It was a three-lap course, each lap different from the one before. Riders covered a total of 100 miles up and down some of Summit County’s best singletrack, climbing 13,719 feet in the process. As the day wore on, thunderstorms loomed and rain fell sporadically, muddying the trails. After eight hours and 23 minutes on a mountain bike, just 8.8 seconds separated first and second place in the Breckenridge 100 Sunday.
After a 6 a.m. start, racers charged over Wheeler Pass to Copper, descending on some of the area’s most technical trail. From Copper, racers headed back to Breckenridge on the Peaks Trail. Riding back into town to start lap number two, it was a tight race between pros, Ben Sonntag, a German-born Durango resident, Josh Tostado, a six-time 100 winner, and Swiss rider Oliver Zurbrugg, who won the Firecracker 50.
“We all came off the first loop together,” Tostado recalled. But the day would soon end early into the second lap for Zurbrugg.
“I noticed that the rear of his bike was wobbly,” Tostado said. He asked the Swiss rider if something was wrong.
After an attempt at repair, Zurbrugg’s day ended with a broken frame and a DNF (did not finish).
For Sonntag and Tostado, it was just beginning as they started lap two. Tostado, a Breckenridge resident, was able to gain some distance as the coursed wrapped around Breckenridge using portions of the Colorado Trail.
“I took the second lap conservatively,” said Sonntag.
He found himself low on energy and in need of refueling.
It was his first race back after breaking a hand in training. And while he started thinking about competing the week before, he was only cleared to race by his doctor on Friday.
Tostado started lap three with an almost two-minute lead on Sonntag, as they headed up Boreas Pass toward Como.
Having refueled at the end of lap two, Sonntag started gaining ground.
“He’s pretty consistently stronger than me,” Tostado said humbly, looking back on the race.
Then as the two crossed Boreas Pass, Sonntag was right there with him.
“I wanted to stay on Josh’s wheel,” Sonntag said of the decent to Como. “He’s so familiar with those trails.”
On the way back to Breckenridge, Sonntag made his move.
“The last climb up Boreas Pass was my Achille’s heel,” Tostado said.
When the racers crossed the pass for the final time on the way back to Breckenridge, Sonntag had a two-minute lead.
But Tostado wasn’t finished. He charged down the final downhill with reckless abandon.
“I was balls to the wall,” he recalled. “Probably a little out of control.”
On a sudden turn on Bakers Tank Trail, he lost it and went over his handlebars.
“I was going so fast trying to catch him. It was a stupid corner, I came at it too hot.”
Uninjured he quickly hopped back on his bike. “ I probably lost about 10 seconds there.”
In the meantime Sonntag had eased up, not wanting to push to hard.
In part concerned for his newly healed hand, “I tried to run it safe,” said Sonntag.
With less than six miles left in the race, Sonntag came to a stretch of road after one of the final segments of singletrack.
“I looked back, all of a sudden he was there,” he said.
Even with the crash Tostado had closed the two minute gap on the descent.
“Josh is an awesome technical rider,” Sonntag said, recounting the finish. “He probably knows every rock on those trails.”
It was a sprint to the finish.
After 100 miles neck and neck, Ben Sonntag crossed the finish line first with a time of 8 hours 23 minutes 26.6 seconds. Tostado, 8.8 seconds later.
“He ran out of descending trail to catch up.”
But for Josh Tostado, it was far from a loss. He crossed the finish line with a satisfied smile. “I had a great race. I raced as hard as I could. I’m happy with that.” Sunday was his third consecutive second place finish. That’s a statistic that might be frustrating for some, but not if you consider his track record. “I won that race six times and that’s six times more than I though I’d win it.”
Complete results are available at www.warriorcycling.com