28:59
  • Wrestling with the polarization of the sport. 33:54
  • Being everything to everyone all the time. 38:45
  • The value of a good race experience. 42:42
  • Advice on starting your own race. 47:53
  • How hard is too hard? 53:06



Sonya 0:03
Mike, whenever I think about you, I immediately think about your sense of humor. Where did this come from? How did you develop it?

Mike 0:15
Wow, it took to the fences with the first question, I have no idea. I I’ve never really thought about it. You just communicate the way you communicate. And I think sometimes the way that I communicate relies a little bit too heavily on Comedy will be kind of just getting to the point. But I think, you know, in the written form, I think we started you know, the Breck epic. Because we didn’t have any money for marketing. We started by writing newsletters, you know, one famously written from a hotel bathroom in Crested Butte while my family is sleeping. It’s a, we wanted to get our point across and be approachable. And writing for me, you know, at its best is fun. And at its worst is a slog, I think it’s like that for most people that put a pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. But we wanted the race to be approachable for you to feel like you’re going to a friend’s house, and that it was going to be fun. And there’s a lot of suffering involved. You can’t think your way through a sort of, it’s like going to a friend’s house and having a home cooked meal and the newsletters, I think, which is where that communication style started, where they themselves went through an arc where they would, you know, pick a target of outrage, and then, you know, riff and riff and riff at the injustice in mountain biking University. We’ve gotten off that as as you know, that’s the Imperial way. I’ve gotten off that. And I’ve tried to communicate a little more authentically, unfortunately, for me authentically is you know, there’s a lot of 12 year old still rolling around in my brain. So that’s what you get. I don’t have a choice. That’s how I arrived there.

Sonya 2:15
I think that humor humor is one of your superpowers and also one of Breck epics superpowers. Before we get into breakout pick, you have been a race promoter for a long time. I moved to Colorado in 2005. I think I saw you at some race versus in bracket Mountain States cup races. When did you start working in the race scene.

Mike 2:37
Um, I helped with event production when I worked for trek bicycles years and years and years ago. And that would have been to mid to late 90s. And then I moved to Breckenridge in the late 90s and got introduced to Jeff Wescott, who became my partner in crime and my my first wife, Ram his first wife, I’m really not sure her husband’s, I guess, doesn’t matter. You know, I learned a lot about how to be married by being a partner with Jeff. He was, he was my jayron. And I was his. And, you know, he’s family to this day. So I think we took over the summit mountain challenge in 1999. And then firecracker launched a year after that, I may be off by a year, he’s better at that than I am. But it was, you know, an active community, to build the mountain bike community and to bring it in and to profit was never really a motive, having fun and engaging with our people was the motive. And from there it was the Mountain States cup with Yeti and then in 2008, I think I read an article from Mike Tarantino about the trans Rockies and now he ripped both of his Achilles and half, you know, hiking up power lines and a pair of CDs. And honestly, this was was the domino moment, or when the other shoe drops, really, however you want to look at it. I thought to myself, Man, we could do better than that. Which is really had the firecracker started also, like there was so much strife and struggle in the mountain bike world and the novice series, and there were a lot of people going back and forth at each other. And the simple premise of we can do better than that. We can be nicer to people, we can make better T shirts, we can treat them to a race and a beer and that like the, the recipe was pretty simple. So yes, sorry, long answer. 1999 is the short answer.

Sonya 4:40
Yeah, it sounds like Community First People First mentality has been really the key to success and a lot of these events that you’ve put on and I can say firsthand, Colorado. I don’t know what it’s like now because I don’t live there anymore. But I lived in Colorado for 10 years and there was a definite mountain biking unity that was incredible. And unlike anywhere I had ever been a part of, and some of these races that you put on were key, a key part of that.

Mike 5:09
Thank you. That’s super cool to hear. I’ve always thought about the Breck epic, you know, to visit the same analogy as inviting people to your house. You want clean sheets, right? You want fresh toiletries to set out, you want their towels to be nicely folded, like, you want to cook food that they like to eat. I think that really gets at the heart of what Jeff and I and then later No, I alone, with epic, trying to create, it’s, we’re all in this together. We’re just mountain biking, we’re not splitting the atom, we’re not curing cancer. But we do. You know, especially in a prolonged race, like the epic. You can’t be a bad guy and have a good week. Because there’s 400 or 449 other people that are going to see you for you. So there’s opportunity in there to embrace your better angels. And to realize it’s a long race, no one’s gonna win by 10 seconds. So your manners out there matter. And you have space and within bread, too. I think not everybody needs this. But I know that I do like it sometimes to be a better version of myself. Like I think about this. You have kids, you know, they see everything and your kids. They’re still in the forgetty stages right away with more. But I have like regrets as a dad, like, I wish I could go back and do things over and better and be kinder and more thoughtful. I got a great piece of advice from Brian Dylan’s dad. I don’t know if you remember Brian. He was pro from Durango. He raced for Topeka, Oregon for a year. This guy who always had a false tooth in the front. So for his epic portraits, he would always take his to get out and have this huge, beautiful smile without a tooth in it. It was awesome. And I was telling his dad at like stage three or four, the epic. And I love your son, he is a pro’s pro. He is. Yeah, he’s a professional mountain biker who’s also a teacher in his real life. Like that gets a lot of points for me. But he’s also like, really, really professional. And to me, like the manners being a professional manner, conducting yourself like a pro. And he said something to me in that moment. He’s like, You have kids? It’s like, oh, you have two? A’s? Like, do you want some advice, and I like both of my ears snap forward, like a German Shepherd. Yeah, I want some advice. I think my kids were like maybe nine and seven or nine and six at that time. And he said, I wish I would have yelled less. And whatever amazing piece of parenting advice to put the moment in perspective. And that piece of advice has become sort of a North Star for me is is to try to be graceful. And to be less than the poopy Micmac. You know, goofy Micmac is definitely in there. But be gracious with people. You know, a lot of things going wrong in a week like epic. You know, this, like you need to be pretty lucky to finish, let alone finish well. And you got to roll with the punches. And one of the things that you can control is making sure that they’re spreadsheets, making sure towels are folded, making sure that people when they have problems or moments and we all have them road the moment and have thick enough skin and brought enough shoulders to just realize. Let them get it out, you know and make them feel heard. I think that’s what we try to do is give people some autonomy in the process make them feel valued. i That’s where we are. I’ve been talking for a long time I forgot the question. I should have written it down.

