Breck Epic Stage #6

27 08 2010

The last stop.  Today was 34 miles and 6300 feet of climbing. Easy by Breck standards.  Over Boreas Pass (11,500 feet) to Komo and then back.  Along the way, we were treated to some excellent singletrack.  Banked turns, packed dirt, perfect grade.  It was a good stage to just have a righteous good time. I didn’t have a lot of motivation to ride hard since my place in the standings was pretty well solidified.  But then Dicky (10th place) finally found his legs the last two days and decided to crush it. On the descent into Komo, he dropped me.

I rode with Ken most of the way over the top, but then I lost him on some of the rough descent into Komo.  I figured I’d just spin up the rest of the way, but as I turned the corner, I saw that he was waiting for me.  I hustled to catch up, and I finally pulled up next to him.

“Why are you waiting?”

“I was bored.”

I couldn’t see Dicky anywhere in sight, so I had given up any hope of catching him.  But this put a new spin on the day.

“Wanna catch Dicky?”

And it was on.  Ken took the lead and set a monstrous pace.  He was really putting the screws to me.  It was all I could do to hang on to the big locomotive charging up the hill.  We passed a long line of folks and invited them to latch on to the Kreidl Express, but they could only hang on for a short time, and then they would fall off the back. 7 miles all the way back up from Komo, Ken drove the train and let me sit in behind his wheel.  But still no Dicky.  Over the top of Boreas, Ken kept on charging.  He would sit up to block more wind, and I tried to tuck in to stay out of it.  I couldn’t pedal at that speed with my one puny gear, so I just tried to stay in Ken’s impressive draft.   Finally, after a few miles, we saw Dicky.  He was alone, singing the single speed blues.  Getting sucked along behind Ken, I was able to fly by Dicky.  I felt a little remorse for enlisting my big brother, but honestly, it was for 8th place anyway.  Dicky didn’t give up though. He was actually able to catch us after we hit singletrack.  He has mucho heart.

“Dicky is back! And he’s right on us!”

There is a short, but really steep and unpleasant climb just before the finish.  I remembered it from last year, and it’s like the last little kick in the ass that the Epic throws at you before you are done.  One thing I can do is climb, so I aired it out when we got to it.  It gave me just a little cushion from the hard charging Dicky.

It was close, but I was able to hold him off at the line.  And that’s how the Breck Epic ended for us.  Thanks to Ken, I was able to preserve that coveted 8th spot.

After these kinds of suffer-fests, I’m always a little glad and a little sad.  By day #3, I was ready for it to be over.  But I’ll miss the camaraderie and the atmosphere.  I suppose that’s what brought me back again this year.  The Epic is a unique race.  It doesn’t have the same stressful, ass-puckering tension that other races like the Leadville 100 have.  You just can’t be that wound up for 6 straight days.  In fact, even when I was pegged and red-lining it, I couldn’t even get my heart rate past 140 after day 2.  I had used up all my catecholamines.   From the top to the bottom of the racers, it’s all very friendly and casual.

Time for the post-race banquet and awards now.  Last hurrah before we head for home.  For all the folks who’ve followed along, thanks for the support.  It’s been fun.

-wu





Breck Epic Stage #5

26 08 2010

So Ken wins again.  Yeah, yeah.  What’s new.  Interestingly, it turns out that even with my single speed times, we’d be in 3rd place in the men’s open duo if we had ridden as a team.  One of the leaders actually crashed out today and got pretty badly injured, so we would even have moved up another place to 2nd. But moving up from other people’s injuries isn’t terribly satisfying, so I don’t count that.

Jenn and Stuart came up from Boulder today.  Thanks again to Jenn for bringing my other fork.  Chris made a scrumptious dinner for us all.  Chicken tacos with rice and beans.  I ate so much, I can barely move now.  Oh, but it was worth it.

Today was Wheeler.  My least favorite stage last year.  It still reigns supreme in suckiness in my book.  Seeing the line of riders walking their bikes up the mountainside as far as the eye can see, was demoralizing.  We hiked our bikes to 13,000 feet, then descended into a saddle.  Only to hike back out to 12,500 feet.  The descent off the back side is sketchy and bumpy.  I’m not only a terrible walker, but I felt like a beginner nursing my rigid bike down the rocks and roots.  I had another Guyot moment on the way down.  My hands were busy strangling the brakes with a kung fu grip.  So I had no opportunity to wipe away the deluge of snot running down my chin.  Excellent photo op.  Then there was a long gradual descent from Copper to Frisco on pavement.  The worst kind for having only one gear.  Too fast to pedal, too slow to keep up with geared bikes,  And then there was the Peaks trail finish.  Rocky, rooty, short but steep climbs.  That trail keeps coming at you, and it’s hard to get any rhythm because it is filled with obstacles.   But I survived it.  I’m glad it’s out of the way.

