Thursday, August 18, 2016

BreckEpic Stage 5 - a ridiculous hike-a-bike excuse for a stage

Look at our smiles at the start of stage 5.  I would not have been smiling if I had realized how incredibly ludicrous today would be. Photo by Lolly.


Drew (right) at the wave start. Photo by Lolly.
Me at the start. Photo by Lolly.
Stage 5 is promoted as the Queen Stage by the race promoter.  The course goes up and over Wheeler Pass and was to be some of the most difficult trail to ride, with significant hike-a-bike.

The first 4 miles were fine. A climb up a wide rocky singletrack and some gravel road to the aid station.  Another mile in the saddle and we started the ~45 minute hike-a-bike up switchbacks to a pass.  We knew this was coming and the views were incredibly beautiful.  There was a skinny trail descent.  After that, the day got a little bit stupid.  There was more hike-a-bike on a hiking trail to another pass where people were handing out fresh cooked bacon, skittles, and sour patch kids.  I took some skittles.  They were tasty.   

Andy and Drew at the bacon/skittle hand up station on Wheeler Pass

Hard to take selfies while riding at 12,500 feet.

The view from the top (photo by Drew)

Cooking bacon at Wheeler Pass.

Sunny skies before the storm rolled in. (Photo by Drew Jordan).
 Then some intermittently ridable off-camber hiking trail as the dark clouds built.  A right turn back UP to another mountain to take us hiking (on a hiking trail) on a wide open ridge line as thunder boomed around us and it started to hail. 
Last photo before it started thundering, lightning and hailing.
 The next 3 miles of hiking (on a hiking trail) exposed to lightning in a hail storm was so scary I felt sure someone was going to die.  I cried and would have turned around except that I figured the way back was likely longer (it wasn't). I didn't know I had 3 miles of hiking my bike on a hiking trail ahead of me.  Did I mention this was a hiking trail, and not a trail where bike should have been?  With 200+ racers pushing bikes in hard-soled mountain bike shoes and metal cleats, we did some serious damage to the wet trail.  I think Breckenridge Resort is crazy to let the race promoter run this race on their hiking trails.

The trail down off the ridge was gnarly.   I couldn't ride very much of it, and even less because there were hail drifts piled in the trail. I slid out once, tweeking my handlebars so they were sideways.  I straightened them as best I could.  Finally, upon entering the trees, the aid station appeared.  Luckily, my bag was there, but Andy and Drew's bags had not made it because the road into the aid station was too rough. Maybe that's a clue to the promoter to ditch this route!

After the aid station, we traversed through the trees on a trail that would have been pretty fun had it not been raining and making every little rock and root and bridge a slippery death obstacle.  By this time, my spirit was broken.  I was so relived to have not been struck by lightning, not have gotten hypothermia (I had enough extra clothes with me to avoid that), and not wrecked and broken my teeth out (one guy did), that I just rode slowly to the finish, hiking up every little hill that was too sloppy for me to try to ride.  About two miles from the finish, another thunder and lightning storm moved in and I felt sure they would pull us. But no, the promoter would rather just let us slow racers die. 

The end. 
The top pros finished in 2 hours 45 minutes.  The guys were around 5 to 5 and half.  My time was 6:22.  I think the last racer in was around 7 and a half.  That big of a spread is just a ridiculous way to run a race.  Bike races should be run on bike trails, not hiking trails, and no promoter in his right mind should send 200 people hiking on a 12,000 foot elevation ridge for 2 hours on a summer afternoon.  Ridiculous.  I'm still so angry I could cry and I've been off the trail for 6 hours.

I would not advise anyone to race the BreckEpic as long as the route for stage 5 is the same as it was in 2016!

Tomorrow is our last day.  I'll be ecstatic if I finish.

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