Author: Spencer Powlison

The Dirt: Jeremiah Bishop on the evolution of endurance MTB

Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty.

This week, we’ve got a Q&A with Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon-Topeak) who just won the 10th edition of the Breck Epic mountain bike stage race. I caught up with Bishop back in May at the Grand Junction Off-Road, the second race in the Epic Rides Series, to talk to him about how endurance mountain bike racing has evolved over the years.

VeloNews: What’s the craziest adventure you’ve ever done?

Jeremiah Bishop: Probably training for the Munga, the million-dollar race across South Africa. They had a bank bond, they had a lot of stuff that looked like this thing was definitely on, Carl Platt, five-time winner of Cape Epic, was registered. But they had a big-time sponsor pull out.

Incidentally, the training I did for that was some of the coolest shit I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve won some cool races, but they were in the possible realm of things people were trying to do.

But trying to do a 20-hour solo mission in the dark, by myself, on this bikepacking route called Stokesville-Douthat-Stokesville, that was really scary. It’s really neat stuff. That was one of four big training missions I did. I’m very methodical in my preparations.

Even though I’d never done anything like the Munga before, 1,000 miles across the desert, I knew I had to have a sequential build for it. You chip off pieces, you build up to tougher, nastier stuff.

I raced Hampshire 100 completely self-supported that fall, no outside assistance. I started with 10 pounds of stuff, I ran out of water with an hour and a half to go. They had an aid station about 12 miles to go, they had Coke and Skittles. I just tried not to look — I was cracked.

VN: That’s some discipline!

JB: Dude, for $750,000 [at the Munga] you can have some discipline!

VN: What are your main racing goals these days?

I’ve been with Canyon-Topeak for several years now, and I’m a team rider for the races, oftentimes I’m a backup team rider for Cape Epic, TransAlp, Andalucia bike race …

Last year I did Margie-Gessick 100 in Michigan — they were calling it the hardest 100-miler in America. And I was like yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s in Michigan. Let’s see. Yeah, I almost died! It was just so bad. … That race is so hard. A lot of granite domes, it’s in the old mining belt of Michigan. So it’s these small mountains in the Upper Peninsula. Really good trailbuilding community.

I like to do different races, try different things. That one just caught my attention because they said it was so miserable. No aid stations, no course marking. I was ready for it though.

The lowlight of the race was filling up my hydration pack underneath a Home Depot, there was a creek — it was a Lowes, excuse me — we were racing for hours and hours, no aid stations, and I was definitely out of water. I had an inline water filter. I saw this creek. I could go to a gas station, lose the group and have to come back to the course. Or I could use my in-line filter. I’m not sure what was in that water. And it worked like a champ. Somebody got a picture of this. It was hilarious.

Just putting myself out there in uncomfortable places, it’s fun.

And then big races like Transalp, I’m doing hardcore domestique work like Ben King. Riding at the front like crazy to help Alban or Kristian back after a flat, giving them a wheel, the stuff that doesn’t seem glamorous, but I’m good at it.

Last year I even had a chance to lead the team at Transalp. Last year we were third, and I became the first American rider in the 30-year history of the event land on the podium.

VN: Talk to me about the difference between the mountain bike marathon scene in Europe versus the U.S.

JB: It’s very performance-oriented there, even among amateurs. You have guys out there on trainers. It’s a pretty hardcore level.

You don’t do Transalp if you’re looking for beer time. It’s fun but it’s a little more serious environment.

The U.S. races are cool because now we’re getting a high-performance level but also the backdrop is fun for the majority of the crew. It’s a win-win. That would be one thing I’d say for the biggest races in Europe. They have the amateur finish mentality. Tens of thousands of people do the Birkebeiner in Norway, the Riva bike festival, just thousands of people out there having a great time riding bikes.

VN: How many different mountain bike races have you done over the course of your career?

JB: Total race starts, probably 1,400 or 1,500.

I’ve probably done at least 1,000 unique events. Everything from six-pack downhill events, which is pre-enduro, Tour de Burg — I cut my teeth on all these underground races they’re a lot like the stage races I now do.

