All Photos: Eddie Clark

Coming just a week after Cory Wallace’s 11th place finish at the Leadville, the Canadian diesel engine powered his way over to the Breck Epic. The Breck Epic is a 6-day stage race, consisting of six big backcountry loops in and around Breckinridge Colorado. All at altitude. With one of the race days canceled due to lightning storms, Cory would battle it out with eventual race leader Lachlan Morton and finish the race in third place. The week would end on a high for Cory winning stage 5 ahead of an in form and classy Morton.

The first few days of Breck Epic felt like quite the hangover after racing the Leadville 100 Saturday, then driving over to Breckenridge early Sunday morning to start one of the most legendary stage races in America. Local young gun Lasse Konecny would take the win, with Lachlan Morton coming in second after suffering a mechanical, and myself snagging the Bronze. Stage two was a rough one, sleeping just a few hours the night before, and feeling the full Leadville slapback. I rode my Kona Hei Hei in no man’s land most of the day in third trying to keep the diesel turning over to limit the damages. Luckily the trails were awesome as we rode parts of the Colorado Trail and the conditions were prime after some overnight rain. Stage three was then canceled due to thunderstorms, which was a blessing in disguise turning the Colorado doubleheader into three days on one day off, three days on, versus seven straight days of racing. During the rest day, I made an irrational decision to go race TransRockies, a 4-day Gravel stage race in Canada. I figured with this rest day it could potentially work out ok, even though it started just a couple of days after Breck Epic was to finish.
With 3 days left in the Breck Epic, it was now back to work to try and climb up in the standings. Unfortunately, I suffered a small mechanical at the start of Stage three, pushing me back into fourth as we traversed a couple of 12,000 ft backcountry Colorado Passes. Trying to race at this elevation is like breathing through a straw as there is about 40% less oxygen in the air than compared to sea level. Having spent four winters in a row training in the high mountains of the Nepali Himalayas it seems the higher the races are the bigger the advantage turns in my favor. Towards the end of the stage, the body seemed to make a strong shift, climbing back into third, smoking a couple of strava segments along the way. This was a confidence booster going into the last few days.

Having ridden behind the top two riders for 100% of the first three stages, the decision was made to throw a curveball at them after I discussed race tactics with Dik. So stage four the curveball was thrown, going off the front from the gun as we headed high up into the mountains on the classic Wheeler Pass stage. Wheeler pass is one of the best mountain bike courses anywhere as it heads straight up into the Colorado Alpine, traversing some rugged mountain trails with epic views everywhere you look. The descent is as rugged as the climb, a 15-minute+ white knuckle descent back into the valley below before traversing back up to the Breckenridge town on a popular trail. Lachlan would come around me pretty early up the climb and build a 4-minute advantage before I started to rally and brought it back to 2 minutes by the finish line to claim the silver on the day.

Going into the final stage all eyes were set on taking the stage win so I threw another curveball and opted to ride my Leadville bike, the Kona Honzo hardtail. This bike would give me an advantage on the climbs but I would have to take some risks on the descents with the high post hardtail to try and stick with the other riders on their full suspension bikes with droppers. It was a pretty epic battle throughout the 50km stage as the race leader, Lachlan, would gap me on the rough singletrack sections but I would fight back on the fire road climbs. Going over the last climb of the day he had a 15-20 second lead for about 15 minutes before I could finally close the gap and attack him over the top of the climb and into the fast descent. Hitting the single track first I basically let go of the brakes and rode the Honzo way faster than I probably should’ve been, at one point coming around a corner to a small gap jump. With no time to brake, I had no choice but to launch it as Lachlan rode around the more reasonable line. He would get back on my wheel but I kept the pace as high as I could sprinting any open sections so he couldn’t pass and would eventually out sprint him for the stage victory. It was a rad way to cap an epic week of racing bikes in the high alpine of Colorado, also claiming the Bronze in the overall GC!

Over and out from the TransRockies. Three stages down, two wins, and one stage to go before heading off to Canmore to Kick off our Inaugural Canadian Rockies 24 this coming weekend at the Canmore Nordic Center.