Sonya 9:17
Well, I’m going to comment on something you said that like Well, I think he’s sort of saying like, Hey, we’re not curing cancer here. This is a mountain bike race. But mountain biking is a microcosm for life. And a lot of the skills that we learn in mountain biking applies to parenting applies to anything. And something that you said was being gracious with people and being gracious with yourself and not being the person yelling and not listening to other people. That’s hard to do. It’s easy to say but hard to do. So when you’re in a moment when someone’s complaining to you and you’re tired and you’ve been pulled in 1000 directions and you are creating that space how do you do that? How did you practice that?

Mike 9:57
I leave every every break epic with all List of 1000 things in my brain that we could do better that I want to improve on for the next year. And always at the top of the list is a moment where I feel like I should have behaved better, made a better decision consulted the people around me, I went through a period, I think for a couple of years where at where I thought, you know, I’m just gonna decide it’s easier that way. And I made a decision one year during a rain cancellation day that, you know, it just didn’t go over well. And I realized that it ran against the founding principles of where we came from we used to, we had problems in the field, someone who wasn’t nice, or something that would typically put our race Junior, like we talked about it at the nightly meeting. And there were always a couple of pros, men and women who spoke up and said, Hey, there’s no perfect answer here. But this is maybe how should we should deal with this going forward, and it’s not perfect, but let’s all agree that it’s the best we could do. And Travis Brown was one of those people who can’t Nash became one of those people. Kobe Pierce raised with us for several years. There are a few men and women who won the jersey that had patrol written on it in invisible ink, we’ve been blessed to have those people. They serve as object lessons, you know, of how to not let the moment get away from you. It’s going to and I think intent matters. I can I have a list of top 10 moments I’d like to take back where I spoke more strongly than I needed to I think that really, family i That’s my Achilles heel is just like, by Thursday, I’m pining for I haven’t slept like 10 hours in seven days and stuff, it always happens. And I’m not as good as I would like to be. And I’m probably hungry and you forgive yourself and you move on. And forgiving yourself doesn’t give you a hall pass. It’s not just get out of jail free card. It really for me is like raising my kids be better. You know, and you are your own best teacher have your objective about it. And if you’ve behaved you’ve gotten a c minus or D or Carter to get an A, you know, learn the lesson. So how do you deal with it? I feel like from the hip sometimes, Sonia. You know, there’s a lot of on the fly human interaction. And you try to remember that it’s important to be cool to people and to hear them. And when you don’t live up to that standard. Be honest with yourself. It’s a great conversation on the NBA on TNT last night and you know, the TNT has tried to recreate that broadcast booth with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. And Kenny and Ernie, which has great chemistry, and Shaquille and Charles Barkley, we’re talking about having mentors. Like elder statesman for Charles Barkley was Julius Erving Dr. Jay, and Barkley in the beginning of his career for the Sixers are having a hard time deal with criticism. And Dr. Jay told him Is it real? You know, is it valid, and if it’s a course it hurts your feelings, all of it does. But if it’s valid, you know, figure out how to sit with it. So you as a parent have the same points that I as a parent have in my head, listen to that voice when you think maybe you haven’t done it your best and try to be better. Nobody gets an A. Or I’ll get an A when you try for it. And intent matters.

Sonya 13:44
Yeah, that’s really great perspective and the power of intent, the power of listening and also not letting yourself off the hook. But giving yourself Grace whenever you do screw up because it will happen to all of us.