Tried BMX racing a little tiny bit, did some NRC road races here and there, did a couple ‘cross nationals. I won a couple UCI ‘cross races, just the right conditions, right place, right time. Just trying different rides and different races is part of what I think makes a well-rounded rider. And that’s what I’ve always strived for, to be a well-rounded rider, to win a fat-tire crit, a cross-country, or a short-track national championships.

VN: Talk about the level of specialization in mountain bike racing — how do pro racers strike a balance between World Cups and endurance events?

At some point, you have to figure out what makes you happy.

In my career, there were sort of these tugs of war. When I was with Trek-Volkswagen, they needed me to be at the World Cup when the team was at its biggest. And then there were other times when the team was more U.S.-focused. … That drive to do the entire World Cup circuit takes a lot of mental energy, a lot of commitment.

Being an early adopter of the endurance races in North America came at a risk. I was getting a lot of flack from Sho-Air about sneaking off and trying to make the schedule so I could do Breck Epic, sneak into Transylvania Epic, or Pisgah stage race. I’d squeeze those in and come back feeling kind of hammered for the Wisconsin XC race.

But all those races are just awesome. I did Transalp, what was it? Damn near 20 years ago. For me, that was a big eye-opener of how awesome stage races are. It just made me tick. I just love being in the hurt locker, digging day after day.

VN: Do you feel there’s been a shift in sponsor interest toward longer races like Epic Rides?

JB: Absolutely, it’s the bikes people want to buy for their activity, go out with their friends to go explore cool places.

Of course what we’re seeing here [in Grand Junction] is a more professional version of that with the Epic Rides races. We have a lot of great races, hundreds of races all over the country. On the endurance side, quite strong. Thirteen races in the NUE last year, and about 10 this year, with a bunch of provisional events.

There are all kinds of different varieties of events. But having a professional platform is different. I can go to some small races, and sponsors are cool with that, but they need us at Cape Epic, they need us at races where there’s good media, good crowds, higher profile.

VN: Would it be a good thing to have a marathon mountain bike race in the Olympics?

There’s been a lot of talk about that. It’s become quite a different sport. Having not too long ago raced some of the Red Bull edition World Cups. I love it but it’s very hard.

It’s evident that marathon riders like Kristian Hynek are proficient at World Cup XC, but he’s not Nino proficient.

It would absolutely be hugely beneficial to have it in the Olympics though. I did the first marathon world championships, it was for training before XC worlds. I was like well, why not.

It started to become a big thing, but yeah absolutely it would be huge. It’s very difficult to think that the Olympics would add another cycling sport. You look at BMX’s inclusion. As soon as you add another they usually take an event out.

Worlds was a huge step, and then you started to see big salaries for specialist athletes. You look at Christophe Sauser’s late career, focusing on Cape Epic, marathon worlds.

Now you’re definitely seeing a separation with big teams that are focused on marathon. Our team is squarely focused on marathon. They don’t care about me doing World Cups. They want to have us leverage races that capture the imagination of the customers — crazy places, exotic travel, amazing trails you only get to dream about.

VN: And also people who are doing it at the same race, they can relate to professionals.

JB: One hundred percent, yeah. At Leadville, people compare their times to our times, and jaws drop. And they’re just like, “OK I get it. That’s amazing.” It’s very much like the Boston marathon experience. You’re in there, in the mix.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Grotts and Connors repeat at Leadville Trail 100 MTB

Howard Grotts
Howard Grotts won his second Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike race on Saturday. Photo: Glen Delman Photography

The 25th edition of the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race celebrated two familiar faces atop the podium Saturday as Howard Grotts (Specialized) and Larissa Connors (Sho-Air-Felt) successfully defended their titles.

Grotts finished in downtown Leadville, Colorado after just 6:18:08 of racing over 104 miles. Kristian Hynek (Canyon-Topeak) was second, and Payson McElveen (Orange Seal) was third.

Larissa Connors
Larissa Connors celebrated her Leadville win. Photo courtesy Leadville Trail Race Series

Connors won by a convincing margin, finishing in 7:40:13, nearly half an hour ahead of second place Julie Dibbens. Chase Edwards was third. It was also a remarkable win for the Californian because it was her fifth marathon mountain bike race victory in just six weeks. Connors won the Tatanka 100, Breck 100, High Cascades 100, Pierre’s Hole 100. Combined with her win at the True Grit 100 in March, Connors won four National Ultra Endurance (NUE) events, earning her the series overall.

