August 11, 2017

Preparing for the Breck Epic – Colorado’s Six-Day High Country Classic

The Breck Epic is a six stage MTB race through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, taking in all the elements can throw at the riders

The Breck Epic is one of the toughest challenges in Mountain Biking. At six-days long, and covering over 200 miles of the most rugged terrain that Colorado has to offer, it’s known to chew through bike parts, making a finish a worthy accomplishment. Heading to the event with the goal of racing competitively takes it to another level, and with aspirations of finishing in the Top 10 means I know I’ve got my work cut out for me.

After racing some World Cups in Europe in July, I’ve had just under three weeks back at altitude to begin the preparations for the event. While my home close to Boulder is high by European standards – 1600 metres – it’s only half the high of Breckenridge. Most stages start at 3000m above sea level, and the highest stage tops out at 3800 metres! That’s meant I’ve taken the time to head up into the hills for some big training days. Needing some endurance miles, I took a two-day scenic tour through Rocky Mountain National Park, climbing over 15,000 feet (4500 m) and taking in the amazing dirt roads through the high country. These base miles were much needed, and gave me some time to reflect on the amazing privilege it is to ride and race in such a wonderful part of the world.

Over the next few days, I took to the higher trails in Boulder County to remember what it’s like to race on truly technical terrain. The Sourdough trail is a 15 mile epic that traverses the Indian Peaks at a height of 3000m, making it perfect Breck Epic practice. With the variable weather that the mountains throw at you, commiting to being at Altitude all day is a challenge, and requires forethought into clothing choice. On each of my high country training days, I’ve started out under chilly but blue skies, only for the temperature to rise quickly as the sun comes out, and then thunderclouds build around lunchtime. This weather pattern is known to anyone who spends much time in the hills.

I’ve found the GORE® Power Trail Long Sleeve jersey to be the best choice for the early mornings, as it keeps the chill off well, but still breathes nicely once the day heats up. I’ve also been carrying around an Element WINDSTOPPER® Active Shell Vest to keep my core warm.

What I’m really excited about for the Breck Epic this year is my GORE-TEX® SHAKEDRY™ jacket. It’s almost guaranteed to find yourself above treeline in a thunderstorm during the Breck Epic. It happens every year. In previous years, I’ve made the trade off between carrying a heavy but fully waterproof jacket, or going light and choosing something that might keep me dry for a few minutes but will quickly relent against the rain. That choice is history though, because the SHAKEDRY™ is actually waterproof and weighs less than 100g. It sounds stupid, but I’m actually excited by the thought of getting up into the storm clouds and putting it to good use!

Being awarded one of the Race of Thrones entries to the Elite event at the Breck Epic was a huge honour, and I’m excited to live up to the hype with six solid days of racing. The race is just a few days away, and that means it’s time to start packing up my kit bag, food supplies and equipment. Can’t wait to get racing!

/Chris Baddick

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