Sprint Finishes in Aqueduct Sizzler 

Breck Epic Stage 4: Aqueduct and Keystone Gulch

By Spencer Powlison

Nankervis earns first stage victory; Armstrong puts leader Huck under pressure 

Lachlan Morton & Tasman Nankervis tag-teaming Keystone’s Back Ranch
Image: Jace Stout

A hot, high-speed day of racing Breck Epic stage 4 came down to the wire in both men’s and women’s pro races. The 41.5-mile Aqueduct stage went to Epic first-timer Tasman Nankervis (Merida-Shimano), who came home one second ahead of race leader Lachlan Morton (EF).  

“I was real fired up today because I got a flat yesterday and lost a bit of time,” said Nankervis 

The pro women’s race was just as close, with Kaysee Armstrong (Juliana) and overall leader Erin Huck (Scott-Orange Seal-Shimano) fighting to the very end. Armstrong won the day by three seconds, her second stage victory of the week. 

Despite their respective second-place results, both Morton and Huck kept their overall race leads with two stages remaining. 

Epic Changes Pace on Stage 4

Coming a day after Breck Epic’s queen stage, the circumnavigation of Mount Guyot, stage 4 was a different kind of test, with faster terrain at (relatively) lower elevations.  

The first 20 miles of the course took riders out toward Keystone on rolling terrain that gradually trended downhill. Then, they faced a massive climb up the Colorado trail before returning to Breckenridge proper.  

Kait Boyle, tackling the Aqueduct
Image: Devon Balet

This week’s clear, sunny weather has made for worry-free days in the high Alpine, but it also gave riders a hot day in the saddle, especially on the exposed climb up Keystone Gulch. Numerous riders came home with jerseys covered in salt stains. They also remarked on the loose trail conditions that made for a sketchy descent to the finish. 

“Every descent here is so fun. The Colorado trail was loose and rooty,” said Kait Boyle, who finished third in the women’s category on stage 4. “In a way the looseness adds another level of interestingness to it — there’s some sliding. You’re on kitty litter, just like ‘braaaaah!’ … Don’t go flying off the mountain on the way to the finish!” 

Aussie Duo Rides Clear in Men’s Race

Despite having a 100-mile appetizer in their legs, racing Leadville the day before Breck Epic started, Nankervis, Morton, and Corey Wallace rode away from the group early in stage 4. 

“It split up quite quickly. On the first climb there was three of us — Lachy [Morton], Corey [Wallace], and myself,” said Nankervis. “I just basically tried to hang onto Lachy all day. We were always together. I was just glued to him. Lachy was a motor on the climbs, and I was just trying to hang on.” 

Early on, Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon), winner of stage 3 and prior Breck Epic overalls, suffered a peculiar mechanical: His SRAM AXS shifter stopped working. Bishop tried to remove the shifter battery and replace it with the battery in his heart rate monitor strap, but to no avail.  

Corey Wallace, rocking Epic’s signature BMF socks through Soda Creek Trail
Image: Devon Balet

Fortunately, when he arrived at the first aid station, he came upon Tom Hopper, Morton’s mechanic, who happened to have a spare shifter. Hopper ran down to his support vehicle, grabbed the shifter, re-paired it with Bishop’s drivetrain and sent the Virginian on his way to claw back as much time as he could. Bishop’s misfortune saw him drop from third to sixth overall. 

Also at the first aid station, 11 miles in, Morton and Nankervis got a gap on Wallace. Wallace was relying on neutral aid, while his companions got bottle hand-ups from their crews.   

“That 15-20 seconds, they got the gap and just pinned it. It was like a minute for the next hour, but every time I got close, they’d just pop it. There’s all that fireroad where teamwork helps out,” Wallace said. 

“Today’s course is a bit faster so there’s definitely some sections where you can work together,” said Morton. “It was nice to have some company up there, especially another Aussie.” 

He and Nankervis came into the final singletrack section together. The eventual winner put his skills as an XC racer to good use, riding the final corners as fast as he could, pushing Morton to the limit to eke out the win. 

“Wonder-twin powers…ACTIVATE. Shape of…a Chips Ahoy, banana, peanut butter and potato chip sandwich!”
Image: Eddie Clark

“He’s one of the best mountain bike racers in Australia so it’s cool to get to race with him,” said Morton. “He pushed some of those downhills super hard, hit a couple of those corners fast, and I couldn’t come around him. I always love following someone who really knows what they’re doing, try to learn a bit myself.” 

After four stages, Morton’s overall time stands at 12:45:47, giving him a healthy lead over Wallace, who is at 12:59:30. Nankervis is another eight minutes and change behind in third. 

Armstrong Unrelenting in Race For the Overall

While the pro men’s standings have stretched apart, Armstrong continued to push women’s leader Huck, and now sits three minutes, 24 seconds behind.  

At mile 14, Huck attacked on the aptly named Vomit Hill, putting Armstrong under pressure.  

“She dropped me on vomit hill so hard!  I was like, ‘What?!’” said Armstrong. “I just told myself to stay calm.” 

And it worked, as she rode her way back up to the Olympian Huck, who is known for her climbing skills at high altitude.  

“We were going back and forth a little bit at the start, and before the long road climb, Kaycee had a bit of a gap and just extended it,” said Huck. 

Armstrong was climbing with verve in the Aqueduct stage, despite the hot temperatures. The only thing that derailed the Tennessee rider’s long-range attack on Huck was a dropped chain. 

Kaysee Armstrong: no ordinary gravelista.
Image: Eddie Clark

“On Keystone Gulch I felt good, and I still felt good on that last climb, but the chain situation, I think I had a minute before that after aid three,” Armstrong said. “I bet it took me like a minute or so to put it back on.” 

That mishap gave Huck a chance to rejoin Armstrong at the front of the race. They rode together from then on, but Huck was wary of Armstrong’s technical skills. 

“I knew Kaysee was going to bomb the last descent and my whole goal all day was to just get on her wheel for the descents,” Huck said. 

In the end, Armstrong fended off Huck to snag a few seconds in the overall and reemphasize her potential to challenge for the overall. Given how technical stage 5’s main descent will be off of the top of Wheeler Pass, the pro women’s race could come down to the very end.


Epic 2024 is now on sale. Enter “2024LFG” at checkout until Sunday, August 20
for an additional $100 of existing early bird pricing.


Rider: Nolan VanHarte
Image: Jace Stout

Eagle, CO’s Sam Brown, slaying Horseshoe Gulch
Image: Jace Stout

Team Brown Squared
Image: Devon Balet

Rider: unknown
Image: Devon Balet

Team Lovely Ladies
Image: Eddie Clark

Epic 2024 is now on sale. Enter “2024LFG” at checkout until Sunday, August 20
for an additional $100 of existing early bird pricing.