6-day Breck Epic mountain bike race returns to Breckenridge after 2020 cancellation
Breckenridge local rising star Lasse Konecny to make debut in father’s Epic tracks
A Summit County summer sporting staple and its trailblazing mountain-bike-loving tribe will return to the trails of the county Sunday, Aug. 15, through Friday, Aug. 20, after missing 2020 due to the pandemic.
The six-day, multistage Breck Epic mountain bike race will welcome nearly 400 mountain bikers to the start line at 8:30 a.m. Sunday outside of the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge. Racers from across the state, country and some from other countries — particularly in Central and South America — will embark on the first of six legs that will total 215.8 miles and 34,805 vertical feet of climbing – an average of 40 miles and 5,800 feet of climbing per day.
“The pandemic altered things in so many ways, this brings back normalcy and camaraderie for the commune — for the cycling tribe,” race founder and director Mike McCormack said.
McCormack said this year’s race will feature fewer riders than recent Epics — below 400 for the first time in several years — as close to 200 riders have deferred their race registration to subsequent years due to travel concerns and restrictions. The race director said those deferrals have been consistent for the last six months and not a recent uptick in response to the COVID-19 delta variant.
McCormack added this year only 15% of the field will be comprised of international riders, down from the third that typically are the Breck Epic roster. He said those numbers shake out to 50% of this year’s participants coming from the U.S. outside of Colorado — up from its typical third of the racers — with the number of Colorado locals up slightly this year, to 35%.
As for the Epic course — which annually challenges racers with some of the most demanding and awe-inspiring trails in the county’s renowned network — McCormack said the trails are in excellent riding shape after rains from earlier in the summer have subsided a bit.
McCormack said with the blessing of the U.S. Forest Service, Summit County Open Space & Trails and the town of Breckenridge, the Breck Epic has worked in recent weeks to improve and maintain trails used in the race. McCormack said that work has included time spent on the French Gulch trail on the back side of French Pass as well as Little French, the Colorado Trail and work in the Golden Horseshoe.
Racers this year will also take to the notoriously menacing fifth stage, the 24.6-mile, 5,226-foot-elevation-gain Wheeler, on a portion of the course McCormack said has been altered a fair amount. The re-routes come as the Peaks Trail is undergoing extensive U.S. Forest Service construction.
The 10 Summit County locals racing in this year’s event will include 17-year-old Lasse Konecny of Breckenridge, a member of the California-based Bear National Team. Konecny, who races competitively against the top mountain bikers his age domestically and internationally, will ride his maiden Breck Epic voyage not only on home trails he’s familiar with, but in the footsteps of his father Thomas, who finished in the top three in his riding heyday.
Lasse said he would love to finish in the top five this week, but is aiming for a top-10 finish.
“This is always something I wanted to do,” Konecny said. “The Breck Epic is definitely a bucket list race for me to do.”
Lasse knows firsthand the challenge he is in for after cheering on his father on course and at the finish line as a child. He also knows the Breck Epic can throw anything your way, such as one year when his father experienced bitterly cold rain above timberline atop French Pass.
“It was more surviving and managing hypothermia,” Thomas said, “but Mike McCormack has it very well figured out. We had drop zones, we received a couple bags, where you can stash extra support stuff, and that saved us.”
The Konecnys also appreciate the little things Epic racers experience when riding through Summit County’s hills. As a racer that could be eating bacon and drinking whiskey provided by locals at the top of Wheeler Pass, taking a handful of Skittles from spectators at the top of French Pass or listening to Breck local Mike Zobbe play his banjo as you climb Little French Gulch.
“And one year I saw two moose standing right on Gold Run Road, it was an out-of-body experience,” Thomas said. “You can encounter anything in this race. Snow, rain, wildlife — but the best thing is to just suffer along with your your friends in the cycling community and get it done — get that buckle.”
Photo by Eddie Clark / Eddie Clark Media
SUMMIT LOCALS RACING
Sunday: Stage 1 – Pennsylvania Creek – 35.7 miles, 5, 700 vertical feet
Monday: Stage 2 – Colorado Trail – 42.5 miles, 6,565 vertical feet
Tuesday: Stage 3 – Guyot – 40.5 miles, 7,100 vertical feet
Wednesday: Stage 4 – Aqueduct – 42.3 miles, 6,473 vertical feet
Thursday: Stage 5 – Wheeler – 24.6 miles, 5,227 vertical feet
Friday: Stage 6 – Gold Dust – Gold Dust 30.2 miles, 3,740 vertical feet
The buckle is the Breck Epic’s reward to any and all cyclists who finish the race. This year’s belt buckle features a golden flaming skull at the center of a lavish black, gold and red design.
Perhaps it is an omen of the arduous six days to come?
“It’s a little bit evil, but it’s fun,” McCormack said. “This is serious bike racing for a lot of people. It is a life experience. It’s meant to be a lifelong memory. But bike racing can sometimes can take itself a little too seriously. We think we can race at the highest level and still maintain perspective and add whimsy and fun.”
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