Starting with Penn Gulch, Breck to host epic ride this week |

Starting with Penn Gulch, Breck to host epic ride this week

Geoff Mintz
summit daily news
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Bike racing has often been compared to a game of chess because of the strategy involved in winning the race. It’s not simply about who can pedal the fastest; it’s about who can best manage their energy and cross finish line with their tank on empty – something that becomes even more complicated in a stage race.

Two hundred riders from as many as 15 countries are set to roll out of the today’s Breck Epic, a six-stage race spanning 240 miles with total vertical just shy of 37,000 feet. The courses are constructed so that the top pros will finish in about four hours everyday.

Beginning and ending at Carter Park in Breckenridge, today’s Pennsylvania Gulch stage is 39.5 miles with 5,419 vertical feet of climbing.

While many other mountain bike stage races boast longer distances, few are held at comparable altitude and on similarly challenging singletrack trails, which obviously do not lend themselves to fast paces.

“The Breck Epic is about the size of a local Wednesday night race, but the riders are among the best in the world. They’re coming from all over the world,” said the race’s organizer Mike McCormick, who lived in Summit County for 13 years and is very familiar with the terrain. “Some of the fastest world cup athletes on the men’s and women’s side will be here.”

The field will host 10 national champions in a variety of cycling events, such as cross country, cyclocross and marathon, McCormick said. Among the fastest riders are the ones visiting from Costa Rica, which hosts some of the toughest mountain bike stage races on the planet. So, look out for those guys.

“I think experience benefits anybody in a stage-race format. You really need to monitor your resources and pay attention to your recovery because you need to get back on your bike, at race pace, six days in a row,” McCormick said. “There’s really a component of thinking your way through it – being smart about how you fuel, how hard you go, where you need to expend energy and where you don’t.

“You’ve got to stay healthy. You’ve got to stay on your bike,” he added. “Like any athletic pursuit, it’s as much mental as it is physical.”

The Breck Epic is one of the only races with a cloverleaf format, with every stage beginning and ending in town. “It’s the ultimate showcase of our trail network. What we did was map out the six rides that we would want to go do with our friends, and we made them into courses. It was that simple.”

Race organizers have their eyes on Alma resident and six-time Firecracker 50 winner Josh Tostado as a likely contender.

“I think he’s under-appreciated for the type of rider that he is. Josh is a world-cup caliber rider,” McCormack said. “He knows the trails well, and he’s served well by that.”

Also, look out for seven-time national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson, who’s no slouch on a mountain bike. Lico Ramirez is a multi-time champion of the La Ruta stage race in Costa Rica. And Olympian Travis Brown, who is an all-around off-road cyclist will also be racing this week.

The race consists of several categories, not unlike the Summit Mountain Challenge. There are men’s and women’s solo, duo, 80-plus combined age, singlespeed and Clydesdale categories, to name a few.

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