For Japanese national champion mountain biker Kyosuke Takei, the 2014 Breck Epic officially came to an end Tuesday during Stage 2, when he dislocated his shoulder close to the finish line, registering a DNF for the day.
But apparently no one told him as he’s followed up the injury with first- and second-place stage finishes in consecutive days. Takei added to his impressive run again Thursday, finishing just under a minute behind overall race leader Alex Grant.
“He never gives up,” Grant said after the race, describing Takei as always having a smile on his face. “It’s how he rides every day.”
Fellow pro Ben Sonntag called Takei’s effort impressive, especially given the injury.
“He’s crazy in the most positive way,” he said.
Stretching his shoulder after the race Takei appeared to be noticeably in pain. In limited English — gesturing to his shoulder — he said that it had bothered him throughout the race and has also made sleeping difficult.
When asked about his motivation to continue, the Japanese rider grinned and simply said, “I want to win.”
Because of his DNF in Stage 2, Takei will not be eligible for the pro general classification win — which is unfortunate since he is the only rider to challenge overall leader Alex Grant so far. Takei will still qualify for stage wins in the grand fondo open class.
Grant extended his GC lead again Thursday with his fourth stage win and an overall race time of 14 hours, 40 minutes, 26.75 seconds. He is almost 23 minutes ahead of Spanish pro Joan Llordella headed into the final stage on Friday.
“It’s a nice buffer, but you can’t take anything for granted,” Grant said, citing the potential for a mechanical failure, numerous flat tires or other difficulty. “If this was a road race it would be pretty much a guarantee.”
With a relatively easy final stage and given his performance all week, however, Grant’s win appears to be almost a sure thing.
“There’s no one more deserving than Alex,” Sonntag said. Having won in 2012, Sonntag was one of the pre-race favorites to win again, but he said that illness prior to the race combined with a lack of acclimatization have led to a rough week on the bike.
“You can’t force things. This week I don’t have the legs,” he said, assessing his performance. With one stage remaining, Sonntag is currently in third, roughly 4 minutes behind Llordella.
“Realistically, that’s not going to change,” barring some kind of rider issue, he said.
On the women’s side, Kate Aardal also looks to have locked up a first-place finish.
Both Aardal and Grant finished second last year — Grant behind Leadville 100 winner Todd Wells and Aardal behind pro Amanda Carey.
Aardal finished Thursday’s stage in 3:20:22 edging out Breckenridge local Marlee Dixon for first. Dixon finished 3 minutes behind her.
Kelly Boniface finished third in 3:25:14.54. Second-place GC rider Cathrine Williamson finished fourth (3:28:41). In the overall standings the top three women will likely also remain unchanged. Aardall (18:29:07.7) has a 12:16 lead over Williamson. After an impressive recovery from a number of flat tires in Stage 1, Dixon has fought her way back to the podium, almost 6 1/2 minutes behind Williamson and 4 1/2 minutes behind Kelly Boniface (18:52:21.7).
“I think anything could happen,” Dixon said, looking ahead to the final stage, adding that her knowledge as a local has been a big help. “I race and ride these trails all the time.”
The Breck Epic concludes Friday with a Stage 6 start and finish at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena. Riders will head to Como and back over Boreas Pass using portions of Boreas Pass Road, Bakers Tank and the Gold Dust trail.