In a county where outdoor adventure is the norm, calling anything “epic” might come across as a little cliché. But for a six-day, 240-mile mountain bike race with 40,000 feet of elevation gain, there may be no word more fitting. Now in its sixth year, the six-stage Breck Epic kicks off on Sunday, Aug. 10.
“It started because we wanted to show people what an amazing destination Breckenridge was for mountain biking,” race founder Mike McCormack said.
The competition has since grown to become premier event, attracting riders from around the world, and has been featured in a number of magazines. While not a UCI-sanctioned bike race, the event still attracts some of the best athletes in the mountain biking world, including returning 2012 race winner Ben Sonntag of Durango, Japanese national champion Kyosuke Takei and Utah’s Alex Grant, who finished second last year behind Todd Wells. McCormack said that this year about half the field of 300 riders will have international backgrounds — including some countries’ national champions.
But the annual competition isn’t just for racing’s elite. It’s for anyone looking to challenge himself or herself and enjoy a few days of riding the area’s signature singletrack. At its heart, McCormack said, the race isn’t really about who wins or loses.
“It’s not necessarily about the time, but the experience. The fun factor tends to outstrip the competitive factor. Our riders tend to focus more on the community. Breck is a come-as-you-are kind of town. We work hard to make sure the race is the same way.”
In fact, the idea that it isn’t a sanctioned event is part of the charm of the race, and McCormack wouldn’t have it any other way.
So while the elites will be giving their all at paces most of the rest of us can’t imagine, just as many will be racing against themselves just to prove they can finish.
The course regularly features some of Breck’s most challenging routes. McCormack said it was inspired by the six must-rides that all avid bikers visiting the county should have on their bucket lists.
This year’s course will be essentially the same as last year’s, with each stage including between 32 and 46 miles of riding and 4,800 to 8,100 feet of elevation gain. Riders will be tested early with a challenging 35-mile course around Pennsylvania Creek.
“It’s a tough way to start a six-day race,” McCormack said, assessing the route. “It’s a reality check for the rest of the week ... classic Summit County.”
Day 2 incorporates the renowned West Ridge section of the Colorado Trail and a punishing 7,200 feet of vertical gain. But if the race had a “Queen Stage” — the hardest portion of a multi-day road race — it would likely be Stage 3. Riders will face a daunting 8,100 feet of elevation gain while traveling up French Gulch and around Mount Guyot, crossing both French and Georgia passes.
“I think the Guyot stage is decisive,” McCormack said.
Stage 4 will head from Breckenridge to Keystone and back, again incorporating the Colorado Trail along with Keystone Gulch and the Aqueduct Trail. Stage 5 heads up over Wheeler Pass toward Copper Mountain, then returns to Breckenrige on the rec path and Wheeler Trail.
The race concludes Friday with the Gold Dust stage that starts and finishes at the ice arena and heads up and back on a 28-mile loop over Boreas Pass.
“It’s the cherry on the sundae,” McCormack said, “a great way to finish a long week.”
Registration for this year’s race is no longer available. More information is available at www.breckepic.com.
“It started because we wanted to show people what an amazing destination Breckenridge was for mountain biking.”
Breck Epic founder