Alex Grant edged out the Juggernaut ESF by a narrow 7 hour margin at the 2014 edition of the Breck Epic. Grant, noticeably shaken at the finish remarked “it was like a wall of red behind me. I mean, I think it was like a visual residue from the start line but still, it was in my head. The Juggernaut. Even when they’re 7 hours behind, you never know.”
The low down from Fang:
Breck Epic Day 1: Juggernaut ESF – Benevolence Begins
Like the bicycle conquistadors of days past, the Juggernaut set off to the mountains of Colorado to do what they do: share the mystery, force and élan of their benevolence with the elite rocky mountain mountain biking community on this six-day adventure. The pure air and big sky are certain to elevate the beneficence that only the ESF can deliver.
Though the Juggernauts are few, their acts are rich and many: arriving at race registration in ESF Black Out kit, participating in group photos, graciously accepting donut hand ups, showing up on time for the race start to name just a few … and it’s only Day 1.
Race report: 35 miles and 5100’ of elevation. An awesome set of trails including Aspen Alley, Nightmare on Baldy, Little French Flume, and the most incredible set of berms and whoops from Barney Ford to Barney Flow into Carter Park for the finish. Great weather and great day on the bike. Everyone came in within about five minutes of each other, in order: Olsen, Dyno, Thor, and Fang.
Breck Epic Day 2: The Colorado Trail Giveth
The section of the Colorado Trail off West Ridge could be the 8th Wonder of the World. 8 miles of bermed, switchbacked, bench cut thrill ride that takes you through forest, open mountain face, and mountain meadow. 100% spectacle. It isn’t easy getting there, but the payoff goes well beyond the investment.
Noteworthy acts: Going cliffside to avoid running over another rider’s head when that rider stacked it on Prospect Trail; graciously posing for more group photos; giving the Day Kit some air time at a MTB race; handing out effusive praise to competitors grunting up that 25% section that is more wisely hiked; keeping the local beer store in business. Another day of giving indeed.
Race Report: 37+ miles; 5300ish feet elevation. Heinous Hill earned its name, Colorado Trail – look at the profile to understand that story, Babybels on the trail, long climbs and even longer descents, berms everywhere you look. Great day – gonna’ get harder.
In order: Dyno, Olsen, Thor, Fang.
Breck Epic Day 3: Beer, Bacon, and Berm Genies
A couple trips across the Divide with hors d’oeuvres, and a cocktail served at 12,000’ just for showing up with a bike – additional acts of kindness in MTB wonderland. Breckenridge could very well be the Juggernaut spiritual epicenter, its magnetic north.
The day’s acts of magnanimity: more group photos, but in a slightly different setting; complimenting the race promoter’s choice of beer and bacon servings at altitude; enjoying dill pickles with our fellow racers at the finish line; and patronizing the Breckenridge distillery. Such thoughtfulness from the ESF once again. The benevolent society is strong.
Race Report: 36 miles. 6000’ elevation gain, including a trip up to 12k’. Another unbelievable day on the bike. A couple looong climbs with equally long descents: French Pass down to Michigan Creek, and Georgia Pass to a Colorado Trail traverse with a super technical descent down something fricking awesome. Finally a long climb up to finish off with the Side Door downhill, which evidently gets visited often by the berm genie of Breckenridge. Amazing stuff.
Order: Dyno, Gorka, Thor, and Fang
Breck Epic Day 4: ”Over the Hump” and finally broke 40 (miles)
Sort of over the hump (two “easy” ones left … ha!), and sort of easier than yesterday’s grind up French and Georgia Passes, but still pretty much of a burly day. Vomit Hill, a 7-mile climb, a bone-dry gravelly bench cut switchback section that diiiidn’t look quite so sketchy on the map as it did when you were trying not to face slide down into the village. Just another day at the Breck Epic.
