Ulster Cycling News

Breck Epic Report Day 1 by Ciara MacManus

aTeam Summit Mountain Biking at Breck Epic 2016 - Colorado
The Breck Epic MTB race is a 6 day stage race centred around the town of Breckenridge, Colorado at an elevation of 2900m with each stage starting and finishing in and around the town and ranging from 55km – 70km in length and topping out at 3900m elevation.  One of the challenges of the event is not purely the length of the stages or even the amount of climbing each day but the altitude we would compete at where there is between 63% and 71% of the normal oxygen availability as at sea level.  The draw of the race is that each stage consists of miles upon miles of varied single track trail – smooth meadow flowing routes along the Colorado trail or rocky and rooty forest tracks passing through the historic mining features dotted within the landscape to high meadow alpine-like passes.


I have competed in the Beck Epic twice before, in 2010 and 2012, but was keen to encourage other Irish riders to come and experience the event and challenge so with not much persuasion I got team Summit Mountain Biking together to sign up to the 2016 Breck Epic including myself (in the 40+ women’s category), Conor (also in the men’s 40+ category) and Mark O’Shea (men’s open/elite category).

In preparation for the event, myself and Conor completed 5 sessions at the altitude chamber at University of Ulster Jordanstown consisting of hour long sessions working our way up from 1500m – 4500m elevation while cycling on turbo trainers, something which really helped during the higher ascent stages of the race.

We headed out a week before the race to beat the jet lag and get acclimatised starting with a few days on the front range of the Rockies and eventually arriving in Breckenridge 4 days before the event.   Our first ride out at full altitude was interesting, low blood oxygen levels evidenced by that little dizzy feeling encountered during any sustained effort to honk up any little up kicks in the trail and climbing the stairs up to our apartment was a killer! After another day or so of riding we learnt our limits and soon began to get the legs ready for the big first Day.  Myself and Mark were competing the full 6 days while Conor opted for the 3 day Epi-Curious choosing the last 3 days as his race.   This allowed us a little flexibility to get into a routine as Conor helped us out with sorting out our Aid Station bag drop each morning for the first three days.


Breck Epic Stage 1 – 57km 1500m ascent.

Stage 1 dawned bright and early with a 6am start in preparation for our 8.30am roll out.  A new bed and pre-race nerves meant little sleep for myself while Mark was fully excited for the day.  Everyone warmed up and down the road alongside the start line in nice shiney clean kit all eager to get started.  At 8.30 the countdown began to the first stage of the 2016 Breck Epic and we rolled out behind a big US cop jeep.  I moved up through the field during the first 15 minute climb but was feeling the altitude and lack of sleep so held back a little for Mark to catch up before we entered the first section of singletrack, a 2km section swoopy, twisty smooth descent.  After that Mark paced us along a relatively flat section of trail before the first big steep, loose rocky steep climb.

At this point I lost contact with Mark, my full suspension making better traction and work of the climb, many riders having to get off and push.  After that it was a series of technical climbs followed by dry dusty fast rooty and rocky descents.  I caught up and passed a number of other female riders, not entirely sure what category or position they were in.  About three quarters of the way around as I caught another female rider a marshal informed us we were 2nd and 3rd place women overall – brilliant, I managed to catch up with the open/elite women!  As we descended towards the last 7km of singletrack to the finish disaster struck, my front tyre burped off the rim while riding some rocky trail sections.  I tried to get some air back into the tyre but it was no longer seating on the rim.  Mark caught up with me, and thankfully stopped and helped put a tube in - what a team mate!  Off we rolled and blasted back to the finish – I managed to take a convincing win in my category on Stage 1 and 4th overall female rider.  Mark came in not long after with a big smile.


Ciara MacManus

Posted by Marian Lamb UCN : marianlamb@ulstercyclingnews.com

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