EPIC 2023 – STAGE 2 RECAP
Morton doubles down on lead in Stage 2; women’s race now a nail-biter
Aussies finish the Colorado Trail 1-2 while Huck and others in pink succumb to bad luck
By Shauna Farnell
Evelyn Dong (Juliana)
Image: Eddie Clark
Lachlan Morton was one of few racers wearing a pink leader jersey who notched a flawless day Monday during the Breck Epic’s Stage 2 on The Colorado Trail. The Australian Education First Pro team rider and reigning Breck Epic champion was once again the first to cross the finish line and essentially rode the entire course solo. After Sunday’s Stage 1 victory, the 31-year-old finished Stage 2’s 42-mile course that included 6,600 feet of climbing in 3 hours, 17.08 minutes. His compatriot, Breck Epic newbie Tasman Nankervis of Team Merida Shimano, was second across the line, just over one minute back.
“I was feeling pretty rotten yesterday,” Nankervis said of Stage 1, in which he finished sixth after competing in his first Leadville 100 on Saturday. “I didn’t feel any better today, but I had more power in the legs. I let it go from the start. I just did my pace all day. I got to the last 20K, I kept the same pace and dropped the others.”
Canadian Kona Adventure rider Cory Wallace kept pace with Nankervis until the Aussie peeled ahead and Wallace rounded out the men’s pro podium in third for the second day straight, finishing Stage 2 in 3:19:04.
“There wasn’t an attack. It wasn’t anything fancy. We stayed about 10 seconds apart for a while, then I gradually dropped him,” Nankervis said of Wallace, adding that Morton, who was responsible for talking him into competing in the Epic this year, was mostly out of his sight after the first 30 minutes of racing.
Stage 2 start
Image: Devon Balet
“I saw a shadow of him on one of the climbs toward the end. I could just see his pink jersey. It’s cool for Aussies to go 1-2. We’ll be chased out of the country,” Nankervis joked.
With the Stage 2 victory, Morton increases his lead in the overall standings. Local pro Nolan Van Harte, who was runner-up to Morton in Stage 1, took fourth on Monday and is still second overall, trailing by 4:36. Wallace sits in third in the GC, 5:44 back.
Armstrong takes women’s lead after Huck slowed by flat
The universe seemed to have it in for a few other race leaders on Monday, including Stage 1 winner Erin Huck. The 2017 Epic champion and SCOTT-Orange Seal-Shimano rider was again dominating the pro women’s field in Stage 2, when at the top of the very last climb, her rear tire flatted. The plug took her 3 to 4 minutes, which was enough time for Stage 1 runner-up Kaysee Armstrong of Team Juliana, who had kept Huck in sight for much of the day, to hammer past and take the Stage 2 victory.
Image: Eddie Clark
“I felt like I could keep Erin in sight a little bit, which was motivating. I ended up catching and going past her at Aid [Station] 1, then it went right back up and I was like, oh, there she goes,” said Armstrong, who finished the Colorado Trail stage in 3:57:28. “She’s definitely a bit stronger on the climbs. I can just keep her in sight. If she slows down just a little bit, I can start catching her. On one part of the climb, I burped my tire and fixed that, then I was back on really quick. Then it was really fun, beautiful. I was all alone for so long. I was like, I don’t know where I am, but it’s beautiful. Then right as I got into Aid 2, they’re like, ‘you’re only 40 seconds back.’ That lit a fire. I started seeing her on the climb. Then as we approached the very top of the climb, she stopped and had the flat. That was the day. Stage 2 down. Four to go.”
Armstrong’s go-to fuel for stage racing? Potatoes and ice cream.
“French fries, especially. And milkshakes. I live off of it. I just fucking crave it. I highly recommend that for everybody,” she said. “I stop eating vegetables. I don’t have room for veggies anymore.”
Huck ended up finishing second in Stage 2, 3:11 behind Armstrong. This puts Armstrong into the pro women’s overall lead by one, count it, ONE second.
“I was hoping to have a bit more of a buffer. I was working pretty hard today,” Huck said after the race. “It’s a bummer when you’re working hard and riding a bit more conservative to avoid a mechanical and you get one anyway.”
Team Juliana rider Evelyn Dong again rounded out the women’s pro podium in Stage 2, finishing more than 8 minutes off Armstrong’s lead pace. She also sits in third in the GC.
Rider: Parker Gara
Image: Eddie Clark
More punches to pink jerseys
Among other race leaders who had tough luck in Stage 2, Men’s 50-plus 3-day leader Charles Dean, aka “Best Epic Mustache” went down hard on Monday. He was again leading the pack when he did a header at the bottom of the Colorado Trail descent.
“I went sliding on my noggin. My helmet is screwed up. My shoe is broken. But I think my bike is OK,” Dean said after the race. “I think I lost the stage to my buddy, probably lost the lead, too.”
He didn’t. Omar Dickenson took the stage win, but Dean still leads the category with a 4-second gap over Dickenson.
Not quite as lucky was Epic veteran Nick Gould. Wearing the pink jersey after winning Stage 1 among the competitive Men’s 40-plus, six-day crew, Gould came down with a flat around mile 15 on Monday.
“The plug didn’t work, so I put a tube in. Tube didn’t work. Well, it did for a little. It had like 20 PSI. I rode that til that blew up. Begged a guy, begged everybody for a tube. I didn’t have any money. Definitely, I’ll bring some money next time. Finally a guy gave me a tube and a CO2. My best friend, I gotta find him. It held the rest of the day. I had a long way to go. I think I clawed a bit of the time back. I passed like 90 percent of the people who passed me, but I didn’t get back to the guys I needed to be with. I lost the jersey, but am hopefully not too far from getting it back.”
Gould falls to fourth in the overall for the men’s 40-plus category, now led by Crested Butte’s Jason Michalak.
IMAGE: Eddie Clark
The 2023 Breck Epic continues Tuesday with Stage 3’s Circumnavigation of Mt. Guyot. Starting from town, racers make their way up French Gulch and French Pass, down Georgia Pass to the North and Middle Forks of the Swan, finishing down Sidedoor at the B&B Trailhead. The course covers more than 40 miles and more than 7,000 vertical feet of climbing.
Rider: Mike West
Image: Eddie Clark