Summit County Bike Guide: Firecracker 50 course preview | SummitDaily.com

Summit County Bike Guide: Firecracker 50 course preview

You know you're in Breckenridge when the biggest parade of the summer starts with a bike race.

On July 4 at 9:30 a.m. — just as kids and parents and everyone else starts lining Main Street for the parade — more than 700 veteran and newbie mountain bikers will gather on Main for the mass start of the Firecracker 50, the official start of the town's Independence Day parade through the heart of downtown.

Like the parade itself, the 50-mile race is nothing short of a Summit County institution: At 17 years old this year, it's drawn everyone from cyclocross pros like Jamey Driscoll of Vermont to Colorado MTB pros and legends-in-the-making, such as three-time winner Jay Henry of Vail, fellow Vailite Gretchen Reeves and Summit's own Nick Truitt, plus thousands of riders from every corner of the nation who prefer a touch of masochism with their beer and barbecue.

The event is open to men, women and two-person teams of all abilities, but if the past start list is any indication, this is no walk in the park. It's a grueling, four-hour tour of Breck's most iconic trails: the dirt roads of Boreas Pass and Baldy Mountain, the singletrack of French Gulch on Sidedoor and X10U8, the mining ruins of Sallie Barber Mine and, of course, the nasty, rocky climbs of Little French and Nightmare on Baldy. Two-person teams ride 25 miles and climb 4,000 per member, while solo riders are asked to do the whole thing twice.

But is it worth it?

"I'm always suffering at the end of that nasty (Little French) climb," says Josh Bezecny, a Golden-based Honey Stinger pro who joined about 750 other riders for the 2015 race. "It's very steep, with a ton of rock, and that's easily the hardest part of the entire course. But you're still way up there, with stream crossings and wildflowers and just gorgeous views. You're suffering, but the views are spectacular."

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Enough said. Whether you're competing or just cheering from the sidelines, the Summit Daily has compiled a list of marquee trails and loops on the Firecracker 50 route. Enjoy, and don't miss the Carter Park finish — it promises to be a wild one.

Highlights

Want to see the route for yourself? Below is a collection of video guides to the Firecracker 50, following the general flow of the 50-mile course from Main Street to Boreas Pass to French Gulch to Carter Park and back.

Mile 2.5 — Boreas Pass Road

Mile 5.5 — Bakers Tank Loop

Mile 6-5 — Mountain Pride to Baldy Road

Mile 10.75 — Sallie Barber Road above French Gulch

Mile 19 — Sidedoor and Minnie Mine in French Gulch

Mile 20 — X10U8 in French Gulch

Mile 21 — B&B trail in French Gulch

Mile 21.5 — V3 in French Gulch

Mile 22.5 — Barney Ford to Carter Park

Parking

Fourth of July in Breckenridge is a big deal, and, like any small mountain town with a single main street, parking is guaranteed to be tight for racers, race fans and thousands of other revelers. At least the new roundabout on Highway 9 is finished.

Racers, try parking first at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena. From Frisco, take Highway 9 past the gondola lots to the far south end of town. Continue south past the intersection of Park and Main streets to Boreas Pass Road (also called Broken Lance). Turn left and park in the lot on your right at the arena.

By the numbers

Distance: 50 miles (25 miles per lap)

Rating: Difficult

Time: 4-6 hours

Elevation: 9,600-11,250 feet (4,080 combined vertical feet per lap)

Trail: Singletrack and double-track, with portions of paved road

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2016 Firecracker 50

What: The quintessential Fourth of July mountain bike race, a 50-mile grind held on trails in the Breckenridge area with roughly 8,000 vertical feet of climbing for solo riders and teams of two

When: Monday, July 4 at 9 a.m.

Where: Main Street Breckenridge start line

Cost: Closed for 2016

Registration for the 2016 event is already full. Spectators can watch racers from the finish line at Carter Park, found just east of Main Street on High Street. The first riders will finish the first laps around 11-11:30 a.m. and the finish will come around 1-2 p.m. For more info, including course maps, see http://www.mavsports.com.

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