It’s almost midnight.  Need to get some Z’s.  Tomorrow is the last stage, Gold Dust.   A modest 32 miles and 6000 feet of climbing.





Breck Epic Stage #4

25 08 2010

He’s like a broken record.  Ken took 1st, again.  He’s got so many leader’s jerseys now that he asks for size small to give to Max and Luke.

Today was the Aqueduct stage. Mike billed it as perhaps the hardest stage on the list.  It was full of steep, hard climbs.  We went all the way to Keystone and back.  I can hardly stomach the goo and the Accelerade anymore.  The longest stage as far as time in the saddle (or walking your ass up the hill in my case) goes.  But some of the descents were . . . .  Drew told me that I am not allowed to use the words “sweet” or “flowy” anymore.  Overuse of these adjectives has rendered them bland and mushy.  Rather, he suggest “butterysmoothaliscious”.  So, some of the descents were butterysmoothaliscious, which was certainly welcome since I had to lock out my fork to keep it from smushing down to nothing.  They were rippin’ and fast.  And the trees flew by like an Ewok forest.  The trail was buffed and you could ride it like you were on rails (how’s that for an over-used analogy?). Though there was one descent that scared the crap out of me.  I dismounted when I saw the line of other riders walking down it.  It was steep, loose, and there was no good line.  Half way down, I hear a bike skidding toward me.  One of the German riders was surfing down the middle to the trail.  One of my fellow walkers said “Crazy Germans”.  Crazy German, indeed.  Crazy and fearless.  And boy, could SHE handle a bike.

I’ll have a bonified rigid fork tomorrow since Jenn is coming up from Boulder and bringing it with her.  Thanks, Jenn!

Ken has been riding most of the stages going back and forth with Wendy Lyall (of Leadville fame).  If you don’t know who she is, just skip on down to the next paragraph.  In any case, she has been avoiding the awards ceremonies, even though (or especially because) she has been making the podium.  She finally decided to attend, and when she was called up by Mike, she hesitated.  Mike’s response?  “What did you think would happen?”  I’m happy to report that there was no felony charge this time.

After the ride, we got bacon cheeseburgers from Empire burger and ate them while we soaked in the river.  Nothing like a big, greasy wad of meat while your nuts are being chilled in crisp, Giardia-filled water to lift your spirits.

Wheeler is tomorrow.  This is the stage that almost broke me last year.  The hike over Wheeler is long and painful.  Last year we hiked up via a skinny, rocky line in the mountain and summited 13,000 feet, only to see a bunch of cars up there.  You can drive up here?  And we took a mother-grabbin’ overgrown goat path? At least this time, I’m so used to walking with my bike, it won’t be that much different than all the other stages.  It ends on the Peaks trail which is like a kick in the groin. The Empire bacon cheeseburger saved me last year.  I might need to dip into the well again tomorrow.





Alex Grant’s Breck Epic helmet cam video day #3

24 08 2010

This is really sweet.  It shows the last few minutes before the finish.  Alex Grant is right on Jeremiah Bishop’s wheel as they sprint for the finish.  Posted on Cyclingdirt.org, but you can click on the link below to see it.

http://www.cyclingdirt.org/video/353154-Breck-Epic-Stage-3-Finish





Breck Epic, stage #3

24 08 2010

Ken wins three in a row!  He’s putting a beat down on the other clydesdales.  I would have included another podium pic of him, but I’m trying to avoid too much redundancy, even if he isn’t.   Instead, in his place, is a baby.  We’ll get to that.

Today was Guyot.  Big and bad, again.   Long epic climbs to over 12,000 feet, straight into the clouds.  No kidding.  The trail went right into a big rain cloud. It was cold and wet and ominous.  Despite that, Ken had another good day.   He’s in good shape for the overall lead.  He gets to wear the minty green race leader’s jersey, just like Jeremiah Bishop.  It’s the Breck Epic’s version of the yellow jersey, except it’s minty (as Mike describes it).  That’s how the Epic rolls.

Me? At least I made it to the start on time today.  My legs were feeling tired, so I ended up walking most of the climb up French Gulch over Guyot.   By the time I got over the top, I was wet and cold, and I couldn’t see anything because of all the rain on my glasses, which are prescription, so I couldn’t take them off, or I really couldn’t see anything.   My hands were numb, my rims and V-brakes were wet and useless, and it was all I could do to keep from falling off the backside of the mountain.   My eyes were all teared up and I had a death grip on the brakes to squeeze whatever I could out of them, so I couldn’t wipe away the double barrel snot running down my face.  A couple times, as the snot was dripping off my chin, I tried to blow away the trails that traversed my lips.  I only succeeded in blowing the snot straight onto my glasses, further obscuring my vision.  Crying, snot streaming out of my nostrils, tired, demoralized.  So yeah, that pic above pretty much sums up how I was feeling at that point.  For those who can’t read Chinese, the quote says,”Oh F_CK!  I’m going to die on top of a goddamn mountain with snot bubbling out of my nose!”

