Breck Epic

August 29 — 2019 | Breckenridge, Colorado

Racing at Altitude

 

 

Juliana Bicycles

Mical Dyck is a Juliana Ambassador with quite the resume of insane, sufferfest races that she has not only competed in, but also won.
 
Mical started racing mountain bikes in college and has since focused on stage racing and cyclocross. She may be her happiest when she is putting it all out on the course.

 

Multi-day mountain bike stage races are best described as bike camps for adults. I’ve fallen in love with the discipline as a break from the real world into the life of ride, eat, sleep, repeat. Breck Epic has been on my “to-do” list for many years so when Juliana asked if I was interested this year in participating, I was jumping around like a sugar-loaded 5-year old excited to do it. Reports back from previous Breck Epic’ers pegged the altitude as a huge limiting factor in the event for a lot of people, especially those coming from sea level. A heavy work schedule and a high-speed crash with a shoulder injury left me with less training and fitness than I would have liked, but “fake it till you make it” has been my life motto, so why change that now.

After a four-day road trip from Vancouver Island, arriving in Breckenridge was a bit of a shock to the system, but I was in awe of the beautiful big alpine peaks surrounding the village. I’ve raced one-day events at altitude enough to know that I’m not going to get a good night’s sleep and I’m going to be constantly short of breath. But when the gun went off on the first day, it was still shocking to see just how hard it was to push. Day 1 (Pennsylvania Creek) was probably my best day with shorter climbs, technical climbs and rooty twisty descents. A surprise high mountain storm actually had me giggling because I not so secretly love the wet roots (I mean, I am from BC) and cold mud. Crashing through deep puddles with an eerie thick layer of fog surrounding you is totally my jam. 

Although I felt I didn’t push my limits on Day 1, the biggest factor of multi-day stage racing at altitude that I didn’t fully appreciate was the fact that recovery is almost non-existent. Pair that with the start of Day 2 (Colorado Trail) with the meanest 5-mile steep (I mean steep) gravel road climb, and I was pretty much whimpering and crawling up to the top. Barely surviving this first climb set the tone for my day and even though we did some amazing trails, I barely had the mental capacity to enjoy it.

Day 3 (Mt. Guyot, a.k.a. the Queen Stage) had us climb up and over the continental divide not once, but twice! After a Day 2 low for me, the Skittle hand-up at the top of the first summit made my week. How can you not smile with a mouth full of rainbows at 12,000 feet! The views were amazing and trying to navigate the snowfield off the top had a bunch of serious adults laughing and sliding both butt and head first down the mountain.

Day 4 (Aqueduct) started with some fun rolling singletrack followed by a grunt of a climb out of Keystone with a hill not so fondly known as “Puke Hill”. This day was back end heavy with climbing and even when you know this is coming, it’s really hard to save that energy for the end. Hitting the mileage for the last climb of the day was an enormous relief.

Although Day 3 was the Queen’s stage, Day 5 (Wheeler’s Pass) took us to new heights. Pushing up over 13,000 feet I was seeing things that really weren’t there... and tunnel vision is definitely a thing. Glancing briefly off the trail gave me vertigo and had me nearly tumbling down the backside of the mountain. I decided to take a quick break at the top of the final push before starting the long descent to gather my thoughts and eat. I had to giggle when the course marshal asked if I wanted to borrow an allen key to drop my seat post for the descent. The old school high-posting is an XC race skill that I’m super proud that I haven’t lost with my years of dropper-posting. Though the first steep rocky corner had me puckering a little, the long fast, rough descent down to aid two had me smiling from ear to ear, even though I could barely hold onto my bars at the bottom.

Day 6 (The Gold Dust Trail) was a fast finish to a hard week. The long road climbs are not my favorite, but honestly, my body was happy with the smoothness of this day (besides the high-speed creek bed descents). Even though I’ve had the pleasure of competing in many stage races over the years, I’m unbelievably happy to have survived the Breck Epic. Would I do it again? Definitely, but I would have more respect for the altitude and what it does to my body. The finishers belt buckle with the inscription “Bad Motherfucker” is the most accurate phrase for how I feel right now sitting back at almost sea level reliving the adventure.

Register to fight the altitude and climb with Mical at the 2020 Breck Epic here >>

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