“Leadville is more about the people and achieving something super difficult than it is about being pro and serious,” Connors said. “The highlight every year is cheering for everyone climbing Columbine as I descend, and thinking about how they will all tackle maybe the hardest race of their life on that day. It was crazy humbling and inspiring to hear them cheer for me by name when they too were in the middle of accomplishing something so incredible!”

Courtney and Blevins shine at Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup

Americans Kate Courtney and Christopher Blevins (Specialized) rode onto the podium in the Canadian round of the mountain bike World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne.

Courtney started off the weekend with a third place in Friday’s short track XC, behind teammate and winner Annika Langvad and Jolanda Neff (Kross), who was second. This gave the 23-year-old American a front-row start in Sunday’s XC, which she capitalized on, riding top-three for most of the race. However, she suffered a late-race flat tire on the rocky course and was out-sprinted by Anne Tauber in the end, settling for sixth place.

Kate Courtney
Kate Courtney at the start of the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup. Photo:
Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

In the under-23 men’s race, Blevins proved his potential with a second place finish to South African Alan Hatherly. Blevins is more than simply a mountain biker as well — on Thursday he starts the four-day Colorado Classic stage race with Hagens Berman-Axeon.

Durango Pro XCT and Pro GRT races canceled

In the aftermath of the enormous wildfire that engulfed 50,000 acres of forest in southwestern Colorado, organizers of Purgatory’s Revenge were forced to cancel the race that was scheduled for August 30-September 2.

“The 416 Fire, which started 10 miles north of Durango, played a direct role in the race’s cancellation by delaying race course trail construction. All registered participants will receive a full refund and we are hopeful to bring this race series back to Purgatory in the future,” said Hogan Koesis, Purgatory mountain bike director.

Read more about how the fire has impacted mountain bikers in the Durango area >>

Got some news you’d like to share in The Dirt? I’d love to hear from you. Please email me your news and updates on all things gravel and mountain biking.

Read the full article at The Dirt: Jeremiah Bishop on the evolution of endurance MTB on

Preview: Can a climber win Colorado Classic?

If you hold a race in one of America’s most mountainous states, will a climber win it? Not necessarily.

The second edition of the Colorado Classic begins Thursday in Vail, running through Sunday where it will conclude in Denver. Although the men’s and women’s races both have plenty of climbing on tap, the dynamics and routes of the four-day races might not clearly favor pure climbers.

Here’s a preview of the final big race on the U.S. calendar.

Women’s race may be decided in Vail

Katie Hall
Katie Hall won the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race in 2018. Photo: Ezra Shaw | Getty Images

The pro women’s race is frontloaded with two decisive stages in Vail.

The race begins with a hilly stage 1 around a 14.2km circuit, racing four laps for a total of 56.7km. Given the stage’s short distance, expect aggressive racing from the gun, especially since the circuit begins with a short, steep climb. Plus, the winner will earn a 10-second time bonus.

On Friday, stage 2 will take the racers up the Vail Pass bike path on the famous time trial route that was included in the USA Pro Challenge as well as the Coors Classic. This 15.8km race is a tricky one to pace. The first half is in a valley, on a gradual rise before reaching the base of the pass where the climb pitches up. Go too hard too soon and you’ll be out of matches to burn on the decisive steeps later on. Plus, the high altitude (near 2,895 meters/9,500 feet) will leave the riders with no margin for error.

It is likely that the first stage will whittle down the slate of contenders to a limited group, and then the stage 2 time trial will open up time gaps enough to give the race a clear leader.

After that, the race moves to Denver for a 50-minute criterium Saturday and a 34.8km circuit race Sunday in stage 4.

Stage 3 is essentially flat and not technical. Stage 4 includes a 200-foot climb on each lap and a few more twists and turns. However, in both cases, it seems unlikely that opportunists or sprinters will make up for time lost in the time trial. On both stages, time bonuses are on offer at intermediate sprints and at the finish. Even if a rider were to scoop up all of those bonuses, however, she would only earn 38 bonus seconds.

