Breck Epic mountain bike race sets sights on ‘next level’ for 2019

Riders compete in the Breck Epic, a popular multi-day mountain biking race through Breckenridge’s backcountry, in this file photo. Mike McCormack, founder of the race, has set out a $100,000 video and distribution campaign as he looks to take the staged, multi-day mountain bike race to the next level with added exposure and new partnerships.
Special to the Daily / Eddie Clark via Breck Epic

After an interesting 2018 for the Breck Epic, its founder is doubling down on next year with a $100,000-plus video and media distribution campaign that he believes will help take the multi-day, staged mountain bike race in Breckenridge to “the next level.”

What is the next level? For Breck Epic founder Mike McCormack, it’s about quality over quantity. He doesn’t want to grow the field of competitors, tarnish the trail network in any way or stray from the heavy emphasis on environmental stewardship and rider responsibility that have characterized the increasingly popular race over the last decade.

Rather, McCormack describes heightened international media coverage, bigger purses luring top international talent and an expanded reach on social media, along with “cool, new animation” he hopes will promote local pride in the homegrown event that, among other things, showcases the “magnificent” trail network crisscrossing Breckenridge and Summit County.

“We have 10 solid years of crushing it,” McCormack said of the Breck Epic. “The race is healthy, but it’s time to take the next step and we need to do that in harmony with how we’ve always produced it.”

According to McCormack, the Breck Epic is in “serious conversations” with two major potential broadcasting partners — Red Bull Media House and Outside TV — in hopes one of them will air a series of human interest stories called “Road to the Epic,” leading up to coverage of the 2019 race.

He described these as potentially the story of a Kentucky mother of three who’s competing in the Breck Epic even though almost everyone doubted her ability to do it. Or it could be the father riding in memory of his daughter and raising money to fight cancer, the disease that took his child’s life.

“The race itself, from one perspective, is the conclusion of a very long journey,” McCormack said, adding many of the competitors start working toward the Breck Epic a year or more in advance, often devoting huge amounts of their time to training and making great sacrifices along the way.

For McCormack, it’s important these videos feature “the people for whom the race is their personal Everest.” Such coverage, he continued, could only serve to ignite the mountain biking fan base.

The Breck Epic is also re-editing some videos and pairing them with course descriptions in an effort to better tell the story of the race itself, McCormack said. These videos offer a sense of time and place, and promote a strong feeling of ownership among locals who’ve seen Breck Epic blossom into what it is today. Beyond that, Breck Epic is gaining heightened international exposure through Union Cycliste Internationale.

McCormack said that UCI is trying to create inroads in North America, and the Breck Epic sees great value in using the international organization’s reach in Europe and beyond to better promote the race overseas.

For 2019, UCI has already agreed to designate Breck Epic as a level-one UCI race, which McCormack said is “unheard of” for a first-year race with UCI. There’s one level above that, McCormack said, which he plans to aggressively pursue for the Breck Epic for 2020.

To help with the video and distribution campaign, the town of Breckenridge has given the Breck Epic $40,000 for its campaign, money that McCormack said was essential to getting the effort off the ground.

Having served on the Breckenridge Open Space Committee when it was originally formed about two decades ago, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula — an avid mountain biker himself — remembers thinking how nice it would have been to have a world-class trail system in Breckenridge that draws riders from all over the world, all those years ago.

“To see that come to fruition 20 years later is really satisfying for me,” the mayor said. “Our trail system is that good now, and I think McCormack will tell you that.”

Talking money, the mayor said different event organizers often come to Breckenridge Town Council with promises of big crowds and worldly recognition as they seek money from the town. Many times, Mamula said, the town doesn’t really know what it’s really going to get with these events.

With a track record going back a decade, however, the mayor sees Breck Epic differently than less-established events and he said there’s really no mystery about what McCormack wants to do with the race.

“We know what we’re getting, and what we’re talking about is enhancing something that is widely successful,” Mamula said as he explained from his perspective why town council was willing to support Breck Epic to the tune of $40,000.

“If Breck Epic can land a broadcasting partner like Red Bull Media House, Outdoor TV, that would be big,” Mamula said, adding that if UCI is willing to make the Breck Epic one of the premiere mountain bike races in the world, that too would be “a huge deal and worth the money we would put in it.”

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