When I awoke from my slumber early Friday morning, I had mixed feelings. I was glad that I didn’t get to get my butt out of bed and spend more time pushing my food around on my plate than forcefeeding myself breakfast at an ungodly hour of the morning the next day (ok, ok…. 6 AM is not THAT bad. The Cascade CreamPuff last month STARTED at 5 AM, so I’ve had worse) However, it was bittersweet to be ending the 6 day quest of the Breck Epic. I put so much energy into it, so much of my heart into it that ending it would be a let down. Post Partum Epic disorder?
I lined up and told myself, “This is the last day. You always try to finish strong, but today you will leave it all out there because there is no racing tomorrow.”
The grand sock finale were the pink mustache socks. Dejay had some sock mojo going on too.
The start was fast on the road, or maybe it just felt that way as I flogged my tired legs back to life. I positioned myself as close as I could to the front without being in the way. The singletrack wasn’t far, and there was still a bottleneck filing into it. I was thankful for the bottleneck because it gave me a few seconds to catch my breath. The fun part of stage racing is you usually find yourself racing with the same people every day. Most notable for me is the top three teams in the men’s duo field, and rallying with some of the singlespeeders like Doug Jenne.
I rode this stage last year as well for fun, so I knew it well. I loved the singletrack climb and I was hooting and hollering going backwards on the firecracker course to Boreas Pass Road. We went through there so fast that I had butterflies in my tummy (which is common when I mountain bike because I’m in love with riding singletrack, especially when it’s SWEET and fast).
I was definitely hurting a little bit on the road. Team Eriksen was on a tandem for the day. I think they are nuts, but they love racing tandem and they are quick on that thing. Even though we had a huge gap, I still was motivated to push. Stage 6 was more about how hard I could push myself (and see how hard I could make Jeff breathe behind me). After having my head down and receiving a few short pushes from Jeff, we made it to the top and Aide 1.
Passing Aide 1, and about to bomb down Gold Dust Trail.
The Gold Dust Trail is always a good time, but it wasn’t as “downhill” as I remembered. The flume trail swayed side to side, and we got into a nice rhythm. I was noting how green everything was, and the smell of the forest floor. After being dumped back out on the road to climb back to Boreas Pass, I was feeling a little tired so I backed off for about ten minutes, waiting for the aching in my lateral thighs to go away. We turned the corner for the final 20 minute climb of the race and something came over me. I suddenly felt strong. I told Jeff, “I am going to get up this last climb as fast as I can” well knowing he wouldn’t have an issue keeping up. I felt like a crazed animal going up the road. My head was down, it was very clear that I was working hard, but I kept applying power swiftly and almost angrily to the pedals. As Phil Liggett would say, “pedal strokes of anger!” We started catching guys groveling up the climb. Before I knew it, we were almost to the top and had passed about 7 folks finishing their final Breck Epic climb. I stood and charged up to the aide station. We got there, and I was fully out of breathe, and I laughed. I turned to Jeff with a smirk and said, “Let’s finish this up the right way” and we flew down the road and singletrack to the finish, taking the overall win.
Even though we won all 6 stages, it wasn’t easy. Each day, Team Eriksen was on our tail, applying pressure. We came out ahead 10-15 min+ most days, but if we putzed along, we wouldn’t have been in the lead. Taking the win of a 6 day event felt more rewarding than a one day event because I knew how much we put into it, all the pedal strokes, the trail… the trail wasn’t always easy. It’s like life. Sometimes it flows and you go through it glowing and everything feels easy. You feel on top of the world. And other times, it’s rocky and steep, you are fighting it at every corner and you feel like it’s against you, it’s out to get you… yet you still get through it and you are stronger for next time. Each stage had a little bit of everything, and we conquered it all.
The camaraderie of the racers as a whole was simply amazing. We were a big family for a week, suffering together, cheering each other on. Competitors or not, we started the adventure of each day together in a group, and each person felt the same pain, the same jolt of excitement crossing the line, the same gasp at the striking views, the same passion.
Standing on our final podium for the week, we all felt proud for enduring and loving the thrill of adventure.
We’ll leave you with the final video….
Breck-Epic Stage Race: Stage 6 from ergon on Vimeo.
All the finishers and people who worked extra hard to volunteer received a finisher’s buckle. I don’t normally wear belt buckles, but this one rocks and I will be sporting it. After all, how could I let something that says “Bad Motherfucker” sit on my shelf?
The trophies were really classy. Each rider got a photo of themself riding during a stage of the race. This was during the Wheeler stage. Typically Sonya Looney suffer face, head down…and Jeff comfortably joy riding behind me. haha
Once again, thanks to everyone. Stage racing is tough, and having the support of your friends, family, fellow racers, volunteers, and race promoters helps tremendously. Having sponsors that provide you with the best equipment around also contributes to a successful week! Thanks to the Breck Epic for putting on one hell of a race, creating a community of friends I hope to see again and won’t forget, and for teaching us all a little bit more about ourselves – both in and out of the pain cave.