The last couple months have been tough after breaking my collarbone in the middle of my race season back in July. Instead of just siting on my ass and feeling sorry for myself, I’ve tried to stay as busy as possible and do what I could do to be on a bike no matter what. After starting on the trainer, then moving to road riding and finally a week of mountain biking, I finally felt like I was ready for some racing again!
It feels so good to be back on my mountain bike! Having my passion taken away from me reinforces my appreciation for what a gift it really is to ride and race mountain bikes all summer long. A new race to Colorado this year is The Winter Park Epic 50, which fell exactly 8 weeks out from my injury. I decided to give it a try, 50 miles is shorter than I typically race but at this point in the season I was glad there was something so close to home to get back on the horse. Fittingly, Winter Park is where I broke my collarbone (riding the bike park), so I had to return to the place that took me out for some redemption.
The epic 50 turned out to be a great race, super fun course and very well put on. The markings and aid stations were some of the best that I’ve seen at a bike race. The pace at the start of the race was super fast but I did my best to stay in front and jumped behind eventual winner Kelly Magelky, he kept the pace very fast and I followed for a while, but after about half a lap I couldn’t keep the effort up and was hurting a bit because of it. By the end of the first lap, I felt my strength returning and began to feel really good and enjoy myself. All the talk of taking it easy goes right out the window when you’re in the heat of the race! I was not holding back on the descents, I was having too much fun and relishing the fact that I was able to race again and feel good doing it! By the end I finished in second 3 minutes behind Kelly who is racing really strong right now. The good result was just icing on the cake, the real victory was just doing what I love again and I’m so thankful for that.
This was my 9th time racing the Breckenridge 100, for better and worse, I know the course like the back of my hand. The good part is being ready for every twist and turn on a very difficult course. The bad part is that I know the level of pain and suffering that is about to take place… The Breck 100 is a legit mountain bike race it tests every aspect of racing a mountain bike.
The level of competition went up a notch this year, with Swiss strong man Oliver Zurbrugg fresh off his Firecracker 50 win, Ben Sonntag who is always super strong, along with Nick Truitt, and Jeff Kerkove who are always strong contenders. With recent heavy rain, the course was at full saturation making things slick and tricky. I ended up riding with Ben most of the first loop and by the end of the Peaks Trail we had caught up with Oliver who had been leading. The three of us made our way together into the transition for loop two. While riding behind Oliver, I noticed that his bike looked like it had a lot of play in the rear end of his bike and when we got to the transition area for loop two, he realized that his frame was broken which ended his day.
Loop two started with me leading and as I started setting the pace Ben was never more than a minute or two behind me. We continued like this all the way into loop three. By the top of the loop three Indiana climb Ben had reeled me in and we were together over the pass and rode gold dust trail together all the way to Como. The return from Como back over Boreas Pass is about an hour dirt road grind, I knew Ben was going to make a jump and about 10 minutes into the climb he launched and I couldn’t go. I had to just keep my pace going and push what I could. I kept him in sight the whole way up the pass and was less than two minutes back at the top.
On the decent I knew I could make some time up so I pushed as hard as I could and flew half out of control down the last trail section. When I popped out on the road I had Ben in my sites but it was too late, we where just about at the finish and I rolled in 9 seconds behind him. It was a hard fought race and Ben came out on top, I feel great about my second place finish, I raced hard and gave it all I had and had a great time racing my bike.