With all of that in mind, Katie Hall stands out as the top favorite in the women’s field. She won the top three U.S. stage races this season — Amgen Tour of California, Joe Martin Stage Race, and the Tour of the Gila. Plus, her UnitedHealthcare team is well-equipped to control the race in stages 3 and 4. That win at Tour of the Gila also indicates that Hall has no trouble performing at high altitude, which will be key in Vail.

Defending Colorado Classic champion Sara Poidevin might be able to challenge Hall. The 22-year-old Canadian also has a strong team at her disposal, Rally Cycling. Poidevin was second to Hall at Gila, where she was also second in the stage 3 time trial — five seconds faster than Hall.

Once the race rolls into Denver, expect speedsters such as Emma White (Rally), Lauren Hall (UnitedHealthcare), and criterium national champion Leigh Ann Ganzar (Affinity) to vie for stage wins.

Will queen stage decide the men’s race again?

Caja Rural led the chase up Coal Creek Canyon in stage 3 of the 2017 Colorado Classic. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Before the 2017 Colorado Classic, the mountainous queen stage out of Denver was underestimated. Many thought the punchy Breckenridge stage would actually decide the overall. But then Manuel Senni escaped with Serghei Tvetcov and stole the show.

For the second edition, organizers have made stage 3 even longer and more mountainous than last year. However, it may not decide the overall this time, given the first two Vail stages.

Like the women’s race, the men begin with a stage 1 circuit and a stage 2 time trial in Vail. The circuit race is longer for the men — eight laps, 103.2km — but the Vail pass time trial is the same at 15.9km. There may be slight time gaps after stage 1, but the time trial will really sort out the pecking order.

Then comes the 161.6km ride from Denver up Lookout Mountain, with two other KOMs along the way. The race will climb 2,479 (8,133 feet) before dropping into Denver to finish. It will be a long, gradual run into the city on Alameda Parkway, 32nd, and 29th street. Opportunistic riders are bound to escape on the tough climbs. The question is whether they’ll survive the final 20km to the finish.

Regardless of what happens Saturday, it seems certain that Sunday’s stage 4 will be strictly a day for stage-hunters, held on the same circuit as the women’s race over eight laps for a total of 114.8km.

So the ideal contender to win this race overall would be a capable time trial rider who can handle high altitude but is also handy on the climbs with a strong enough team to control unruly rivals that might plan an ambush on stage 3.

American Neilson Powless (LottoNL-Jumbo) has those three advantages, coming off a Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah where he was fourth in the prologue and supported his teammate Sepp Kuss to victory while ending up 13th overall himself. Powless’s Dutch squad is one of four WorldTour teams in the race, meaning its riders should be able to defend a lead confidently.

Also hailing from a WorldTour outfit, Daniel Martinez (EF Education First-Drapac) is a strong contender. The Colombian burst onto the scene with a third-place overall finish at the Amgen Tour of California, where he was a promising 10th in the time trial. However, it remains to be seen how he’ll ride after finishing his debut Tour de France.

Fortunately, Martinez does have strong backup on the EF team in the form of Joe Dombrowski. The American climber is coming off of a sixth-place result at Tour of Utah and may also be a factor in the overall.

Among the Pro Continental teams, Rob Britton (Rally) is also an overall favorite. He has proven himself at high-altitude stage races, winning Tour of the Gila twice and Tour of Utah in 2017. Last year’s runner-up Tvetcov might also be one to upset the top favorites, riding for the UnitedHealthcare team, which is still seeking a sponsor for 2019.

Read the full article at Preview: Can a climber win Colorado Classic? on

Vintage Leadville video #4: 104 miles on a 35-year-old MTB

With about 30 miles to go in the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race, I resorted to the most ancient shifting technique known — with a slight acceleration, I unclipped my right foot, kept spinning the left, and gently tapped my chain into the granny gear on my triple-chainring crankset.

This is the sort of adaptation one makes when riding a bike from 1983 in a grueling 104-mile race up above 12,000 feet among Colorado’s highest peaks.

A few months before the race on August 11, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of sourcing the bike industry’s top-of-the-line products to maximize speed and comfort, I wheeled out my vintage Specialized Stumpjumper — a bike approximately as old as I am, bought on eBay last year. I chose to ride this piece of mountain biking memorabilia to prove that no matter how outdated your gear might be, you can (and should) get out and ride.

