Breck Epic Stage 3 Guyot
Note in the video Stage 1 is Blue, Stage 2 Green
Stage three was probably the highlight of all the six days of the Breck Epic for me. Stage three circumnavigated Mt Guyot crossing the Continental Divide twice.
Starting the day I felt quite good. The weather was forecasted to be a little sketchy so I wanted to be sure I had the most comfortable kit possible. I wore my skin suite because it by far has the best chamois, and since I expected to get rained on I wanted to keep the most sensitive areas from getting too roughed up. Over that I wore a long sleeve rain jersey, a water proof breathable jersey unique to Castelli. That setup paid off later that day when I was pelted by hail and freezing rain.
Today covered a lot of trail that I had never ridden before, places I’d never been. We rolled out of town the same as the previous day and had a neutral start with a police escort to French Gulch Rd, which when it turned to dirt it was supposed to be a free for all race. For whatever reason, the race leaders on the front kept the effort neutral, and I tagged along with the first main group until we bottlenecked at the gate at the Reiling Gulch trailhead. Since I hadn’t done a warmup that day, the waiting to take turns getting through the gate was really helpful, a quick break to reset the heart rate and breathing. However it remained crowded enough on the trail that as someone crashed entering the X10U8 trail we all got another break.
Eventually we did Little French Gulch backwards, I like that much more! Although there were quite a few flats from sharp rocks and ancient nails from the old water trough we rode up. I took it pretty easy coming down Little French and counted off five or six racers who already flatted.
The next section of trail headed up to French Pass and covered by far some of the most beautiful back country of the Rocky Mountains I have ever experienced. The first part of the trail was in and out of the trees, then when we got above the tree line the trail went through tall grasses. Slowly it became steeper and a few rocky spots here and there caused dismounts and a little pushing.
I had my first potential game ender experience when I had a bit of an asthma attack. Several years ago I was diagnosed with exercise and allergy induced asthma but usually I don’t have an issue. For what ever stroke of luck though, I thought to carry my inhaler, and boy did it help with the uncontrollable coughing!
Before getting to the top of French Pass there is a really steep hike-a-bike followed by about a mile of trail that was mostly rideable, then the final short but tough hike-a-bike push over the top of French Pass at just over 12,000 ft. There was a small number of people up there cheering us on and handing out Skittles to celebrate getting “over the rainbow”. It was quite nice, except the Skittles were frozen and impossible to chew!
Descending the initial part of the other side of French Pass was super sketch, lots of swearing on the way down! I had been warned that I might want to walk parts of it, but at first it didn’t seem that bad. Then suddenly it was so steep there was no way to stop. I was so far back on the bike my butt kept bouncing off the rear tire and I was doing everything I could do to keep the wheels from locking up. I made it down, but fell in a stream at the bottom of the first part. The second part of the descent took us to the second aid station. It was a combination of chunky rocks then smooth trail, a lot of fun that I managed to catch three or four people on.
After the second aid station the course headed up to Georgia Pass mostly on jeep quality road. It rained, sometimes hard, there was lightning, some hail, it was cold, but I surprisingly didn’t notice most of it. Eventually I made it to the top where again some hard core fans greeted racers with a shot of expresso. Then I hit the Colorado Trail again.
Descending this section of the Colorado Trail is really hard to put into words. The views and majesty of the Rocky Mountains here have few words that can be used to describe them. I had a lot of weird rushes of emotions though. I felt tremendous guilt at moments mixed with sorry, joy with a few outbursts of laughter. I thought about all the things that are happening in the world, so many of which cause unnecessary suffering and death, and here I am, selfish me riding a mountain bike that costs more than too many people may ever make in their lifetime through some of the most magnificent terrain ever. It was a defining moment, a moment that helped me realize again what is important in life and where I would like to be one day. Somehow I’ll figure out how to get there, at least this part of the Breck Epic was a defining journey for me. Time will tell if I am truly a Bad MoFo or just a poser.
The last section of stage three ended in a tough climb up American Gulch Rd, another jeep quality road. It seem to take forever to get to the top and unfortunately I think I was caught by a few on this climb. I was getting tired for sure! By the time I made it to the top it was raining with quite a bit of hail which made for a painful descent back to the single track that finished up the race.
Sure enough when I got to the finish the rain had stopped and the sun was out. What an awesome day!