Breckenridge’s Matt Powers rides for the love of mountain biking
Special to Daily
Matt Powers is brutally honest about the state of his bike career.
“I am 47 years old — I’m not looking for trouble. I just want to have fun,” Powers said with a chuckle. “I don’t have any illusion that I’m going to get picked up and sponsored.”
One would hardly know from his modest manner that the Breckenridge local is a two-time reigning champion of the Firecracker 50 men’s 45-49 division and men’s expert division winner of the 2016 Gold Rush Run. Maybe it’s because these achievements seem insignificant compared to the many miles of experiences Powers has already tallied.
Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Powers first experienced mountain biking riding through wooded trails and rolling pastures. He didn’t ride as seriously back then, but he does point to one formative event.
“My first significant mountain bike ride was on this trail called Berryman Trail in Bourbon, Missouri, and I had no idea what I was doing, and no business being out there. I didn’t have a spare tube, I didn’t have any food, I didn’t have pump,” said Powers.
Things got hairy when he became separated from his friends and then got a flat tire.
“I wound up hitchhiking in some crazy guy’s van completely covered with mud. I seriously had no idea if my friends and I were going to get back together,” said Powers. “I really had no idea if he was going to take me back to my car or to somewhere I didn’t want to be.”
Luckily, Powers fears were unwarranted, and the man went out of his way to transport him back to his car. It was an important lesson not only on preparing for the worst, but also on looking past appearances.
“It turned out to be a good lesson in just character and putting trust in people. I needed help and this guy helped me,” explained Powers.
Flash Forward To Breck
These days, Powers makes the Breckenridge area his canvas and freely casts broad strokes with his Santa Cruz 5010.
“I like to start early but not too early,” said Powers with a chuckle. “And really not have any direction than how long we’d like to ride. You can head off in any direction and get a great ride no matter where you go.”
He attributes his French Gulch residence and especially close proximity to the Firecracker course as a major factor behind his recent domination in the race.
“I live in basically a figure eight of the course… . We are very lucky to have the network of trails that the town and county are working to provide for us. I don’t know about other guys but for me I got to know what’s coming up or I’m terrified the whole time. There’s no question that the local knowledge part of these races is a huge component for me,” said Powers.
While he does train extensively on the Firecracker course and purposely surrounds himself with fast-paced riders, Powers says his strongest motivation still comes from his pure love for mountain biking.
“For a long time in my previous life before Breckenridge I ran a bunch and trained hard,” explained Powers. “When I moved here I sort of lost my cadence for that … I met my wife, we started a family — it didn’t work. But now they’ve gotten a bit older and I just got excited about being competitive again.”
The structure and challenge brought on by racing in Breck thrust the father of two back into the sport with a more goal-oriented focus than ever before. Slowly, he started improving, and with that came impressive performances at local races. He points to his winning of the 2015 Firecracker as an important milestone towards creating a more mentally content approach.
“When something like that happens and things become more defined, it’s hard to get your mind away from it,” said Powers.
Although competitive in nature, Powers does his best to keep a level head, because as much as he loves winning, he still loves biking much more.
“If someone is just stronger than me and beats me, man, I am OK with that because I’m pretty confident in understanding what my limitations are and I do not want to feel horrible at the end of the day or not be able to function with my family or work,” explained Powers. “If I hadn’t done that (won the 2015 Firecracker), it wouldn’t have dawned on me.”
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