Last weekend professional rider Todd Wells of Durango crossed the finish at the Leadville 100 in third, just under 15 minutes behind the winner, Austrian pro Alban Lakata. He told the Summit Daily that he just didn’t have quite enough in the tank for the final stretch of the 100-mile race. He was disappointed but upbeat headed into the start of the six-day, six-stage, 240-mile Breck Epic the following day.
If there was any lingering frustration, he took it out on the course this week without looking back. Wells won the first stage and never gave up the overall lead, though Utah’s Alex Grant and Japanese rider Kyosuke Takei each managed to edge out Wells for stage wins.
Friday’s Stage 6 proved to be another tight finish for the riders and a fitting close to the race. After a sprint to the finish line, less than a second separated Takei and Grant. Takei finished in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 16 seconds, immediately followed by Grant. Wells came in fourth on the day, 6 seconds behind the leader, followed by German native Ben Sonntag, also of Durango.
The overall rankings among the top three finishers remained unchanged. Wells finished with a combined stage time of 16:49:16. Grant kept it close all week, finishing 9 minutes, 4 seconds behind Wells with a total time of 16:58:20. Last year’s winner and this year’s Breckenridge 100 top finisher, Ben Sonntag claimed fourth overall in the Breck Epic with a combined stage time of 17:18:55.
A flat tire easily could have changed the end result among the top finishers. But Wells held strong all week after concerns coming right from the Leadville 100 to compete in his first Breck Epic. He said prior to the race that he would take it easy the first few days and see where he stood at the midway point.
“He’s one of the fastest 10 guys in the world right now,” said Mike McCormack, Breck Epic’s race director.
For Wells, the Epic was as much about training for the upcoming UCI World Championships as it was about the competition. McCormack described him as a consummate pro and a great role model.
Amanda Carey maintained her overall lead among the women, finishing Stage 6 second behind Kate Aardal. Carey finished the race with a combined stage time of 21:47:00. Aardal finished just under 10 minutes behind her overall, with a time of 21:56:51.
Sue Haywood finished third in Friday’s stage and overall, in 22:08:09.
Breckenridge resident Nick Truitt is expected to be the men’s winner of the Epic’s first enduro race, which consisted of timed downhill sections within the six stages. Kate Aardal will likely be the women’s enduro winner. Race organizers still need to review GPS results to determine enduro rankings. Truitt and Aardal were the leaders through five stages.
“I’ve always done pretty well on descents,” Truitt said. “It’s cool, a race like this, to actually have it measured.”
Aardal completed in all but one stage on a hardtail, front-suspension bike. She decided to switch to her dual-suspension bike for Stage 5 after hearing the description of the descent on Wheeler Pass. It was a decision she said was a mistake in hindsight.
Aardal described her hardtail bike as “lighter, more responsive, stiff,” making it a better option for the cross-country style racing.
“She’s a good climber,” she said of her bike.
Truitt finished seventh in the overall standings less than 10 minutes behind Takei. Truitt said three flats during Stage 2 likely cost him 30 minutes of race time. After the third flat he was out of replacements. A fellow rider, Carlos Vulgamott, offered him an extra tube during the race.
“I was like, ‘Oh great, my race is over.’ He kept me in the race.” Truitt said.
That kind of sportsmanship is par for the course, McCormack said.