It came as no surprise that Leadville was a hard 10 hours on the bike. However, I had way more fun than I expected, and that old bike, well, it was almost trouble-free.

I started this 25th edition of Leadville at the very back of a field of about 1,500 riders, among my fellow first-timers. In practically any other race, this would have been cause for anxiety. I’m naturally a very competitive person. But on that cold Saturday morning, with dawn breaking on the peaks above the highest city in the U.S. (10,152 feet above sea level), it was the perfect place to begin my introduction to this race that founder Ken Chlouber calls a “family.”

It is quite an exceptional family. On the pointy end of the masses, there are pro athletes such as Howard Grotts (Specialized) and Larissa Connors (Felt-Sho-Air), who each won their second consecutive titles. In the back where I started, there are even more inspiring riders, just hoping to finish inside the 12-hour cutoff time to win a coveted belt buckle.

For the first 15 miles, I rode near a man who is legally blind and relies on a guide rider to pilot him through the field. As we rode along the field changed pace erratically. We sometimes even dismounted to hike climbs as the course twisted up the trail on St. Kevins. I couldn’t believe the blind rider’s confidence on this trail, which was strewn with loose rocks. I was also amazed by the pilot rider’s selfish devotion to his blind companion.

He wasn’t the only one devoting a long day in the sun to a Leadville rider. At the course’s five aid stations, hundreds of supporters set up tents to hand off bottles, food, Slim Jims, you name it. And they cheered on practically every rider who came through.

This support has provided me my fondest memories from my race at Leadville. The vibe amongst riders and spectators was positive, from mile 1 to 104. Within the mass of humanity, riders encouraged each other. On the side of the trail, fans, friends, and supporters urged everyone on. At the end of the race, the questions asked are more along the lines of, “How was it?” or “Did you make it under 12 hours?” rather than “What place did you finish?”

Well, I did finish. And it was awesome. As I said at the beginning, riding my vintage bike was almost trouble-free. Thankfully I didn’t suffer any flat tires, which was my chief concern. But when I got back to my hotel after a post-race dinner, I heard a funny rush of air, and sure enough, my front tire had just gone flat, not more than six hours after my finish.

The old bike did have a few issues on the trail. The chain fell off on rough descents. I had to stop and get the headset tightened three times — when I finished, the steering was perilously clunky.

And of course, there was that front-shifting malfunction that made the final climb up Powerline quite an adventure.

Despite all that, it was totally worth it. It was worth the sore back, limp arms, and momentary cross-eyed vision on one descent (can your eyeballs get rattled loose?). It was worthwhile because so many people — in the race and along the course were stoked to see this old bike in action.

I finished in time to get that coveted belt buckle, as did 1,100 other riders. The real reward for me, though, was the experience of riding with this family and brushing up on my old-school shifting techniques.

Watch the rest of the videos in the Vintage Leadville series >>

Thanks to The Leadville Race Series for letting us participate in this year’s race to bring you the most in-depth coverage around the event.

Read the full article at Vintage Leadville video #4: 104 miles on a 35-year-old MTB on

Video: Breck Epic done and Gold Dusted on stage 6

The 10th edition of the Breck Epic mountain bike stage race wrapped up Friday with stage 6. The 30-mile finale took riders over Boreas Pass to the Gold Dust trail — then back over the 11,500-foot pass again to return to the finish in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Katrina Engelsted (Boulder Cycle Sport) won her first stage of the race in the pro women’s category ahead of Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop), who won the overall. It was Williams’s first time at the Breck Epic, an event she has wanted to do for years.

Carla Williams on her way to winning the Breck Epic overall on stage 5. Photo: Eddie Clark

“It was definitely on our bucket list to do this year. the riding’s just been incredible. I’ve had so much fun on the trails,” said Williams.

“I was definitely a little nervous about how the altitude would affect me. The first day was the shortest day with the rain, and my lungs were just burning, I could hardly breathe. The second day, it was hard to find the power I normally have in my legs, but after that, I started feeling a little bit better each day.”

The Virginian is making the most of her trip to Colorado, heading up to Leadville to race the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race Saturday. That played a factor in her pacing on stage 6.

