Editor's note: To celebrate an incredible year of athletic events and achievements, the Summit Daily News is counting down the Top 10 sports stories of 2011. Reviewing every local sports story of the last 12 months hasn't been easy, but we've
whittled the list to just 10 memorable moments and will reveal one story every day through New Year's Eve.
The No. 8 addition to the Top 10 Summit sports stories of 2011 isn't so much about a local mountain biker taking second place at the Breckenridge 100; it's about the six previous installments of the marathon and an incredible streak, which like all others, had to come to an end.
On July 16, for the first time in the race's history, the Breck 100 recognized a champion not named Josh Tostado.
Jeff Schalk completed the 100-mile course in a record 8 hours, 8 minutes and 53 seconds, just six minutes in front of Tostado, an Alma resident who won the previous six Breck 100s - every single year since the race's introduction in 2005.
"Schalk was on fire today. I mean he was just hammering. I felt good as well," Tostado said after the race. "I just couldn't catch him. He's the 100-mile national champion for a reason. He had a great day. I had a great day. I can't complain."
Although slightly disappointed, bloodied and bruised, Tostado (who crashed "hard" on the first lap) was able to focus on the positive, that is, he actually improved on his own record-setting time from the previous year; it just wasn't quite enough for a win in 2011.
Tostado, Schalk and Kelly Magelky rode together for the first two laps. It wasn't until about halfway through the final lap that they dropped Magelky. Then, Schalk was able to put a gap on the defending champ climbing up Indiana.
With Schalk within vision, Tostado briefly made up some time on the descent down Gold Dust but couldn't ultimately hang on coming back over the pass. Christian Tanguy, another contender in the National Ultra Endurance Series, came in third.
Climbing 13,719 feet over 100 miles, the race consists of three cloverleaf loops that start and finish in Carter Park. The 29-mile Loop 1 offers some spectacular scenery. Loop 2 stretches out and around 33 miles utilizing part of the Colorado Trail, featuring classic Colorado singletrack. Finally, the 36-mile Loop 3 is a "hidden gem" on the Gold Dust Trail that takes riders to the other side of the Continental Divide.
Schalk, who was the runner-up one year ago, said he went into the race with a new strategy compared to the last three years.
"I have always been kind of aggressive, trying to attack early and trying to get gaps on Josh (Tostado)," Schalk said after the race. "I think I've warn myself out in the past. I figured if I had a shot at all of beating him today - and he's the man here - I figured I should just shadow him, conserve energy, stay seated and then make a move."
Schalk said he didn't think halfway through the race he would win because he was cramping up and "really suffering." But as it turned out, Tostado was suffering too, although the gnarly first-lap crash did not affect his riding, he said.
"We were riding together up until about Mile 70, and I saw that he popped a little bit," Schalk said. "And I couldn't believe it that maybe I had a shot to win it, so I gave it everything I had. I absolutely buried myself, which is what it takes to beat him up here."
For Schalk, who lives in California at sea level, the Breck 100 would be his favorite race if it were not for the altitude. The "whole breathing thing" is really tough in the mountains, he said.
With record snowfalls in 2011, the course had unprecedented levels of snow, even in July. The riders had to cross over three high-elevation snowfields, but they reported that the trails were in really good condition. The wet, rainy weather that preceded the event actually made it better in some ways - less dusty, although there was certainly more mud to contend with than in previous years.
"Winning this race so many times - I never thought I'd win it even a single time back when I started this type of racing," Tostado said. "To win it as many times as I have, it's just been incredible. Every year I say, 'This is going to be the year.' And this year, it was. So, I tip my hat to (Schalk). He raced a great race."
Asked if he'll be contending for a seventh Breck 100 championship in 2012, Tostado said, "I mean, it's my back yard."