July Fourth starts with a bang in Breckenridge as the Firecracker 50 mountain bike race takes off the morning of the Independence Day holiday, kicking off the town's Main Street parade.
"Imagine a small village in France that the Tour de France goes through, with people lining the course four-deep on both sides," race officials say. "We do a pretty good rendition of that! All those folks are waiting for the parade to start, and (the riders) are the first spectacle to come rolling down Main Street. High-five the little kids, say a happy Fourth of July to a few folks and enjoy the attention. It's a rare treat."
It all started at the beginning of the new millennium, when Maverick Sports owner and race coordinator Jeff Westcott realized July Fourth was ripe for an epic athletic event that would become a staple not just in the community but in the mountain biking racing calendar.
The course takes riders through a rugged and technical 25-mile loop through trails surrounding Breckenridge. They make two laps - crossing through Carter Park before the second go-around.
Roots and rocks - and dust - will greet riders as they pedal through the singletrack course, known for its technicality as it winds in and out of varied terrain, up and down the hills surrounding Breck.
Each 25-mile lap has 5,400 feet of climbing - much of it on the old railroad grade out of Breckenridge on Boreas Pass Road to the turnoff at Baker's Tank. Grunty climbs, long lungbusters, speedy descents and contouring flume and singletrack make up the course as it passes through Lincoln Park, past the Iowa Mill, winding around to Nightmare on Baldy before dropping into French Gulch via the Sally Barber Mine and Little French Gulch. It rips down Humbug Hill and through the Little French Flume to Prospect Hill, where another descent awaits. V3 Trail switchbacks down to the Barney Ford Trail, leading back to Carter Park, where the second lap starts.
Riders will climb almost immediately, and hang out in the upper elevations before dropping back down to 9,500 feet after a number of small hill climbs and descents.
Volunteers will line the course and head the aid stations, giving riders a chance to clear their lungs and splash away the dusty sweat crust that will form in the unusually hot and dry summer weather.
Racers number about 750 and are divided into women's and men's pro, expert age group, and sport age group classes. Singlespeed and two-person teams also have separate categories.
"You are a pro if you race for money, have a contract with a team, your bike was given to you by a manufacturer or you simply wanna play with the big boys and girls," Maverick Sports officials write on the website.
Juniors race The Sparkler - a 14-mile portion of the 25-mile loop. A men's and women's category allows anyone to take part in the shorter race. The shorter course is meant to introduce beginners to the sport and give them the opportunity to win a category.
Top racers will finish well under 7 hours, but sport racers not making the 2:50 p.m. cutoff at Aid Station 2 will be sent to downtown Breckenridge via French Gulch Road to enjoy the rest of the day's festivities, ending the race in a timely fashion.
Breck 10k begins the day
> Runners will be in a race before most people are up for the Fourth.
> The Breckenridge Independence Day 10k Trail Run kicks off at 7 a.m.
in Carter Park.
> Pre-registration for the scenic run that gathers people from across Colorado and beyond is $25 and day-of registration costs $30.
> Runners can enter in competitive, intermediate and leisurely brackets.
> Call (970) 453-1734 for more information.
Frisco and Keystone host kids' fishing derby
> From 9-10 a.m. on July Fourth, kids can compete in a catch-and-release fishing derby at Meadow Creek Pond in Frisco as well as
at the lake in Keystone.
> Open to children up to 12 years old in Frisco and 13 years old at Keystone, the events require participants provide their own poles
and bait. Frisco and Keystone stock their ponds - and everyone gets a ribbon.
> For more information, call (970) 668-5547.