Mike 13:57
I got a list from today. I need to do better over or you know, mowing the lawn returning emails. Right? You have to find a place of peace with that, that very rarely do you get an A. So

Sonya 14:17
what are the founding principles of the Breck epic

Mike 14:23
big rides with friends, like that’s the vibe. It’s a race but you know that it’s a race you’re you’re going against other people you’re going against yourself. By the end of the week, you know you’re going against the clock and your own body and trying to finish the race with your gas tank empty. So the founding principles are to create great courses. They don’t have a lot of backcountry endurance mountain biking anymore. So we A little bit of a unicorn. It is really an international race, you know, a third of our field crosses and ocean to get here. And another third comes from Alberta. Alberta. Oh yeah, we’re third, a third and a third, third international third 40. Plus other states in the third from the mountain reaching some Colorado, Utah, Wyoming. We just have to care, you have to care about people’s experience when they’re here. And I think by nature, I’m a pleaser like I have been since I was a little kid, that’s part of my personality profile. Not that I’ve ever taken a personality profile, but I’m guessing it’s in there. Care about whether the salsa you made tastes good. Care about organic tomatoes, like care about chopping the onions correctly, of all little things that add up to a neat experience on site. You want people to go home thinking, Man, the writing was fun. And they seem to really like doing it. That’s what I want to go home with. When I want you to go on with as a writer. That’s what Jeff and I started with you bring your bike, we’re going to worry about everything else. And firecracker is a great testament to that, like it’s the best 50 mile race in the world. Agree because of those. So thank you, for Jeff, that name and for a lot of years now. But add that that’s the guiding light. Care about what you do. It’s not all going to go right. And when it doesn’t go right. Raise your hand. You know, my boss, backbone media taught me this great lesson, which really just build hope this was thinking I already had, but he was like, hey, like I was going through a sort of a copywriting learning arc with with pen and Ian and Nate there and was like, hey, when when you have success, you should always speak in the way we did this, you know, attribute your success to the team. And man, the breakup is like that, like it is a team effort. We have six different big organizational subgroups. Like it doesn’t happen by accident or in a vacuum. When something goes wrong, though, stand out. At some point, if you go far enough back in the timeline, you made a decision that allowed something wrong to happen. You didn’t prepare correctly, you didn’t give employees enough information enough clear direction, like all the fault rests with you. So that again, you know, it was a great, great observation about how to write graciously. But it also is a larger statement about life, you’d be accountable. And the next day isn’t that many miles and that many riders like you’re just you’re not going to bat 1000. So when you don’t be gracious about it. And it’s amazing how how much grace you get in return from people when like we’ve had some complaints about things that we didn’t manage? Well, and there have been those moments over the years. And when we raise our hand and say, Yeah, we could have handled that better. And in some cases next year we will. People been really cool about it to hear Yeah, no, that’s not us. You’re right. And what a great way to defuse a problem and move past it and be better. Because, collectively, we’re a lot smarter than we are individually and you have to be open to the possibility that you are the final authority on everything.

Sonya 18:51
Now my friend Travis Macy said life is a team sport.

Mike 18:56
Hockey is also a team sport for basketball, volleyball. Yeah, life for sure. It takes a village.

Sonya 19:04
The cool thing about this race and just racing in general is that, like you said, there’s lots of lessons here lots of through lines, like even you’re talking about running a business like that’s, that’s a big through line, what it means to be a leader. I wanted to actually ask you though I didn’t get a chance. Where did the idea of the Breck epic come from? Because I did it for the first time in 2010, which I believe was it second year. And I had never heard of a stage race before. And I don’t know you know, who was the first to come up with the stagers but that was certainly the first one I had ever heard of. So you know, where did this idea come from?

Mike 19:41
Well, the French the Swiss, the Italians, you know, the classics in Europe. And we were all we grew up in a generation that became inspired. Excuse me, first by Greg Lamar on and then by Lance Armstrong and sort of everyone in between, and their accomplishments. No matter what you may think about them are notable. And it takes a lot of sacrifice. And just an incredible amount of mental strength to do that. I was in Breck at the time, I think this was probably the kernel of the idea started in 2007 and 2008. And it really did start with that article by Mike Sorrentino about racing, the trans Rockies, I think stage racing in the world as we know it, and the South Africans might have a different take on this because it’s really pretty mature. They’re

Sonya 20:35
crazy. They’re it’s I’ve done a couple of stage races in South Africa, and everybody is so into it. And there’s so many people.

Mike 20:45
I love them to death. Cape epic has a totally different take on production value and the moving village. And like I look at the footprint, like the aerial photographs of their production, and I’m throwing away like there’s a spark of divinity in every human and every event and we’re great at, I think identifying what we love about other events and trying to cross pollinate ours with those ideas. I think some of our ideas are original and unique. Some of them are childish and fun. And we land in this neat place in the middle where we are our own thing. Like we’re not big, but we’re not small. Like when you when you come to Breck epic, like it’s big enough that it feels like a real mountain bike race. But it’s small enough to communicate sort of the depth of that backcountry experience, like you may be. You may have people in sight for the first 10 miles, but after that, like it thins out, and you have some time alone out there. And I think that’s really how to break up. It came about like we looked at the trans Rockies and what Aaron McConnell was doing. He’s a super neat human. And I think the BC bike race guys also have a great product. And I love that we’re all different. But I think Aaron was probably the first in North America. And I read Mike’s article, and I was in bracket very involved in open space and advocacy at the time. And all of those sort of interests converged. I read Mike’s article, and I thought, you know, jealousy has been a powerful motivator for me for a long time. And just like, hug Ignatius Lurker grade competitiveness, I want to do better than them. I’m still getting by on that. Like, that’s a point of pride to just at least try anyway. Breck is surrounded by millions of acres of open space. And there’s a compelling story there about the how the local land managers, there’s some of that to our society, the friends, Ranger District have all sort of collaborated together and gone through some difficult sausage making to create and preserve this trail network that is it’s accessible to mountain biking reliably for about three months out of the year. And I thought when I looked at transrockies, well, we can do that. Without the shuttles. We can do it from here. Like monarch crest is this great ride in Colorado? You’ve probably written it a dozen times. And when I lived in Bragg, I always used to think why would I go to Mark crest? I can do a ride that good from my house in six different directions. And that’s the Breck epic, right? It’s huge rides. That you really, you’re riding with the same people all week, they become your people. They become your supporters. When you’re down like you become tears when they’re down. It really is a neat way to build this big 500 person village composed of a lot of different clusters of tiny or huts. Aaron was first I think we were second BC was probably there about the same time. And there’s space enough for all of us. I mean, the South Africans are Gonzo about stage races, right. There’s there’s a bunch of good ones out there. I think we’re one of them.

