Swenson nears repeat Breck Epic victory with wet Wheeler win
Top Summit rider Lasse Konecny maintains 9th place
Keegan Swenson of Heber City, Utah and Alexis Skarda of Grand Junction continued their dominant performances of this year’s six-day Breck Epic on Thursday, Aug. 19, grinding through the slog of a wet Wheeler stage.
On the vaunted 24.7-mile penultimate course, Swenson pedaled to a top time of 2 hours, 46 minutes and 26 seconds. That was more than two minutes faster than Luis Mejia of Colombia (2:48:44), who was runner-up for the fifth consecutive day.
Swenson’s time through five of six stages is 15:08:41, a dozen minutes ahead of Mejia’s time of 15:20:29. The duo was joined on the men’s podium by Lachlan Morton of Boulder (2:48:56), who has gained ground on the men’s leaderboard and is now at fifth place overall at 15:53:05. Carlos Herrera resides at third place in the overall standings (15:50:07) entering Friday’s final stage.
Swenson wrote on Instagram that Thursday’s ride in the rain was even harder than the normal Wheeler stage, which is notorious for more than 5,200 feet of elevation gain, including two tough climbs up and over the Tenmile Range. One of those is on Wheeler Pass between Peaks 8 and 9 and one is north of the Breckenridge Ski Resort boundary near Peak 6.
Over the stage’s toughest climb, which Swenson said averaged an 18% grade, he maintained an average speed of 3.5 mph. He said he was merely trying to put one pedal in front of the other for the roughly 20 minutes riding above 12,000 feet, intermittently getting out of the saddle in spots.
“Absolutely Epic stage today,” Swenson said. “Brutal climb and hike-a-bike to the top of Wheeler.”
On the women’s side, Skarda roared back from an early deficit Thursday to seize the women’s Wheeler stage win with a time of 3:31:18. That was about three minutes ahead of another runner-up showing from Evelyn Dong (3:34:11) of Park City, Utah. Montanan Rose Grant joined Skarda and Dong on the women’s podium for the fourth consecutive day (3:50:59).
Entering Friday’s sixth and final stage — the 30.2-mile, 3,740-foot elevation gain Gold Dust stage — Skarda’s first-place time of 18:28:58 leads Dong (18:50:50) by 22 minutes. Grant’s overall third-place pace of 19:36:57 is more than 45 minutes behind Dong.
“That was one heck of a day,” Skarda wrote on Instagram. “(The) high point is around 12,600 feet. It was fun following speedy (Evelyn Dong’s) wheel on the descent. I was able to get a lead on the last five miles for the win.”
One of the Epic’s youngest racers, Breckenridge 17-year-old Lasse Konecny, maintained ninth-place position overall Thursday with a Wheeler time of 3:11:27. That was also ninth for the stage.
Konecny enters Gold Dust on Friday firmly in ninth place, six minutes off the pace of eighth-place Tobin Ortenblad of Santa Cruz, California (16:51:30), and more than three minutes ahead of Chris Mehlman of Manchester, Massachusetts (17:11:14).
See complete Breck Epic results here.
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