The Breck Epic mountain bike stage race experienced some misfortune at the hands of local miscreants Tuesday as the race was sabotaged to direct riders off course, organizers said.
The racers, many of whom traveled from around the world to compete in Breckenridge, follow a system of arrows and ribbons to navigate the unfamiliar terrain. In not-so-clever fashion, several of the arrows were flipped, causing leaders to ride off course. The saboteurs also reattached the course ribbons down the incorrect trail to assure misguided racers would continue down the incorrect route.
"It was elaborate. It was intentional, and it was malicious," said Breck Epic organizer Mike McCormack.
Racers lost a significant amount of time - 15-20 minutes in some cases, but officials determined Tuesday night that the times would simply stand.
McCormack said the racers' input played a role in determining a solution; however, there is no good solution.
"There's no way to figure out how much time everybody lost because it's all individual," he said. "So the blunt answer is, 'your time is your time.' And it's incredibly unfortunate and no one feels good about it, but that's what we're left with."
To their credit, the problem was diagnosed and fixed very quickly and only a handful of riders, mostly from the elite men's field, experienced problems.
"We're going to talk about it together and discuss the reality that there is no good solution. And we're going to talk about the system that is going to be put into place on tomorrow's course to prevent this from happening again," he said.
That system includes forerunners from both ends who are familiar with the course making sure all signage is accurate prior to racers passing through.
Costa Rican rider Lico Ramirez has been crushing the competition and has a solid lead in the men's solo division, despite being among those redirected Tuesday.
The first day of the race (Sunday) the riders saw a lot of equipment damage on the Pennsylvania Creek course. Several of the riders, not used to the mineral-based nature of Summit County's singletrack perhaps, were riding with too much tire pressure. Racers had to adjust and went with wider tries with lower pressure.
The Breck Epic consists of 200 riders from as many as 15 countries racing through six stages, spanning 240 miles with a total vertical just shy of 37,000 feet. The courses are constructed so that the top pros will finish in about four hours everyday.
"The consistent comments that we're hearing from all the Europeans and all the Canadians - and there are a ton - is this is probably the best race course out of all the stage races in the world, which is amazing! It's so cool," McCormack said. "They don't get this in other races; they get long sections of road. It's good to be on the trails and to be out of town."
A bit of overnight cloud cover again brought warm temps to the start. The precipitation that rolled through in the evening was just enough to compact the soil a bit with the result being dirt that was super grippy.
As luck would have it, the weather conditions coincided with one of the most fun stages in the event, The Colorado Trail (CT).
The race saw a bit of a shakeup in the men's single stage standings. Out front for most of the stage, local billy goat Josh Tostado, of Alma, led La Ruta champion Ramirez for nearly three-quarters of the stage, getting reeled in on the second-to-last climb of the day.
Tostado said Ramirez seemed to pull him in effortlessly and "then just sort of dropped a gear and steadily walked away." Cameron Chambers put in a strong effort, crossing the finish line two minutes behind Tostado.
On the women's side in the six-day event Sonya Looney continued to put her CTR prep to good use, punching out the stage in four hours, eleven minutes, which was nine minutes ahead of Bicycling Magazine's "The Fit Chick," Selene Yeager, who's definitely wrestling with altitude issues.
In third was Steamboat Springs rider Katie Lindquist, riding an incredibly strong race and keeping both Looney and Yeager on their toes.
Racers tackled one of Summit County's classic routes Tuesday - the circumnavigation of Mt. Guyot.
Totaling 44 miles and 9000 feet of climbing, the route crossed the Continental Divide twice, showcasing some of Summit County's very best terrain along the way.
The elite field was the most affected by course sabotage and athletes showed incredible maturity and sportsmanship, officials said.
It should also be noted that Panache CycleWear rider Colby Pearce went the right way, connecting the mental dots that the course was somehow marked incorrectly, and headed back downhill to fix the mark. Pearce's pragmatic selflessness, saved the race for everyone behind him, which was pretty much everyone.
Lico remains in the lead with Cameron Chambers and Ben Aufderheide in second and third, respectively.
Locals Josh Tostado and Kevin Kane are in fifth and 12th, respectively.
Today brings another day of long descents and spectacular vistas as racers tackle the Aqueduct stage, taking them to Keystone and back.