Oh, and my fork was worth a load of shite.  On the way there, I noticed that my shock was already at half mast.  After the first bump, I was back to about 10mm of travel. As the day wore on, I was left with about 5mm, which is pretty much useless.  Any little bump bottomed it out.  Turns out that an O-ring is busted, and there’s no fixin’ it for the Epic.  So I’m going to ride the fork locked out.  Fully rigid.  Good times ahead.

Despite all that, I still finished in 8th place, again.  It’s still my lot in life.  Peter, from Misfit Pscycles, took a hard fall on a descent that I chickened out on and walked.  He’s banged up, and he cracked his helmet.  Hope he is able to ride tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a new stage for the Epic.  Aqueduct.  Mike says that it’s harder than today.  Oh lovely. 42 miles, around 7400 feet of climbing.

More tomorrow.





Alex Grant’s helmet cam Breck Epic Video

23 08 2010

Since my helmet cam didn’t work out, here is a nice video taken by Alex Grant of Cannondale, who incidentally, dethroned Jeremiah Bishop for the top podium spot today.  Yuki Saito posted it on Facebook too. The video is posted on Cyclingdirt.org.

http://www.cyclingdirt.org/video/353069-Breck-Epic-Stage-2





Breck Epic, day #2

23 08 2010

Ken made it into the Mountain Flyer gallery.  Sweet photo of him on his way to the Clydesdale win yesterday (thanks, Matt).  It’s not often that Clydesdale’s get much press time.  But I guess Ken looked so good in the Alchemist kit that they just couldn’t resist.  He took the top podium spot again today.  Handily, by 15 minutes.  The third place guy to Ken’s right is saying, “Dude, you ain’t no 200 pounds.”  Then he looked down and saw the calves and went, “Oh, I see.”

Ken is now a world champion, short track champion, Breck Epic stage champion x2, and male model.

Today was the Colorado Trail stage.  7300 feet of climbing.  But overall, was more enjoyable than yesterday since most of the descents were through amazing, flowy singletrack.  This is the stuff that bike-savvy tourist come here to ride, and that locals show their intrepid visitors.  It’s that way for a reason.  The Colorado trail section is stupifyingly fast and fun.   As long as you are comfortable with going really fast, you can do a ton of it without touching your brakes.  It is laid out so that the twists and turns are subtle enough that you can throw your bike around and still maintain just enough control to not face plant into a tree, though the possibility is certainly there.  You eventually go screaming out into a gorgeous meadow with views that would be really nice to soak in if you weren’t riding a tightrope at 30 mph.   The climbing today was a lot of shorter, punchy climbs.  Though some of them seemed pretty sustained, and I did a fair amount of walking. 8th place again.  It’s my lot in life.

The day started off a bit auspiciously for me.  I left the condo late and then couldn’t find the start right away.  By the time I found it, the race had started, and I could barely see the last of the pack, about half a mile from the start.  So yeah, I started the race in last place.  Fortunately, I could see the tail of the pack. They made a bunch of turns, and I would never have found the route if I had gotten there a few seconds later.  I finally caught up to the peloton right as we hit the dirt.  I got to ride briefly with Wendy Skean, who did the race last year, and who is back rockin it again this year, at the age of 63!   On the first descent, I heard a clunk from the front of my bike.  You know, the kind that makes you go, “That ain’t right.”  After the second clunk, I realized that my fork had blown up, and was almost fully compressed.  It had about 10mm of travel left in it, and it kept bottoming out.  I locked it out, which didn’t do a whole lot.  Needless to say, I descended the rest of the day with extra caution.  I took it in after the race, but I’m not sure it will hold.

But overall, it was a good day.  I Leapfrogged with Peter from Misfit Psycles.  Check em out.  Cool frames and gear.  As I recall, he did some custom frames for the Epic winners too.  Peter and I went back and forth most of the day, encouraging each other up the nasty stuff.  This is his second Breck Epic, on a single speed. Fully rigid, no less.  He’s fast, and I’m riding well, but jeez, I feel like both of us are just trying to stay off the bottom of the list.  These singlespeeders are wicked strong.

And hairy.

I’m working on the hair.  I’m hoping that by day 6, I might have a shot at the podium.

Day 3 tomorrow.  Guyot (pronounced Gee-oh) loop.  This is when the race gets harder.  44 miles, 9400 feet of climbing.  We go over 12,ooo feet and cross the continental divide, twice.  It was a bear last year when Jon and I rode it geared.  I’m hoping to survive it this year.

More tomorrow.








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