Sonya 24:19
Yeah, something that I really like about the Breck Epic is that central location? Because a lot of stagers is it’s it’s fun and an adventure to move a lot. But if you want your family to come or you’re intimidated by moving around, that is makes it so much easier now that the race is easy. And number two, I’ve had the luxury of being able to raise my bike all around the world. And you will not find how high alpine singletrack like you do in Colorado and then finding it all in six directions like you do in Breckenridge. And for me, that was the first stage race I ever did. And I’ve done I don’t even know like I’ve done at least 30 stage races. I was trying to count them up and I just have no idea how many I’ve done and it’s Started with the Breck epic. And there hasn’t been a race that I found like the Breck epic because of the adventure aspect, and because of the challenge, but it’s just enough challenge and the type of challenge where you finish the day and you’re like, I don’t know if I would ever go out and do that quote for fun on my own. But dang, I am so proud that I was able to do that.

Mike 25:22
But yeah, you would just wouldn’t do six home in a row. I didn’t hear a question there. But there’s like health lens. Thank you. Do you know about I have this theory. It’s called the burrito sadness. And

I’ll tell you about my tea dog theory later. But the burrito sadness is like when you get a burrito, and you take the first couple bites, and you’re just filled with endorphins, right because burrito, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

Sonya 25:55
I hope there’s Glock in the first couple of bites folks, it’s sucks when it’s at the bottom.

Mike 26:00
And I don’t like my mix like they do at some of the places like I really like PC to be. I like it to be like a little bit of a box chocolates inside. Anyway, I always taking the first couple bites of my burrito, and I’m just awash in joy. And then like the doppelganger or not the doppelganger sort of the counterweight. I just realized this is going to be gone pretty soon. I have sadness that I won’t be eating a burrito in 15 minutes. I think about that like like how I draw the analogy, it was trying to figure out what I was trying to make. With a cloverleaf design like ours like you can figure out a great sushi place we got two of those possibly three you can figure out where the not the desk of us in Colorado, the best cookies in the world are mountain top cookie shop. Used to be Mary’s mountain cookies, and you don’t leave Mary’s mountain cookies behind like you can go there next night. It’s a it’s a neat way to embrace like Breck for I mean, it’s an economic engine the size of Whistler. It’s huge. In terms of the rooms available. The experience you can have though, like like really finding the places you love and a small mountain town, which still is neat. I come on journalist we’re trying to, like pit us against some of the other stage races with with shuttles and camping. And I really try to avoid that comparison. I think that there’s sort of a romantic, like BC bike race, you know, you’re on ferries, and being like a lot of the country. Me personally, I don’t want to do that. But I can appreciate the experience, but stayed in the same place. It allows you to focus on your bike and less on logistics.

Sonya 27:57
Yeah, do you see my grace? Unfortunately, they don’t do the ferries anymore. And I think they’re trying to find their stride. They had it in the Okanagan last year, which is where I used to live. And then this year, it’s only on the island. But there’s still a lot of really good things to be had there. But there is a lot of logistical challenges with having ferry rides for sure.

Mike 28:18
I think that’s good. For some people, I think. I’m not saying that our experience is better. I’m certainly not saying that theirs is worse, I’m saying that they’re different. And the terrain there is phenomenal. And trans Rockies terrain is phenomenal. The high alpine stuff that we offer is phenomenal. Everything in the North Shore that magazine, formerly known as bike used to love, you know, we get to the exclusion of everything else. It’s been like sometimes it’s phenomenal. What we have is just different. And varieties is the spice of life. So I basically by grace, come to us the year after and you’ll go to hair and the year after that. You will come back to us for sure.

Sonya 29:10
How has this changed over the years because I mean, I haven’t found pictures of myself because I did it also in 2011. And then I’ve done it. I did it again last year. I look at pictures of myself from 2010 2011. And I look at the bike that I was riding and the technology has in cycling has changed so much. There’s like aren’t these little bars and it’s 26 inch bike. And I have to imagine that the art of stage racing. I look at the art of the bike, the physical art of the bike, like how is the art of the stage race changed over time?

Mike 29:42
Will you look the same, like you’re possibly getting younger, which is crazy. The rest of us are getting older.

Sonya 29:51
I’m getting older.

