Today I woke up with aspirations of something great. The final stage of the 2012 Breck Epic, Gold Dust, is the stage which suits my abilities best and where I have thus far enjoyed the most success in previous race editions.
This is probably because it has the longest stretches of road, the least vert, and the least gnarly trail riding of any course this week. To be fair, people have heckled me at MTB races saying “Hey Pearce, the track is 200 miles east of here, moron!” And to be unfair, mountain bike races frequently have turns to the left AND the right, which sometimes proves challenging for me.
I rolled my weary body out of bed, prepared the extra strong French press, and made preparations in earnest despite my wounded body and soul. The previous 5 stages (6 including Leadville) had taken a large toll on my body and morale.
I had enjoyed good sensations at times, but the proprioceptive feedback of fresh legs was now a distant memory. Everyone else on the start line would of course be tired as well, so the question is one of relative fatigue vs. function, as defined in the context of my peer group.
I was definitely in the hole in comparison to previous 6th stage mornings (in prior years), thanks in part to an untimely gravity-induced collision with the trail on day 5. My left quadriceps were not operating at normal capacity, as evidenced by a slight limp which now characterized my walk. I put this evidence out of my mind and focused on the most important task of the morning: caffeine.
The stage started off at a calm pace, until we hit the first section of singletrack, and it quickly became clear: my horse was dead. I positioned myself optimally to follow the front of the race, but when the race went, my horse did not respond. I kicked it hard several times to try and wake it up, but to no avail.
My lower back was lit, my legs burned, and at full throttle I was riding impressively slow. The leaders rode away from me, and once again I was forced to watch them disappear into the singletrack. After a few moments of frustration, I accepted my fate and resigned to settle in for the day. There was nothing left to do by enjoy riding my bike as much as possible, and try to not get caught by the entire singlespeed field.
The rest of the stage was a pedestrian affair for me. The head of the open men’s race proved an exciting battle however, as Ben Melt Swanepoele nearly took the overall title from Ben “Zee German” Sonntag. The final classification gap was a shade over 2 minutes. For 20 hours of racing and 40,000 feet of climbing, this is exceptionally close.
My fourth Breck Epic had come to a close, with exception of stage 7 of course, which took place at The Gold Pan. One local told me you can get both cheap beer and crystal meth there. I knew there would be some post-race shenanigans when our motley crew arrived on the scene. Hell hath no fury like a bike racer who has been cooped up all week with early bedtimes.
Add in a rather diverse mix of Breck locals (complete with mountain man Stetsons, boots and jumbo side burns), a few ski bunny summer leftovers, some upwardly mobile older divorced men dressed in the finest Dri-Fit and sporting tasseled loafers, and the people watching alone was better than any Tarantino movie (I feel that I can talk with authority on that matter as a diligent student of his work — I can recite all of Pulp Fiction at will). An excellent finish to a week of getting my teeth kicked in.
Thanks to all the hard workers behind the race this year, it is always a joy to negotiate the trails of Breckenridge with a dialed race crew. You have to look hard and long to find any negative vibe at this race, something which is increasingly rare in the world of cycling these days.
Thanks for reading,