Santa Cruz Bicycles

Breck Epic

 

Breck Epic 2019

August 21 — 2019 | Breckenridge, CO

The race dispatch from Santa Cruz’s own world-traveling lens-slinger, Gary Perkin who was on the ground and in the mix at the 2019 Breck Epic.

epic
/ˈɛpɪk/

Epic is a word that gets thrown about a lot these days… epic views, epic trails, epic rides. These days we tend to use it more as a superlative instead of its original meaning -  a long narrative poem in an elevated style recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero.

Fear not, I’m not going to commit poetry on this kind of thing, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But, I’d wager the events that unfolded at the 2019 Breck Epic were indeed the stuff of legend… and each rider who took part was completing their own elevated (altitude) odyssey. Hundreds of individual stories of triumph, despair, and accomplishment all took part throughout the week in the mountain town of Breckenridge. 

The first thing I noticed about this historic mining town high in the Colorado Rockies was the altitude. Each day’s stage started in and around Breckenridge, which is just below the 3000m (9800 feet) above sea level mark, where you then climb out of town. Cresting French and Wheeler passes took us over the 3800m /12500 feet mark on two separate days. For this sea-level dweller, this was a tough ask day after day with a camera bag … let alone racing it at pace. But this race is so much more than just a high altitude suffer-fest. 

The Epic fosters stewardship of the vast network of local trails, a strong sense of community involvement, and many lessons in backcountry sustainability. It is a big race with that charming small-town feel.

I’m going to let race organizer Mike McCormack take over here, as he paints a much prettier picture with words than I can in my post altitude recovery state.  

Mike McCormack 
The ethos of the race is simple you know... its a love letter to this trail network. It is a way to look at where we live, and really the width and breadth and magnificence of this trail network. Its connectivity and the closeness it brings you to nature. I know that sounds terrible and hokey, but going through many of my early years here was a formative experience. What I know about sustainable use, what I know about environmentalism, I learned here.

We owned a local race series and what we discovered is that there is this great sense of community locally and the further you went afield the less we saw that - because you don’t see those people over the avocado bin at the local grocery store. I thought we could create that small-town feel within a big race format. This is a shared experience - its a week of most people’s lives that they are going to remember forever. They fucking lived this week! They persevered, they strapped it on and got to work. And along the way, they rode some amazing trails. 

There are a lot of great mountain destinations in the world - you can talk about Downieville - amazing. You can talk about Crested Butte - unbelievable. But how many of them start in town. But not just start in town - you can go in ten different directions from town and have a huge day. It’s a love letter to Breck. It’s beautiful here and we want people to appreciate that and maybe take some of these values home. It may sound overblown … its just bike race. 

You know if you yell a lot, you get really good at yelling. If you practice kindness a lot, my experience shows you get really good at kindness. I have a lot of experience exploring both of these theories with my kids. I’m trying to be a better person, dad, husband and that’s a maturation arc. I don’t want them to remember me as the yelling dick. But a lot of lessons in parenting come through here - we want to please people, we want them to go home feeling enriched and also for a week to have practiced being really kind and thoughtful to each other. This is a place where they can leave the mores of traditional racing behind and share the experience. 

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Santa Cruz Image
Gary Perkin

Tobin Ortenblad
I definitely didn’t know what to expect coming into this race. Every day was super hard, every stage lived up to its name - not to be totally cliché. You’re out there like every race and you have a moment - “Why am I doing this?” And then you finish and you say “Wow! That was incredibly hard, fun, the trails were insane”! It's super pretty everywhere!

With the exception of Stage 5, I had a really good time every day. I did have a good time on Stage 5 - it was just different kind of fun. I will definitely be back next year if the opportunity is there. I don’t say that about every race I’ve been to - hopefully that speaks volumes. 

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Santa Cruz Image
Gary Perkin

Carter Nieuwsteeg
I’ve done a few six-day stage races before and this one is a totally different beast - just in terms of the sheer amount of climbing and the altitude we are at. Just altitude alone is such a big factor. I came into this race without super high expectations - I just wanted to go in and obviously try my best, but not get hung up on a certain result. Because after all it is stage racing and anything can happen.

The trails weren’t super technical - super steep climbing, but in terms of descending it was pretty mellow- fast, flowy, shark tooth rocks everywhere - so dialed it back a bit for that - but definitely not like home where it's rooty and dirty. I'd come back for sure - maybe after a little recovery at sea level - but I’d definitely come back. 

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Santa Cruz Image
Gary Perkin

Troy Wells
So this was my third time at Breck Epic and I came in with high hopes - but unfortunately, I ended up with a stomach bug on Day 1. That definitely changed my week and my goals. But you can’t beat the riding in Breck. I had a great time. It's one of the few races in North America where you get above treeline. It’s just a fun event overall. I definitely hope to come back and hopefully not lose everything out of my body. I tried to make the most out of it but sometimes your body just says no. As hard as you try to make it go there’s nothing you can do. 

It was really great too just hanging out with everybody here and having team meals, and having the staff and support here was great. Super well supported and it's hard to beat the week. 

Mical Dyck
First off - Tobin & Rick (Ortenblad) cooked us supper all week - it was awesome! The course was really good - it reminded me of the old Trans-Rockies - epic days, beautiful views, big hikes. I’m not always stoked on hiking but the views were amazing. It was definitely harder than I was expecting - I think the altitude shitkicked me a bit. I would definitely come back - but I’d have a different approach to preparation for it. 

Hecho in Brexico. Register for the 2020 Breck Epic here >>

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