The big, bad Breckenridge 100 stands alone in the ultra-endurance MTB world
What: The 11th year of an ultra-endurance mountain bike race across Breckenridge and the surrounding peaks, with three separate courses at distance of 32, 68 and 100 miles
When: Saturday, July 18 starting at 6 a.m.
Where: Carter Park in Breckenridge
Cost: $85 to $225 depending on category and distance
All trails on the three courses will be open to the general public during the race. On-site registration for the 100-mile race is available at Carter Park on July 17 from 4-8 p.m. There is no late registration for the 100-miler on race day. Late registration for the 32 and 68-mile races is available at Carter Park on race day from 7-9 a.m. For more information, including route maps, see www.warriorscycling.com.
On any other day, biking from Breckenridge to the top of Wheeler Pass would be the sort of triumph you celebrate over beers and a nap.
Not so for nearly 400 mountain bikers in the Breckenridge 100.
Within an hour or two of leaving Carter Park at sun-up, the first group of cyclists will huff over the top of Wheeler Pass, drop into Copper, skid onto the Ten Mile recpath and finally connect with the fabled Peaks Trail in Frisco before they reach the midtown staging area, leaving Wheeler Pass far, far behind.
And, they must. After passing through Carter Park a second time, another 70 miles, 14,000 vertical feet and two brand-new trail loops remain before they can finally have a cold one.
For the past 11 years, the Breck 100 has been Summit County’s entry in the realm of ultra-endurance mountain biking. It’s a strange world, just as Schilling says, fueled by a small yet fervent corps of pro and amateur athletes who eat torturous trails like candy. There’s another in Leadville on Aug. 15, touted as the “race of all races,” and 14 others spread across the West as part of the National Ultra Endurance Series.
But, the Breckenridge race is just a little different than the rest. Just ask Schilling, race coordinator Thane Wright, or almost anyone else who’s tackled the 100-mile course.
Back to the grind
The Breck 100 is so tough, in fact, that Schilling considered never riding in it again after his first two tries. But, still, there’s a bizarre bug going around the ultra-endurance world, and, once you’ve been bitten, it’s hard to say no.
“I didn’t think I’d ever do it again, but, after two years, the memory starts to fade a bit,” laughs Schilling, who works in real estate development during the day and also serves as vice president for the Summit Foundation. “The way the stars aligned, I was able to ride my bike a lot more this year, and, when you’re in shape, you want to test it out, test your fitness.”
And besides, Schilling didn’t settle for a DNF in the past — he finished first in his age group both times. But, he did so in the amateur division, and, for the first time this weekend, he’ll compete in the pro division next to Colorado Springs veteran Jesse Jakomait and fellow Breck local Nick Truitt of Breck Bike Guides.
For the first time in 10 years, seven-time winner and former Summit local Josh Tostado won’t be at the start line.
“Josh is thought of as Mr. Breckenridge 100, and he should be,” says Wright with race organizer Warriors Cycling. “I’m not sure if he’ll make it out this year, and it’s not that I can blame him.”
The remaining pros are joined by a small collection of amateurs on the 100-mile course, along with other amateurs and three-person teams tackling abbreviated 32- and 68-mile races.
3 loops, 3 courses, many miles
For Wright, the Breck 100’s course layout sets it apart from peer races. The majority of ultras are designed like shorter mountain bike races, with a single 35-mile course that racers lap three times before the finish line. But, all three loops of the Breck 100 course are different, with 32-milers finishing one, 68-milers finishing two and 100-milers finishing all three.
The courses are arranged in a cloverleaf shape, with Breckenridge at the center of three loops: the Wheeler Pass route to the west, a French Gulch/Colorado Trail route to the north and, finally for the 100-milers, the coup de grace, a Boreas Pass to Como route to the east.
While the courses have changed little over the past decade, racers hardly complain. The second loop is hands-down a favorite — it crosses classic Breck trails like Minnie Mine, Side Door and Little French Flume — but the third loop can be just as rewarding, thanks in large part to Gold Dust Trail, a little-known piece of singletrack that winds from the top of Boreas Pass into Como.
“That is such a great trail,” Schilling says. “It’s really flowy, really fast, but the big thing is, once you’ve made it there you’re committed. You have to turn around and ride home, so you feel like you’re really in the thick of it. You can’t quit.”
For 400 fellow competitors, “don’t quit” will become a sort of internal rallying cry over an average of nine to 10 hours. Schilling says it’s tough to prepare for the mental grind of a 100-mile race, but, then again, that’s the ultra-endurance athlete talking.
“The 68-mile one has always sounded appealing, but once you’ve committed to 68, it doesn’t seem like that much more to make it to 100,” Schilling say. “I think the true spirit of the event is the 100 miles, the three laps, and, in my mind, you might as well knock it all out if you’re going for that long.”
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