Grueling haul above treeline at Breck Epic
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado – The end of the Breck Epic is approaching, and during Thursday’s Stage 5, the tight races in Solo Open Men and Women, Singlespeed Men, and Duo Men 80+, were ever on the line.
The race was the closest in the history of the event, making for an exciting finish – and things continued to get more interesting in some categories Thursday.
As racers headed up a technical, tight singletrack just seconds from the start line, Matthys Beukes (Squirt Lube) sprinted the field, ensuring a cross country-effort start. Although the stage was short, it was not easy, as racers once again headed up to above 12,000 feet, to drop over the saddle between peaks 8 and 9, many of those miles walking next to the bike because the pitch and elevation were too much to handle.
Once over the top, the ride was a technical, off-camber descent that favored skilled gravity riders. Ross Schnell (Trek) demonstrated that with his third place finish. Beukes and teammate Ben Melt Swanepoel proved their all-around strength with another 1-2 finish. Overall leader, Ben Sonntag had his lowest finish yet in fourth, losing five minutes of his 11-minute lead on Thursday.
Swanepoel is now just 5 minutes, 57 seconds behind Sonntag with Matthys Beukes 17 minutes, 46 seconds behind Sonntag in the general classification. Jake Wells (NoTubes) continues to prove he is a strong competitor with consistent top 10 finishes after the first day in the Epic, which was mechanically devastating.
Today will be a battle among the top seven competitors for the top five places, though one exciting finish will be Ben Sonntag against Squirt Lube teammates Swanepoel and Beukes. Will teammates work together to position Swanepoel for the overall win?
Among the women, Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) chose to start hard in what she touts as her favorite stage. She pulled away at the beginning, staying in front and putting a 13-minute gap on the second-place overall woman, Yolandi Du Toit (Squirt Lube). That pushes Carey almost 24 minutes ahead of Du Toit in the general classification. Du Toit still has a chance at an overall win, though it will be a fight.
In the men’s singlespeed race, Brady Kappius (Clif Bar) started with a vengeance. However, coming in to aid station three, Kappius and overall leader Macky Franklin (Oskar Blues/Reeb) were just tenths of a second apart. They ended the stage similarly, allowing Franklin to retain his 4 minute, 50 second lead over Kappius. Don’t expect Kappius to give up today, however. This category will also come to an all-out battle for the distinction of inaugural Singlespeed Stage Race World Champion.
Singlespeeders are again the surprise of the stage, this time in the women’s race. Andrea Wilson, coming in to stage five with an hour and forty-six minute deficit to overall leader, Jen Wilson (NoTubes), decided to put forth her ultimate effort. She came through as the second overall woman Thursday, just seven minutes back from Amanda Carey, closer than Jen has been in any stage. Passing all of the women (and most of the men, as the singlespeed women were staged last), Andrea managed to summit the saddle just behind Amanda Carey and never let up. She came in amid cheers and when Jen came through the finish line, her first stop was next to Andrea to give her a hug accompanied by a genuine smile.
In the Men’s Duo 80-and-up, the teams of Mike Hogan/Thomas Dooley (Kappius Singletrack) and Kervin Quinones /Michael Trimble (Rotor Bike Components) have been dueling since Stage 3, where they finished only 14 seconds apart. Up until stage three, Hogan and Dooley had a fairly substantial lead, but since then, Quinones and Trimble have pushed through and won each subsequent stage, whittling the lead to only 11 minutes and 25 seconds coming in to the last stage. Wednesday, Quinones and Trimble won by five minutes, but Thursday Hogan and Dooley finished just seven seconds behind. Today will be a battle to the finish.
Stage six concludes with a 37-mile race that Kenda/Felt’s Colin Cares won in 2 hours and 10 minutes in 2011. With a combination of technical singletrack and dirt roads, the course refuses to favor a single strength. The best all-around rider will come out victorious.
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