“Today was the only day I took it sort of easy. I’m doing Leadville tomorrow, so I wanted to have a little bit in my legs for tomorrow, so since I did have a gap I settled into a comfortable pace,” Williams said. “Today I did have a bit more fun.”

Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon-Topeak) won stage 6 and wrapped up the overall title in the pro men’s division, happy to have bookended the race with stage wins on the first and final days.

“I just felt healthy, strong, and confident,” Bishop said. “This week was really good front to back — winning the first stage, winning the last stage.

“We had fun. Just goofing around and talking. It was really positive. I’m so stoked to ride with some of these young kids that are coming up through. Nash [Dory], we had a good battle on this last stage, and I was like, ‘Maybe I should give the stage win to him.’ He’s been working so hard and riding so well all week. But then I kind of remembered that you’ve gotta make him work for it! I told him where the last climb was and I figured that was enough of a hint, but I was able to hold him off.”

Jeremiah Bishop won the 10th edition of the Breck Epic. Photo: Devon Balet

Bishop added that he felt his good late-season form was due to some unexpected rest resulting from an injury.

“I think getting injured at Cape Epic in March almost was like a blessing in disguise. Now I just feel really healthy. I’m able to recover well.”

Bishop also won the first edition of Breck Epic in 2009.

“It is nice to be back and win the 10th — I won the first and I won the 10th. A lot has changed since then … I raced with Travis Brown at this one.

“The race has grown up in ways but actually it’s still the same in a lot of ways. It’s still got its character, its class. It’s unapologetically mountain biking. It’s just awesome.”

Check out the Breck Epic website for more >>

Read the full article at Video: Breck Epic done and Gold Dusted on stage 6 on

Breck Epic Basics: Recovery, or how the race is won in bed

Photo: Devon Balet

Editor’s note: The 2018 Breck Epic mountain bike race is underway, running August 5-10, and we sent Spencer Powlison up to Breckenridge, Colorado, to cover the event from a rider’s eye view. In addition to daily updates from the race, this series of “Breck Epic Basics” will offer tips on how to handle the challenges of an event like Breck Epic — or any multi-day cycling trip or event you might plan to do.

There is an old pro cycling chestnut about stage races, and what really makes a difference in the end: “The race is won in bed.”

I couldn’t determine who first said that (or something like it). Perhaps it was Eddy Merckx. No matter who devised this truism, they were right. Racing day after day takes a toll, and if you can find ways to recover well, sleep enough, and stay fresher than the other racers, you’ll have the edge.

So for the six-day mountain bike race that is Breck Epic, it seemed fitting to ask a couple of pros how to handle the toll of a stage race: Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon-Topeak) and Amy Beisel (Orange Seal).

Jeremiah Bishop:

Photo: Eddie Clark

“In the stage race, it’s full-on survival mode. You’re not trying to get in shape. Inflammation is building up, and one way to handle it is ice baths, or put your legs in an ice-cold creek — there are a lot of those in Colorado. I’ll go sit in the ice-cold water until my feet don’t hurt. Also, I might do it before bed. Sleeping is probably one of the worst things to deal with in stage races. Ben King, he can attest to it, having done the Tour de France. Sleep is rough. I’d say it’s partly just because you’re so amped up from the race and you’re thinking about the excitement from the race, the action the crashes, you have this inflammation, your heart rate is elevated. I avoid any narcotic sleep aid and drugs in general, if you need it that’s one thing. The ice baths really help. For some people that have chronic sleep issues, melatonin is pretty good that’s over-the-counter, pretty benign sleep aid that’s what I usually go to for these stage races if I have trouble sleeping.

“Chamois cream is huge. Sunblock is the most important thing to bring … a hat with a brim. Naps daily if you can do it also make a huge difference.

“Another tip for general stage race survival is going with the package deals – massage, mechanic, nutrition. It might seem like it costs more but guess what, if you roll your bike to somebody and go sit in the creek with your buddies, drink a coke and relax, that’s just amazing.”

Amy Beisel:

“I’d done one or two stage races before. I ate dinner but I didn’t think I replenished my calories enough at Breck Epic last year. I think this year I’m going to have a much bigger dinner with more carbohydrates, maybe pasta or rice. And just eat more. I didn’t eat enough after the race. I thought I did but you’re so tired after the race that it’s almost a chore to eat after you’re done riding. I’m gonna really try to focus on having a really big dinner even as hard as it might be.”

