Konecny, Christianson lead strong Breck Epic finishes among Summit locals
Konecny takes 9th while Christianson wins men’s 30-plus
The mountain bike gods upped the ante for Lasse Konecny on Thursday, Aug. 19, ahead of his first stab at the notorious Wheeler stage of the six-day Breck Epic race.
As Konecny and other top riders ascended above tree line in the Tenmile Range, clouds engulfed the singletrack. Konecny found himself alone in the clouds for a few moments slogging through the toughest part of one of the most brutal mountain bike races in the world.
“I couldn’t see 2 feet in front of me,” Konecny said. “I couldn’t see anything until I saw (Tobin Ortenblad’s) back tire. I’ve experienced nothing like that (in a race before), seeing the clouds fly over the top of the mountain.”
Konecny was the leader Sunday through Friday of a hearty group of Summit County locals who battled the backbreaking challenge that is the Breck Epic. When Konecny crossed the finish line in Breckenridge in 19 hours, 14 minutes and 56 seconds — strong enough for ninth place — he followed in the same tire tracks of his father, Thomas, who once stood on the podium with the Epic’s fabled reward for finishing: the belt buckle.
During the final stage Friday, as Konecny rode through the 30.2-mile Gold Dust out-and-back to Como, he hung for the first hour with the race’s top riders. That included overall champion Keegan Swenson of Heber City, Utah, (17:17:53). With snow on the peaks and the temperature at 38 degrees at iconic Boreas Pass, Swenson and the lead pack began to put distance on Konecny on the back-side descent. Konecny then rode through a howling headwind on the return from Como to finish the stage in ninth at 2:17:06.
Konecny said his maiden Epic was a good lesson in rest, recovery, nutrition and mental toughness and that he was proud of his performance. He said it was also in honor of his former Nordic ski coach Jon Kreamelmeyer, who Konecny said is currently experiencing difficult health issues.
As for the future, Konecny said a goal is to one day win the Epic.
Breckenridge local Jarad Christianson, 31, won the six-day solo open men 30-plus race in 20:32:51. Christianson said during Thursday’s wet and wild Wheeler stage that it was the support of fellow racers that helped make the experience memorable. As they hiked their bikes up to Wheeler Pass above 12,400 feet, the cyclists commiserated while throwing on jackets and extra pairs of gloves.
Then, cresting the Tenmile Range the second time, by Peak 6, the mountain bike gods mustered their magic once more.
“About to the top of that second climb, a huge rainbow came out,” Christianson said. “That got us through and brought us up and over the hill.”
Christianson and Konecny said Thursday’s clouds were so thick at times that other riders would disappear into them. But to Breckenridge local Duke Barlow (24:33:08), the weather wasn’t that bad. Rather, the 45-year-old — a 20-year veteran of the Breckenridge Ski Resort ski patrol — loved every moment of riding in the high-Alpine, taking in such sights as the stunning Mount Helen or paramount Father Dyer Peak glowing in the sparse sunlight through the clouds.
“It feels like … the locals usually do better on that stage,” Barlow said. “The terrain up there, we take pride in that.”
For 22-year-old John Rauen of Breckenridge, this year’s Epic meant riding while also punching in for 28 hours worth of work at the Mountain Time Escape Room. Rauen raced to a 22nd-place time of 23:53:06, a vast improvement from his first Epic two years ago, when the road cycling and triathlon veteran tried the Epic for the first time. He did so after mountain biking just five hours total in his life. Rauen was so new, he didn’t know his seat could drop for descents.
“So when the other riders seat posts all disappeared I thought, ‘What’s going on?’” Rauen said. “Well, there was one button I hadn’t tried yet.”
Breckenridge locals Ro Mayberry, 40, and Andrew Berget, 50, powered through Friday’s finish in happy smiles with third place in the co-ed duo division. The duo decided to race all six stages together after the seed was planted at last month’s Firecracker 50.
Mayberry said the experience of racing together was more special than solo. That’s even despite Berget’s broken electronic shifter, which forced him to suddenly ride Wheeler singlespeed, and Mayberry’s flat, which forced her to run her bike the final three-quarters of a mile to the finish.
“We had such a blast,” she said.
Luis Mejia of Colombia won the final stage to halt Keegan Swenson’s streak of five stage victories. Mejia (17:29:40) and Swenson (17:17:53) were joined on the men’s podium by Diyer Rincon of Colombia (18:00:58).
The women’s podium consisted of champion Alexis Skarda of Grand Junction (20:58:47), Evelyn Dong of Park City, Utah (21:31:00), and Rose Grant of Columbia Falls, Montana (22:06:47).
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