Today's Stage 6 was the last day of the Breck Epic, and the finish line saw South African Ben Melt Swanepoel pedal across it first in 2 hours, five minutes for the stage. He'd completed more than 18 hours of tough singletrack riding in six days.
The course shortened considerably today, offering a small respite for weary racers. Those leading the race, however, had no time to rest. It was an all-out fight to the end. For those like Swanepoel, shorter simply meant harder.
In the Solo Open Men's race, the finish line came down to South African Squirt Lube riders Swanepoel and Matthys Beukes against German Ben Sonntag.
Sonntag was at a disadvantage, with a closely-knit team up front eliminating much of a chance of taking the lead. On the ride up to the summit of Boreas Pass Road, a strong tail wind destroyed any chance of real drafting.
Four minutes after Swanepoel crossed the finish line, Sonntag rolled up in second place for Stage 6. Jamis Factory rider, Rotem Ishay, made up serious time in the last stage. Only a minute after Sonntag, Swede Calle Friberg and NoTubes rider Jake Wells came up together. Friberg had a rough Epic, battling a cold the entire race, but Friday he came out fast and strong. Wells has steadily climbed out of the one-hour-and-two-minute deficit he landed on Day One.
Earlier in the race, after descending the Gold Dust Trail, racers came back up to the summit of Boreas Pass Road in to a huge headwind. Surprisingly, Swanepoel came up solo and Sonntag was close to four minutes back. Friberg and Rotem Ishay came through soon, with Wells not far off. Unfortunately, Friberg and Ishay both succumbed to flats, as had Beukes a bit earlier. Friberg only lost a couple of minutes, finishing fourth in the stage, while Ishay finished up in 10th. Wells took advantage and moved up to third, coming in about 45 seconds behind second-place Sonntag, who was 3 minutes, 55 seconds behind Swanepoel.
In the overall course time, Sonntag held on to the final leader's jersey by a mere 2 minutes and 2 seconds.
In the women's solo open race, Yolandi Du Toit (Squirt Lube) was once again out front, but Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) came in just 55 seconds later, landing first place in the general classification.
With the Singlespeed Stage Race World Champ stripes on the line, the men's singlespeed contingent came out fast and hard, seeking the title. However, Macky Franklin (Oskar Blues/ Reeb) remained determined to keep his five-minute lead. He summited Boreas Pass Road the first time in seventh overall and moved up to sixth on the second go-around. Wheelie-ing through the finish, he celebrated his championship by holding up his bag of scissors labeled "Macky's Manscaping," which came out later at Breckenridge's Gold Pan bar.
In the women's singlespeed race, the ladies relaxed and rode together, which seemed to be the theme of the stage. Amanda Wilson took the stage win, just 1.1 seconds over overall leader and new women's Singlespeed Stage Race World Champ, Jen Wilson (NoTubes).
In the Men's Duo 80+ race, the only team with something to prove was the Kappius Singletrack duo of Mike Hogan and Thomas Dooley, who won the stage, while the other three teams treated it as a group ride.
In the Women's Duo, the team of Mary Davis and Rebecca Bruno closed down a 19 minute gap Thursday to bring them within three minutes of Carthy Chan and Linda Green. On Friday, they brought it home, winning the stage by five minutes and clinching the final leader's jersey.