Spencer’s take:

Photo Eddie Clark

“Planning out the basic logistics of your meals makes a big difference. The process of finding a restaurant, ordering, waiting, and then waiting for a check isn’t very relaxing for me, especially at a race. Instead, I’m going to do a big grocery run beforehand, and I’m staying in a house with a kitchen. For midday meals, I’ll have lots of supplies to make burritos and sandwiches, and in the evenings, our group of friends will alternate on who cooks dinner.

“I’m also bringing some dorky space legs for recovery. The inflatable recovery leg sleeves aren’t quite as good as a real massage, but they help get the blood flowing a bit. At the very least, pack some compression socks to help with circulation.”

Check out the Breck Epic website for more >>

Read the full article at Breck Epic Basics: Recovery, or how the race is won in bed on

Video: Breck Epic stage 5 climbs wonderful Wheeler

The penultimate stage of the six-day Breck Epic race is both revered and feared. Wheeler Pass takes riders back into the high Alpine to the highest point of the entire week — 12,536 feet above sea level before they plummet back to the valley on the race’s most difficult descent. Then it’s back to the finish at the base of the ski hill on the undulating Peaks Trail to end short but arduous 24-mile day.

As was the case in stage 4, Levi Kurlander (Orange Seal) won the men’s pro race and Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop) won the women’s race. Youngster Nash Dory (Construction Zone) was second to Kurlander after battling all the way back on the Peaks Trail. Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon-Topeak) finished third and kept his overall lead. Williams is also poised to win the overall race with one day left and a substantial lead over Katrina Englested (Boulder Cycle Sport) and Meghan Sheridan (Bingham Cyclery Peak Fasteners).

But really, the story of Wheeler Pass has to be told visually. To appreciate the huge rocky cirques that dwarf the riders, photography is the most effective medium. Enjoy these shots from Eddie Clark:

Check out the Breck Epic website for more >>

Read the full article at Video: Breck Epic stage 5 climbs wonderful Wheeler on

Breck Epic Basics: Pacing for a six-day race

Editor’s note: The 2018 Breck Epic mountain bike race is underway, running August 5-10, and we sent Spencer Powlison up to Breckenridge, Colorado, to cover the event from a rider’s eye view. In addition to daily updates from the race, this series of “Breck Epic Basics” will offer tips on how to handle the challenges of an event like Breck Epic — or any multi-day cycling trip or event you might plan to do.

“I always loved stage racing because life becomes very simple in a stage race, you wake up, you eat, you race, you eat, you go to bed. You get this kind of tunnel vision, you’re in your own little cocoon. Of course, you have other stuff going on but that stuff seems to matter less,” says Todd Wells, winner of two editions of the Breck Epic.

Wells makes the six-day, 240-mile mountain bike race sound idyllic. It probably is at times, but for riders who aren’t multi-time national champions like him and who don’t have experience as pro racers, it is a big challenge.

And one of the toughest challenges is trying to find the right pacing for a week of high-altitude mountain bike racing. So, I talked to three-time Breck Epic winner Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon-Topeak) — who happens to run his own coaching company, Bishop Training — Amy Beisel (Orange Seal), and the now-retired Wells about how to make it through the race in one piece.

Jeremiah Bishop:

“Don’t go too much over your threshold. It’s an interesting thing I discovered pacing at altitude. I think it differs depending on how acclimated you are. But one of the things I found is you’re pushed against the O2 limit more than the fitness limit. If you can just steady your power out, you can make up a lot of time. Instead of trying to hang on with the super climbers on the steepest section, just find your rhythm and find your pace.

“Avoiding big single efforts is probably the best advice I can give. Makes a huge difference. Sometimes you have to go with a group at a certain point if you’re trying to race to win. That’s when you’re throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks. That’s a tough way to race. That’s kinda what we have to do at the front.

“Once you pop it’s like damage control and you’re paying for it the next five to eight minutes.”

