Breckenridge’s Imperial Challenge pseudo-triathlon adds splitboard, snowshoe-snowboard categories
For the first time in the event’s 27-year history, the 2018 Imperial Challenge race in Breckenridge will feature both splitboarding and snowshoe-snowboard categories, divisions that will award first-place medals of their own.
The annual event, scheduled this year for April 21, combines both cycling and running with uphill boot-packing/skinning and downhill skiing and snowboarding for a one-of-a-kind event that organizers describe as a “pseudo-triathlon.”
“The Imperial Challenge, it’s really in a unique class by itself in terms of the nature of it,” said race director Jeff Westcott. “It’s not a ski mountaineering race. It’s not a bike race. It’s something else. The Imperial Challenge is what people want it to be for them. Everybody takes a different approach, a different attitude.”
This year, the first portion of the race will require competitors to either bike or run from the Breckenridge Recreation Center on Airport Road to the base of the Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 7, via County Road 3. The 6.2-mile dirt road route has a total elevation gain of 950 feet, and those cycling are permitted to use road bikes, mountain bikes or cross bikes. Helmets are mandatory for the bike portion of the race only.
The cycle/run portion of the race leads to the ascent and descent at Breckenridge Ski Resort. This year, the course will require racers to climb Peak 7’s Pioneer Trail before turning left onto the resort’s summer road to the bottom of T Bar. Racers will then climb up the T Bar lift line, turn left and then take an immediate right up Imperial Ridge, the shoulder of Peak 8. Racers will continue climbing to the top of Peak 8 at 12,987 feet of elevation. This portion of the course will require 3,000 feet of vertical gain.
Racers will then descend Whales Tail to the bottom of Vertigo, where they’ll veer right onto Lower Forget Me Not toward T Bar, before taking a left back onto the Pioneer Trail and finishing just above the base of the Independence SuperChair.
With more racing options than ever, Westcott feels the event is one that reflects the ever-evolving recreation community and culture of Breckenridge and Summit County. His guiding philosophy is, “the athlete comes first.” “It’s about ‘what are they experiencing,’” Westcott said.
As for the more traditional cycle-skin-ski racers, once again the Imperial Challenge will offer not only competitive age division races, which start at 10 a.m., but the categories of “Retro Open” and “Heavy Metal/Rec Open,” as well. The latter categories are intended for those racers who are participating in a more casual manner, including those racers who choose to compete with heavier ski setups rather than lightweight touring equipment. Participants in both the competitive age division and Rec Open categories are permitted to pick up equipment for different portions of the race via marked drop-off and pick-up locations, similar to transition locations for Ironman triathlons.
The Retro Open men and women’s categories harken back to the Imperial Challenge race’s roots, as competitors in this division will pedal with all of their uphill and downhill gear. Competitors aren’t required to pedal while wearing ski boots, though ski boots must be lugged while on the bike.
Again this year, Breckenridge local Craig “Doc P.J.” Perrinjaquet will partake in the Retro Open race, as he has never undertaken the Imperial Challenge in any other fashion, despite the advancements in ski and cycling gear technology.
Westcott feels it speaks to the spirit of the nearly three-decade-old event.
“We got kind of away from that sort of approach to the event for many years,” Westcott said. “And I’d say about five years ago we brought back the Retro Open category in honor of the first years of the Imperial Challenge, out of respect for P.J. He just does it on a regular mountain bike, a 26-inch wheel mountain bike. He just goes up and hits the sidewalk all the way up Ski Hill Road. That’s how the Imperial Challenge first started.”
Partial proceeds from the event will be donated to Breckenridge Ski Patrol. All 2018 competitors will receive a knit beanie with the Imperial Challenge logo on it as part of an athlete’s gift sponsored by Mountain Outfitters, as well as energy food provided by Honey Stinger.
To register for the race, go to MavSports.com/imperial-challenge/.
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