Breck Epic Stage 5: The challenge of Wheeler Pass

Racers tackle grueling climb up and over 12,500-foot summit

Race Coverage
Ants marching. Photo courtesy Breck Epic/Liam Doran

Ants marching. Photo courtesy Breck Epic/Liam Doran

It’s not the longest — or even hardest — stage of the Breck Epic. But few days in cross-country bike racing strike more fear in the hearts of competitors than the truly epic grind up and over Wheeler Pass. Stage 5 of this 6-day affair starts at roughly 9,700 feet, then sends riders straight uphill well above 12,000 feet. Even the most talented typically end up walking some portion of the climb. The less talented are off their bikes as much as they’re on.

Going down. For a long, long time. Photo courtesy Breck Epic/Eddie Clark

Going down. For a long, long time. Photo courtesy Breck Epic/Eddie Clark

The good news is that after about 7 miles of high altitude ascending, you’re rewarded with bacon, skittles and one of the best sustained downhills you’ll find anywhere in the great fat tire state of Colorado.

Top honors this year went to Kona pro Barry Wicks, who ended the 4-day stage win streak of overall open men’s leader Frans Claes (Loving Hut MTB Team). Wicks finished the 32-mile stage with 4900 feet of climbing in 2:51:28, with Claes next across the line about 3.5 minutes behind. Ben Swanepoel (Squirt Lube) was third.

Stage 5 provided big climbs and even bigger descents. Barry Wicks takes the stage win on a hard tail – always smiling. Photo courtesy Breck Epic/Eddie Clark

Stage 5 provided big climbs and even bigger descents. Barry Wicks takes the stage win on a hard tail – always smiling. Photo courtesy Breck Epic/Eddie Clark

In the overall standings, Claes continues to dominate, owning a 15-plus minute lead over Swanepoel, with Bryan Dillon (Griggs Orthopedics) in third, 22 minutes back.

It’s a similarly one-sided story in the women’s open 6-day category, with Evelyn Dong (Sho-Air/Cannondale) leading the way by 17:12 over Marlee Dixon (mtbracenew.com/Pivot Cycles), with Serena Gordan (Liv Co-Factory) at 28:30. That threesome also accounted for the stage 5 top 3, with Dong finishing in 3:33:05.

Evelyn Dong sits back and enjoys the steep, loose, high altitude descent after two major climbs above treeline. Photo courtesy Breck Epic/Eddie Clark

Evelyn Dong sits back and enjoys the steep, loose, high altitude descent after two major climbs above treeline. Photo courtesy Breck Epic/Eddie Clark

Head over to breckepic.com for complete stage 5 results and updated overall standings in all the categories. And check out the massive photo gallery below for a look at all the suffering and amazing scenery. Thanks once again to the Breck Epic’s squad of ace photographers. Today we’re treated to imagery from Eddie Clark and Liam Doran.

Up next is the Breck Epic’s final day, the comparatively leisurely Gold Dust stage, which covers 28 miles and includes 4800 feet of elevation gain.


About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.


Related Articles


NOTE: There are two ways to comment on our articles: Facebook or Wordpress. Facebook uses your real name and can be posted on your wall while Wordpress uses our login system. Feel free to use either one.

Facebook Comments:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*


THE SITE

ABOUT MTBR

VISIT US AT

© Copyright 2019 VerticalScope Inc. All rights reserved.