EPIC 2022 – RACE INTRO
Words: Shauna Farnell Images: Eddie Clark
Breck Epic 2022 – START YER ENGINES
Breck Epic returns for six days of two-wheel backcountry badassery
BRECKENRIDGE — Mountain bikers from 25 countries and nearly every U.S. state descend on Breckenridge for the 13th annual Breck Epic Aug. 14 to 19. A six-day stage race that covers about 230 miles of high elevation backcountry trails, the Epic is an independently run race aimed at community values, environmental stewardship and a deep appreciation of pedaling in stunning, high elevation terrain. It has developed a global reputation as one of the most classic mountain bike competitions of all time.
For its 14th year (minus one skip in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic), the courses are similar to those used in past Epics, famous for their scenic climbs and fun, thrilling descents for nearly 40,000 vertical feet up and down over six days (and don’t forget that Breckenridge sits at 9,600 feet above sea level).
FIERCELY INDEPENDENT. MOUNTAIN PROUD.
Stage 1 spans 35 miles through Pennsylvania Creek, starting at Stephen C. West Ice Arena and ending at Carter Park. Stages 2 to 4 start in downtown Breck and end at the B&B trailhead just outside of town. Stage 2 takes riders 42 miles out across Tiger Road and along the Colorado Trail. Stage 3 involves a 40-mile circumnavigation of Mt. Guyot. Stage 4 is a 42-miler heading out to Soda Creek, Keystone and the Aqueduct route. Stage 5 is a monster time trial starting from from the base of Peak 9 to a 24.6-mile loop up the Burro Trail and Wheeler Pass, returning on the Peaks Trail. Stage 6 wraps up with a 30-miler starting and finishing at the ice arena, heading up Boreas Pass to Gold Dust Trail, returning via Indiana Creek.
To keep it real, organizers have shrugged off invitations to fold the Epic into a larger scale event or series and is capped at less than 500 riders. The six-day solo racers include a handful of the world’s top mountain bikers. Everyone who does this race, including the duo, relay and three-day solo riders, is, by nature, a hard-charging badass.
SLAYERS GONNA SLAY
Of the top tier badasses (the pros), notably absent this year is two-time reigning overall champion Keegan Swenson, who is currently leading the Life Time Grand Prix series and will tackle the Leadville 100 MTB race – of which he is also the reigning champ – on Aug. 13. You know what this means … that the door is wide open for someone else to slay on the men’s side.
SCENE OF THE CRIME
Meanwhile, big news in the women’s field is that 2019 Epic champion, World Cup and Olympic veteran Katerina Nash is returning as are former champs Sonya Looney and Jen Gersbach, both of whom last conquered the Epic a decade ago and are now mothers.
2022 FIELD LIMIT
The 2022 Epic will see two-wheel endurance riders of young and old, including many new faces. Each rider is embarking on this adventure for different reasons, some to land some cash (it’s a $10,000 purse for the pros), some to prove to themselves that things like diabetes or a knee replacement cannot take them down, others for sheer love of dirt. And it doesn’t get any better than this: a real mountain bike race in a real mountain town.
Don’t forget that while everyone is out there to shred, stewardship is key and smiling never hurts. Get ready for the time of your life.