A couple notable acts: Dyno saved relations between the US and Chile with a front tire grab of a hapless Chilean racer about to slide off narrow bench cut – clipped in – down the side of an open face; validated “number 1” status by a local truck driver when suggesting he slow his vehicle down – evidently mid-week bike races don’t resonate with everyone; and, more group photos … naturally.
Race report: 41.5 miles. 6000+ feet elevation. Easy climb up to the Gold Run hilltop and single track; sketchy hairpin bench cut cliffside switchbacks; Vomit Hill; “big ass mutherf***n” gradual climb to West Ridge to Colorado Trail/North Fork single track (awesome!); crappy jeep trail climb to more awesome single track down Side Door – finish Stage 4. All followed by an odd arrangement of 3 Juggs in the creek.
Breck Epic Day 5: The beginning of the denouement. But first a trip to thinner air.
I’ve quit posting the four horsemen and their post race group photo vitality at this point – because you can get too much of a good thing. Coincidentally, this stage was the stage most suited to intentional omission because of all the iconic Breck routes, this suffered a bit in its detail, thus leading to grumpy Juggernauts. Not photogenic. The promoter might be inclined to throat punching for this kind of route criticism, but that’s how I see it. Thankfully, the sharp edge of dissatisfaction with the approach towards Wheeler was dulled with a well-poured and served shot of bourbon, and a crispy slice of bacon at Wheeler (“appetizers and drinks at 12,500’ MSL … you kidding me?”) before plunging 7-ish miles down the other side of the range on the Colorado Trail in probably a quarter of the time. Then an odd entry to Peaks Trail took away another star. To be clear, a couple minor criticisms in an otherwise stellar week of racing, but you know … there’s always room for improvement.
Thoughts of kindness: Previous experience left this stage exposed to significant scrutiny and there were two specific things that could have made it better. But in the spirit of positive thoughts – it was still killer to crest Wheeler, drink some bourbon, eat some bacon, and descend the Colorado Trail all before lunch time. Actual acts of kindness: dropping the amped up pr*** on Miner’s Creek who was fully willing to take out everyone on the CO Trail descent; politely slowing and looking at the skater who took out racers on the road to Frisco; not complaining too loudly about this stage; scowling at the post-race photog in response to the stage. I’m trying…
Race report: 28 miles. 4800 feet elevation. Wheeler Pass to Peaks Trail. Like PB&J. The perfect combo. A couple tweaks would turn this into a PB&J on toast. In other words – Up. Snacky treats. Over and down. Across and around. Up again slightly. Down and across again … slightly. Done with Stage 5.
Almost done. Bikes intact. Juggernauts intact. The moons, stars, and universe are in alignment. And, therefore the ESF.
Breck Epic Day 6: “Madame, Make That a Double” … Beer and Bourbon at Boreas. Last stage.
Last day. DFIU. Ride steady and survive. Look around, take in the view one last time, drill it up and back up Boreas Pass, rip Gold Dust, enjoy happy hour at Boreas Pass, bomb Indian Creek into the finish.
Acts of pleasantry: Listening to Dyno wish Gorka well leading into the last stage with a four second lead; best “to go” bar service at Boreas Pass ever … authentic DC rollergirls; getting to ride to the finish with another Jugg, who – regrettably – may wish to seek out chiropractic assistance – no matter, two Juggs daytime kits across any Epic finish is the supreme demonstration of force, benevolence, and fear.
Race report: 30+ miles. 3500+ feet elevation. Barney Ford up, Nightmare at Baldy up, Baker’s Tank down to Boreas Pass up to Gold Dust single track and flume down … epic Breck stuff. Back up over the top of Boreas Pass where you get to see two of the coolest chicks from DC tending bar in Summit County, CO … more epic Breck. Watch Thor disappear down Indian Creek, jump back on his wheel for the final single track entry into the finish. Another great day for the race.
Bottom line: Four Juggs, four finishers on a pretty tough six-day course, and four new belt buckles.
And on the last day, we drank. And it was good.