Summit rookie gains ground while race leaders extend margins on Day 4 of Breck Epic
Breckenridge local Nicole Valentine runs away with 3-day women’s title
Breckenridge local Lasse Konecny, 17, raced to his best stage yet Wednesday, Aug. 18, in his rookie attempt at the Breck Epic six-day mountain bike race.
Konecny — the top local racer in the event — recorded a time of 3 hours, 30 minutes and 17 seconds on the Aqueduct stage, which runs a total of 42.3 miles and features 6,473 feet of elevation gain.
The Aqueduct course featured long uphills and even longer downhills on a route with an average elevation of more than 10,000 feet.
Twenty-two miles into the race, mountain bikers were challenged with a long climb from below 9,300 feet to above 11,100 feet over 7 miles, as the stage tackles the Colorado Trail in the reverse direction that it’s normally ridden.
Race leaders Keegan Swenson of Heber City, Utah, (3:10:30) and Alexis Skarda of Grand Junction (3:52:32) each won their fourth consecutive stage at this year’s race. Both of the men’s and women’s overall and six-day solo open division leaders will bring 19-minute buffers with them into Thursday’s 24.6-mile Wheeler stage, a treacherous and grueling stage that climbs up and over the Tenmile Range twice with 5,227 feet of elevation gain total.
Swenson was joined on Wednesday’s Stage 4 podium by runner-up Luis Mejia (3:12:12) and Diyer Rincon (3:12:13) both of Colombia. At 12:31:45, Mejia has ridden four consecutive stages to second place to have a comfortable 25-minute lead over third-place rider Carlos Herrera (12:56:35), also of Colombia, who Rincon (13:02:48) is trying to chase down.
In the women’s race, Rose Grant of Montana (3:56:35) and Evelyn Dong of Park City, Utah, (4:02:56) each joined Skarda on the podium. Dong holds a 29-minute edge heading into Wheeler on Thursday.
Among Summit locals, behind Konecny, Sean Gilligan completed Stage 4 in 4:13:51, good for 20th place among the solo open men. Gilligan and fellow Silverthorne rider Ross Herr enter Wheeler in search of top 20 finishes, as Gilligan stands in 19th place in 16:06:09 total while Herr sits in 20th with a time of 16:40:35. John Rauen is in search of a top 25 finish in the solo open men’s division, currently at 26th with a time of 17:28:08.
As for the Epic’s three-day race champions, Breckenridge local Nicole Valentine ran away with the solo open women’s title Sunday through Tuesday. The Breck Epic rookie completed the first three stages, which consisted of 118.7 miles and 19,365 feet of elevation gain, in 15:14:07. That time was a commanding 5% faster than runner-up Reagan Long of Niwot (16:03:06), who completed the three-day challenge nearly 50 minutes behind Valentine.
Valentine said racing in the Breck Epic has been a bucket list item of hers for years. She said her familiarity with racing at high altitude and with the Breck Epic routes — she pre-rode 75% of the race’s trails — helped her to win the three-day race despite the fact it was her first stage race.
Valentine won each of the race’s three stages, which culminated in the hardest stage, the 40.5-mile circumnavigation of Mount Guyot. The final day’s course brought Valentine to some of the rocky, high mountain passes she didn’t pre-ride
“With French and Georgia Pass, there was a ton of climbing,” Valentine said. “The descent off the backside of French Pass was particularly challenging. It was really steep and technical and pretty scary. But that was great because this race pushed me outside of my comfort zone and pushed me past my limits.”
See complete 2021 Breck Epic results here.
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