Mike 29:53
That was Paul Rudd’s response to that a comment like that he’s like I feel awful on the inside. So, um, equipment has certainly changed like they those are the very visible top line items like no one’s writing 26 wheels anymore 26 inch wheels. Nobody has a triple chain ring. Everyone has a dropper post, almost everyone’s writing a full suspension bike. And all of them go uphill pretty well. The the stage race component, I mean, we diversify a little bit, we try to give people more data points. So the epic enduro is a way to stop slicing, we’re going to do a little bit of a mini epic this year, like just to eight a one and back and it won’t be very competitive, but it will be just a way to get a taste. And that’s a, you know, 12 mile ride every morning. That’s the ride. How has it changed? We’ve seen money come and go. I think the cautionary tale of 24 hour racing is always in my mind, like when will the fad be over? And for me? I don’t know the answer to that. And I know that the only thing I can do about it is to continue to try and do a good job to have little wrinkles every year. That surprise and delight people that I think every year, more or less we do. The courses are pretty much the same as as they were made in 2009. That was year one timings the same. It’s a GCM format, you know, we have a GranFondo carrier category, we learned to always invite people back into the race, like they may have a bad day and need to drop out, we need to find a way to get them back in. But that change came really early. You know, I think 2010 or 11 different categories. I think event producers right now are struggling with gender issues, how to be good human beings, how to honor an already disadvantaged group of humans. And this is like, like the third rail of bicycle racing is to even have these conversations. And it’s because they’re really hard. And people are very polarized. And they’re my sense is that there’s a huge group of people in the middle, who want to talk about it, and have some heartache about how it’s rolling out. Because change is hard. And nobody knows the answers. But I think that we don’t see a lot of that we don’t have, we’ve had a trans category for a couple of years. non binary non conforming, like there’s a lot of we throw it out there to have input on how we deal with it. Personally

I’m not sure if you heard that, but my series just went off in my good. We are seeing, you know, crazy societal swings right now. So we want to be sure that everyone feels welcome. And I feel really strongly about that. Because no matter how you identify, it doesn’t matter who you worship, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, it doesn’t matter. You know, it just doesn’t matter. And my response to that. I don’t care if you’re gay. Sounds pretty callous, right? i It’s just that I don’t care, it doesn’t matter to me. I matter. I care about the quality of your character. And I typically don’t see very beyond that, like, I don’t see beyond that. So we’re wrestling with these issues. And it’s not just stage racing, that’s cycling and, and sport and athletics. And we have some very polarized voices coming from every side, trying to figure out how we’re putting a second sheet of ice locally. And to use an example and everyone has an opinion. It needs to go here and they’re drawing a line in the sand, you know, to defend their viewpoint. And I just sat in a board meeting and said, Listen, we need to listen to everybody, and we need to be okay. wherever it lands, we’re going to have this second sheet of ice and these people have the money and they have an outsized voice and where it lands. The important thing is the sheet of ice. The important thing is that bike racing continues. The important thing is that people feel welcome. And unfortunately, I think those conversations are loaded right now. And maybe that’s how they should be, you know, shouldn’t be easy to get back country permit. You should really need to justify your existence and get to find solutions for some of these societal conversations, we need to have hard conversations. But some people could really take their foot off the gas, about, you know, throwing in a mix a bunch of metaphors here. Some of the input is in helping, you know, and there’s the obvious people like that, that super bigoted and racist people out there, they don’t help anything, are getting really far afield. There’s a lot of outrage about their about everything. So we try to keep our heads down when it is okay to do that. And sometimes you also have to stand up and defend people who deserve defending and ask for understanding that we don’t have perfect solutions sometimes. And that that’s okay, we’re all going to arrive at the same place together. 10 years from now, 20 years from now, wherever you want people to come to your funeral, or when they light your longboard on fire, or whatever it is.

And say, You know what? He was gonna ask a little bit, man, he really tried to not be one,

or whatever, like you want people to know that you can. So how’s stage racing changed? Society’s changed a little bit. I think stage racing is mostly the same. We’re using the red chip timing now like that’s, you got you got more than you bargained for with that answer.

Sonya 36:31
No, I think that was a really important and a really great answer. And it does tie in to what you said at the very beginning of, we need to listen to people. That’s the goal of your organization at the Breck epic listen to people don’t just make decisions, having grace and also trying things and making mistakes along the way and with the best intentions, and then to learn from that and to keep, keep going. And that’s how the race has changed. That’s how society has changed. But there needs to be more grace around some of these changes in conversations.

Mike 37:01
Yeah. They’re just, there wasn’t any easy answers. And maybe it’s been like this for as long as there have been questions. But typically, the answers that the questions that we’ve seen over the past decade, are really, really layered and nuanced. And there’s enough air in the room to accommodate more than just want a perspective. And to find peace with that. I’m talking to everybody. And we’re not talking about there being some very good people on one side, like there are people out there that really are. And they’re not welcome, right, we got a rule for that. And we have pretty good compliance, we really do, I think, because we set clear expectations. And we’ve been saying that for 15 years. Like if you’re someone who’s real, real fussy and real, not nice. We’re not the race for you. And I haven’t really sent people home over the years, send them home, like how many Give me your money back and send you away. And a couple cases, women which is really surprising, there’s so hard to deal with, and never been to it’s too late. And we have like a black book or a blacklist blacklist for people on it. Two women and two men,

Sonya 38:26
like they type in Breck epic, and they can’t even get to the website. address has been blocked.

