You would think after five tough and challenging days on the bike, most of the field would be relieved to see that today was the final stage. Yes, I know there is a Stage 7, and as soon as I have finished typing this, I’m heading over. Today on paper was the easiest stage of the week. With less than half of the elevation gain than every other day this week and coming in under 30 miles, riders could have a fairly casual day out.
With the UCI field, all but a formality for the overall, Russell Finterwald decided that a parade lap was not what he woke up for this morning and hit the turbo button up the first climb. The race ascended Aspen Alley this morning, a local favorite downhill trail, and Fisterwald decided to lob a grenade and get the fireworks going early. With caution to the wind, Finsterwald hammered his way to a stage victory to finish out a solid week of racing. Keegan Swenson would go on to secure the overall victory in the Men’s UCI race with an impressive and often dominant performance out on course.
Much like her Clif Bar teammate, Hannah Finchamp once again came out blazing early against teammate and overall leader Katerina Nash. While Nash’s lead was comfortable Finchamp left it all out on the course today to take the stage win. It’s hard to speculate what Evelyn Dong could have done after a rough start on Stage 1. Dong lost a lot of time in the wet and cold but was still able to recover throughout the week to secure third place overall.
Mountain Biking is strange and so very special in the way it allows your average pedaler to share the course with some of the most elite athletes around. The Breck Epic offers endless beauty and challenges; high alpine passes, daredevil descents and never-ending lung-busting climbs. I often display a fair amount of sarcasm towards the idea of pride in merely just finishing an event, but anyone who rode every mile of this years Breck Epic deserves a tip of the hat.
During my time on course, I encountered so many of this week’s competitors. There were young and old, short and tall and everything in between. Yesterday on the final climb of the week why I pedaled along with the bulk of the east coast single-speed contingent we came along Mason, a 14-year old from Virginia. Mason took part in the final three stages of this year’s event, and he was crushing it.
As I prepare for the drive back to Pittsburgh, I can’t help but feel a small amount of sorrow. Of course, I will miss the beauty of the mountains and the peace and quiet of backcountry trails, but there is also the simple rhythm of each morning. By the end of the week, the process of breakfast to bike and out all day became second nature. The soreness in the body from the previous day’s effort would subside after 30 minutes or so, and accept the task for the day.
All things must come to an end, and let’s be honest even the most dialed athlete would eventually give themselves a break from all of the riding, regardless of how much enjoyment they were getting out of it. I will leave the Breck Epic both and inspired and humbled by everyone’s effort out on course, and maybe next year I’ll try my luck at completing this monster.