Taylor Sheldon is a member of the 5 Hour Energy Road Team, and is also riding FSA mountain bike components.
Sunday, August 10th marked the start of the Breck Epic – 6 days of hard, high altitude, technical mountain bike racing. I did the race 3 years ago and was hoping for a better showing this time around. The first day started well, I put in a dig on the first road climb to break it up a bit and see what I could make happen. Turns out, not much. I was quickly reeled in on the descent and started going backwards from there. We went through the first aid station in a chase group of 6 or so chasing the few leaders but then a couple of flats set me back quite a bit, although not as bad as last time. Day 2 was better without any mechanical of my bicycle – just my body. Starting the final climb I was in a group of 3 racing for 4th place when I suffered a serious bonk. The third day was one to forgot at least race wise. A couple of early flats set me way back and I took a “easier” day. We still had to hike (yes, with bikes) over a mountain, but I enjoyed the descents and stayed safe.
The second half of the Breck Epic was a bit different than the first, but overall pretty similar. Lots of trails and mountains and dirt. The 4th stage could probably be called the queen stage, it was the longest time wise and had a boatload of climbing. Fortunately for me – most of the climbing was on dirt roads and double track. On the initial climb the group whittled down to around seven guys and that number ebbed and flowed for the first two hours until by the 2nd aid station (around the halfway point) we had it down to a group of 5. I made it with that group until the final climb, around 5 miles from the finish. There the road steepened and I was suffering, I kept on it and managed to keep it relatively close to finish 5th on the day. The 5th stage was a real piece of work. A long climb slowly dissolved into a not really trail that became a goat path on top of the Ten Mile Range (12,500 feet). I struggled mightily but knew I could redeem myself on the back half of the course, where a long bike path section and then a hard dirt road climb awaited. I set a furious pace on the bike path and by the end of that section had a solid line of riders hanging on, catching a nice ride. The final single-track to the finish would be my downfall though, as another flat would ruin my day and leave me high and dry.
I had the 6th and final stage circled from the beginning as I knew I could do well there (I was 4th last time). While we had a bit of celebratory attitude at the start, I immediately set to work, taking the front and thinning the group to just a handful. On the next single-track I lost my way a bit and hit the second climb a minute behind the lead group of 4. I pushed the pace hard and crested the second climb just behind the group and managed to keep them close on the next descent. Within the first five minutes of the final climb we had come back together to form a lead group of six. I put in an attack on the climb thinking we were close to the top, which turned out to be not the case, I was riding full out about 100 feet in front of the other riders for around 10 minutes. Eventually the group caught me and I was able to rest up a bit before putting in a final attack closer to the top. I went over the summit clear by myself and made it 2/3′s of the way down the next fast descent before being caught by one rider. We battled for the final single-track section, and I manged to take it first but a small bobble meant he was able to come around me. I followed as close as I could but lost the wheel bit by bit. A small switchback climb before the finish saw close the gap almost completely, but not quite enough and I had to settle for second place on the day.
Overall a great week of racing and my new FSA SL-K bike parts kept me in fine form (and also looked real good too!). Next up for me is the 24 hours in the Sage in Gunnison, I am doing a duo team.