Mike 38:33
It’s not there tattooed in my brain. That’s where it lives. I wish I could lock their IPs. They’re not interested in us anymore. We’re not their cup of tea, which is fine works out for everybody.

Sonya 38:45
I think that’s another important lesson is that a lot of us think that we need to be everything to everyone. Or we need to create a product that is for everyone. And you can’t do that. There’s just no way to be everything to everyone all the time.

Mike 39:00
That’s true. I think that speaks to you know, we started talking about the Ark of the epic and I’ve wanted it to be different things over the years. I wanted it to be America’s quid mountain bike race. I wanted there to be a huge purse I wanted us to be a UCI event. I wanted us to be the forbidden race that the UCI was making a stink about and what I found after all of that, you know like finding our path is that Brian to be something based on being mad at something else was a poor foundation. I think we’ve been lucky in that. You know the your guests in our house thing is in pretty consistent theme since day one. But what I found after all these years was that adopting that you’re a guest in our house philosophy really was the thing like the work is the reward. Doing a good job is the point at And it’s not about the person, it’s not about UCI points. And I love those things that we may have them again, but they won’t be the primary driver. It matters less to me about people acknowledging that we have these great stories unfolding over the course of a week, you care about them, and we do a good job telling them people will find them. And that’s enough. But I no longer, I think, need the validation of other people seeing that and saying it really boils down to us, if they’re interesting stories, we should find a way to tell them. And if we do a good job of that, everything will work out. So that mean, I think that is the arc, it’s we’ve come full circle.

Sonya 40:43
You said that you guys are definitely a people first profit second. You’ve told me that seven organizations have tried to buy the Breck epic, and in a world of races being bought up by a lot of different organizations, Ironman lifetime, to name a few. How did you make those decisions? Because I’m sure it was difficult when somebody is offering you a pile of money for your race. And it’s something you’ve had to work super hard at. And maybe it’s maybe it is or it isn’t as profitable as you would have liked. How do you make those decisions on whether to sell it or not?

Mike 41:20
It’s a means to refine that. I think it’s 6.57. And it’s instances not 6.5 people and it’s an important distinction, at least to me. Yeah, yeah. Sorry. Oh, Sonya, it’s this. It’s Have you ever heard or read the book, the Prophet, it’s typically a graduation book. And there’s a great line in there as a quote, work is love made visible. And love made visible can take a lot of forms, may or may not be getting the quote, exactly right. But the answer to your question is that the Breck Epic is a labor of love. It is a way to show people a place that’s meaningful and special, and riders within the race, get to visit these back country, cathedrals, their places quiet worship, where you got there under your own power. And that is a magnificent thing. You get it with brothers and sisters, and like that enriches the experience. It’s not that I’m opposed to sell it. And I think if people knew that the numbers being tossed around the they would think we’re crazy for not selling it. But at the end of the day, I think the vision that those people had for the event is different from ours. In some cases, it came down to size. In other cases, like they wanted the event to be much bigger. And I just don’t think that that’s a good athletic experience. I don’t think that’s good for the trail system. But it really comes back to I want you Sonia, to have a good time out there. And I think that if you’re out there with 999 other people that the good time left 500 People go probably more. So we said no, I there’s I still think I think there are there ways to make money with a race. And we’ve learned a lot from some of the people that we’ve gone down the due diligence process with like, we’re smarter about our business because of these interactions. And I like to think that most of those people are still friends. It was a respectful though. It wasn’t a calculated, you know, David versus Goliath thing. But their vision, you know, diverged from ours about what was important. And at some point, you know, when when someone comes along with the sack of money, it helps get me back in and Breck epic Jr. through college. Like, I don’t want to be hanging bettors when I’m 75. But it needs to be in tune with the sensibility of the community. So my county is very stewardship and conservation base like the trails need to endure. And I subscribe to those values. It’s and I think for me that that’s, you know, we can’t get past that part of the conversation. If we can’t get past that, then we don’t have a conversation. And there are other ways to to generate revenue with an event like ours. Unfortunately, we stopped at a bunch of them. We’re not great at raising sponsorship money. This situation that we’re with BRAC No, we can’t write a huge host venue agreement because we don’t have TV coverage and exposure in you know, faraway markets, televised markets. I get those things. There are a couple other streams of revenue that all events rely on, you know, registration Obviously, merchandise, will do a better with your merchandise, especially registration is better. The answer is not always going to be no, but the conditions need to be right. And the first bar that needs to be cleared is that I need to evaluate what someone wants to do at the event and feel pretty good that the community is going to be okay with it. Because doing good work, there matters to me, I don’t want to see my labor of love killed because people ran roughshod over the land managers and permit approval people or whoever. So not yet. Maybe sometime in the future? Probably not anytime soon.

Sonya 45:50
Yeah, just the amount of integrity that you have, and your vision for Breck. Like, I don’t think a lot of people are able to make decisions in the same way that you did. And it can be really challenging to stand up for what you believe in, whenever there is a big paycheck that could impact your family in a big way.

Mike 46:14
We think about that, you know, these are decisions, discussions that my wife and I have about what’s right, what’s wrong, you need to look at those things through a longer lens. If someone offers us, you know, six times what are our houses worth? We’re gonna take that money, believe me, but it doesn’t impact anyone other than us. Right? So I think race like the epic, I humbly believe that it makes mountain biking better. Like, it’s a part of the fabric, it adds to the amazingness of us, I love who we are, what we do, every aspect I love people are recumbents it’s and I have loved those things since I was a little boy. You know, I had a father who was an awful role model in every way except that one. And we’re not saints, you know, we definitely make our share of mistakes. But it matters, you know, that the community looks at us and thinks that we’re doing a good job. And I want the event to live on, when I’m no longer part of it. And I think it’s it’s like your notes of adoption there. You want to make sure that the adoptive parents are, you know, they’re not Chainsmokers or Seward, serial killers or anything.

Sonya 47:44
So, one thing that I wanted to ask you is I’m looking at the time like, I feel like we could do a very long podcast talking about breakout, because there’s so much to talk about. But if someone’s listening, and they’re thinking, I really have this, this sense of reverence for my community and my trails out my back door, and I want to start my own race. What advice do you have for somebody that wants to start their own race?

Mike 48:07
Obviously, during the winter, another competitor? I think I don’t know about advice. I’m careful about advice, because everyone’s reality is very different. I have some standard parenting advice that’s, you know, ubiquitous and non offensive, you know, sense of humor. He preserved date night, get a yoga ball. And like that’s it. I don’t know. The first one is listen to

Sonya 48:37
Paul. Is it for date night? Is it?

Mike 48:42
Wow. Yeah, you just knocked me off my mind thought track Nice job.

Sonya 48:48
How to start your own race.

Mike 48:50
How to start your own race. Listen to everybody. key piece of parenting advice was a great piece of advice in life. Listen to everybody. Listen to yourself, listen to your baby, make a decision with those last three people in mind that people think that their advice starts with the capital A, that’s not true. So we try to go through with the epic like that. Listen to everybody, you know, you have to build consensus. And that would be my advice to anyone wanting to do this for themselves. You know, do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it for money. Because sometimes there’ll be a pandemic, sometimes there’ll be rain, you know, sometimes economy will crash. A deal for love. You know, do it because you love doing what you do do it because it matters to you. And then that’s getting dangerously close to advice. But that that’s what’s worked for us more or less. And also, I think I got lucky in that I had just an enormous amount of obliviousness about how hard it would be and sometimes mislabeled. That is competence. I knew I could do it. And that’s not true. It just never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it more accurate. If you want everyone to have custom water bottles, and nameplates, all that standing in between you and making that happens time, and the ability to figure out how to make it happen, or to have someone else help you figure out how to make it happen. Like every cool thing that you want to do. I get diagnosed with ADD at 41, which answered so many questions about why some things were so hard, and other things were so easy, which is why I’m good at some aspects of being a race promoters that have fielded so many self imposed curveballs over the years that I’m not flustered very much by curveballs. It’s some you can do it, you know, don’t have a healthy amount of fear about keeping people safe, like your trains need to run on time. You need to really, really, be very cautious with risks that you take with other people. But trust that you can do it, or at least suspend disbelief, which I really believe is how it happened for us. Now I couldn’t reduce six days, sure I’m gonna get some people together. And you love where you are. And you think you have something neat to show people. There are really worse foundations to build something cool on. It doesn’t need to be six days. Maybe it’s just one day, you know, who races kind of float to the top. And you can see the ones you can see the ones they’re getting by on resources. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And you can also see the ones that are getting by just on adoration, like the people who produce them love them. Those dynamics seem to be helping. So yeah, go ahead. Don’t think that you can’t.

Sonya 52:12
And how hard is too hard? Because I’m sure that that there is a range of picking how hard you should make a stage in a race or even a single day race. And that range is pretty broad. So like how do you make that decision?

Mike 52:27
Great question like her Cova has been nagging me to do a point to point Breck epic, like all six stages in a row. And after talking with our permanent partners, they’re like, Yeah, I don’t see why not. That this year, and like that’s too hard, right? Like the COVID is that job crew who are just born to suffer. But you’re also a neat storytelling aspect. Go ahead.

Sonya 52:52
I’m just smiling because I’ve I’ve been along for some of those suffering moments.

Mike 53:00
Yeah, and crazy and sleep deprived and cranky. How hard is too hard? Quality Matters. Integrity. Of course, design matters. You can avoid doing hard things in a race like epic you can award avoid the hard climbs.

Sonya 53:19
And that’s the point to you want it to be hard, like so people remember it?

Mike 53:24
Yeah, there’s it needs to be hard. That’s the whole point. But not punitive. ly hard. No Wheeler, I think a lot of people put in the punitively hard category, and I don’t disagree with them, like you get to a place that

Sonya 53:39
I disagree.

Mike 53:41
Good for you. You’re tougher than most humans. You’ve seen it, you get to a place that’s moon like it’s ethereal. You know, just like not many people in the history of the world have ever been up there.

Sonya 53:54
And argue for a second about about the why people think wheelers too hard. It’s because people have a bad attitude about hike a bike. And once you can wrap your head around the fact that you’re going to be pushing your bike to the top of a super cool mountain. And then you get to have the best time of your life descending, then it’s not that bad. Like it’s just people’s expectations and deciding in advance of pushing your bike is annoying. Once you change your mind about that it opens up so much for you.

Mike 54:22
Clear expectations, right? You’re going to be pushing your bike for an hour, the view is going to be pretty good the whole time.

Sonya 54:27
Right and it’s gonna be fun,

Mike 54:29
right and you’re gonna be able to smell bacon for the last half hour and then you’re going to descend and then you’re going to climb again which is where the bacon is. How hard is too hard it’s like a base chart when you’re going to Dave’s hot chicken he’s like reverse pretty hot like you don’t want to get people rebirth. But spicy to extra spicy I think Because the sweetspot like, you get to find enough bulk in the participation pyramid, because like you can’t run an event like the mega epic, because they’ll be just like 20 dudes and two girls who show up. And like, that’s not a good business model. Unless you have helicopters and outside TV and the Discovery Channel, like we don’t have that. So hard enough. I think intensity is a layer that matters. Like, we used to divide races into beginner sport expert and Pro. Those are pretty easily understood like a reasonably fit sport class rider. They’ll suffer, but everyone’s suffering. But they can do it. We’ve had 70 year old humans, men and women across the finish line. Art is good heart is the point. Like you want to, you want to show people the face of their god out there a little bit and have them have a moment of clarity about what they’re capable of. That’s the point and grinding them into paste hurting them. That’s not the point. You want to send them home. Healthy, happy and hungover. particular job, right? Like there’s like, the hotel always asked us Do you want to bring a bar out to the nightly meetings? And like, No, you’re gonna sell three beers because like our people like to say like, there’s a healthy nightlife in BRAC. And I like to advertise the event of the town council as all my people are asleep by nine. Nobody’s stabbing anybody outside of Cecilia’s because they’re too tired for that. Thing sevens different artists you are. You just know, you know, it needs to be fun. There needs to be payoffs in every stage. It needs to be fun riding. And the intensity part is hard. When you’re you’re at the pointy end of a pro field. That’s pretty hard. No matter how far the race is. So sorry, as you make it.

Sonya 57:09
Three H’s of Breck epic, healthy, happy hungover.

Mike 57:12
A little bit, a little bit. Some of yours a lot hungover. But just on Saturday.

Sonya 57:20
Well, thanks for taking the time to hang out with me and chat Breck epic. I’ve definitely got to spend a lot of time hearing you tell really funny stories and entertaining stories. I think I’ve done three Breck epics. And looking forward to making it number four this year? Where can people sign up for the race? And is there anything else that you want to share?

Mike 57:41
Thank you. I think people should know about the project that you and I are working on the women’s cycling Summit, which really started out of a conversation that you and I and Kat Nash had last year about. We know the women’s participation that epic lags behind other races. And I think it’s because it’s emanating. And you know, the more guys who are racing, the fewer women you’ll have, because guys are sometimes their own worst enemy. And the thing that guys want most is more women on bikes, right? Like, it’s it’s everything, you know, the center cannot hold, breaks apart and stops making sense. But I don’t know that we sat down with, we advertised, like, just to get together with you. And Kat and Rebecca gross. And, you know, 1560 women showed up and we shot the shit. And I sat in the back and took notes I really wanted to listen. And then you and I talked afterwards, and both sort of had this. That was really cool observation. So we talked about some of the things that you had in a fire and we decided to work towards a women’s cycling Summit, where we could talk about successes, and discuss some of the challenges and explore some of the solutions. So you and I have this cool side project called the women’s cycling Summit. It is launching at the Breck epic this year. It’s three days of just that people we admire for the bike and outdoor industry at clinics skill skill clinics break X box and it’s I think it’s gonna be fun and our partners are all there and you know yet he’s on board and orange steals our board. Shimano is on board. It’s eight Gu Stelly like they’re all presenting something at this event. Whoa, you know your partner. We had a really nice talk with them. They’re coming on board for the women’s leggings on Wednesday, so mostly free. August 14 15th and 16th had Breck epic HQ which is a beautiful resort seven race

Sonya 59:48
the last three days you can do best and I’m doing I’m going to be at women’s cycling summit and then race the last three days of the break epic.

Mike 59:56
Yeah, you can mostly Oh my just sort of, we’re gonna have to, we have to give you a whole passage on the last day of the women’s cycling Summit. I think we can do that. Registration is live, you know, we have this refund policy, that’s a legacy item that’s very, very generous. We’re currently in the deferral stage of our refund policy. But we have enough people deferring that we can keep letting people in, and you can register at Breck, the women’s cycling summit, I think we’ll have some things you need to sign up for. So we can just keep numbers but it’s free. And now that I’m back from traveling for hockey with mini Mac, I can actually get the schedule up. I think that’s it tomorrow, I think women’s cycling

Sonya 1:00:46
Yeah, thanks so much for your support. It’s been really fun to work on that with you. And I’m really excited about everyone’s experience when they come to our house for that as well.

Mike 1:00:57
Thank you. I feel the same way. It’s been a really fun project. This talk feels like most of the talks we have long and rambling and sometimes we should totally do the best. Thank you for having me. Very, very nice to sit down and have an hour just to gab.

Sonya 1:01:16
Alright, well thanks, Mike.

Leave a Reply