Amy Beisel
Amy Beisel broke her collarbone in Breck Epic stage 2. Photo: Eddie Clark

Amy Beisel:

“Last year [race director] Mike [McCormack] had brought in a lot of strong talent so there was really no pacing involved as far as it was for me. We went hard from the gun basically every day. I think the first day is going to be really important. The first day I’m gonna do a pretty good warmup to make sure I’m nice and ready to go and just race really hard that first day, see what happens. As far as time goes afterward and depending on what happens, look at that and strategize as far as pacing goes. If it’s going to be a wire-to-wire thing where we’re racing, it’s going to be a little different. I’m planning on going out really hard on that first day and trying to maintain it.

“My warmups will get shorter and shorter for the next five days. You’ll be in survival mode toward the end. Just a 10-minute spin, 10-minute tempo, and go to the line.”

Todd Wells:

“The climbs in Breck are so steep and there’s so many false summits. Not many people know those courses the way you would know a Leadville course unless you live in Breck.

“Every climb is very steep and you’re grinding and you can see a summit and you get there and then there’s another summit.

“The climbs are going to be hard, and what you see as being the top most times is not the top.”

Photo: Linda Guerrette

Spencer’s take:

“The only experience I have with stage racing is last year’s Haute Route Pyrenees, a seven-day road gran fondo. For that, I picked out a few stages that I really wanted to smash and rode more of a steady tempo the other days. That helped me pace myself and still feel pretty good by the end. I’m not so sure if I can use that same strategy in Breck, given the altitude and the fact that you don’t sit in when you’re racing mountain bikes. Above all, my point is that you don’t have to race every day as if it is your last.”

Check out the Breck Epic website for more >>

Read the full article at Breck Epic Basics: Pacing for a six-day race on

Video: Down to the wire in Breck Epic stage 4

Breck Epic stage 4 may not have reached the dizzying above-treeline altitude of stage 3, but Wednesday’s race served up ample punishment — and a close finish in the pro men’s race.

The race’s 400-odd riders passed the halfway mark of the six-day mountain bike stage race on the 41-mile Aqueduct route to Keystone and back from downtown Breckenridge, Colorado. Along the way, they faced numerous steep fire road climbs as well as a 10-mile long grind out of Keystone.

In the women’s race Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop) won her second stage in a row and maintained her overall lead on Katrina Englested (Boulder Cycle Sport) with two days to go.

On the other hand, a fresh face stood on the top of the stage 4 podium in the pro men’s race, with Levi Kurlander (Orange Seal) winning his first stage of the week ahead of race leader Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon-Topeak).

Their race began with a frantic chase after the front few riders missed a corner on a fast downhill not more than five miles in.

“We had a 45-minute XC chase back,” said Bishop. “Sometimes the chaos makes it more interesting.”

Kurlander agreed that it was a major effort to bridge back to the front.

“It was the hardest I’d gone all week for the first 45 minutes of the race today,” said Kurlander. “It was full-on XC at 10,000 feet.

In the end, it came down to the youngster from Durango and the three-time former Breck Epic winner Bishop. Kurlander went all out on the final descent to win by three seconds.

“The last section he was going nuts down this downhill,” Bishop said. “He just started sprinting out of every corner.”

“I made the commitment — I was either going to crash or I was going to win,” said Kurlander.

Check out the Breck Epic website for more >>

Read the full article at Video: Down to the wire in Breck Epic stage 4 on

Vintage Leadville video #3: Five best mountain bike innovations

In less than two weeks, I’ll ride into the unknown, early in the morning, more than 10,000 feet above sea level at the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. And I’ll do it aboard a bike as old as I am.

I am riding a 1983 Specialized Stumpjumper at the Leadville 100. Why? To prove that you don’t need the latest technology to have fun mountain biking.

But over the last few weeks, I found myself missing some of the modern gear that makes bikes a lot more fun (and comfortable) these days. So, here is my list of the top-five best mountain bike innovations that I’ll wish I had around mile 80 at Leadville.

Read the story behind the bike I’m riding >>

Thanks to The Leadville Race Series for letting us participate in this year’s race to bring you the most in-depth coverage around the event.

Read the full article at Vintage Leadville video #3: Five best mountain bike innovations on

Breck Epic Basics: How to cope with high altitude

Editor’s note: The 2018 Breck Epic mountain bike race is underway, running August 5-10, and we sent Spencer Powlison up to Breckenridge, Colorado, to cover the event from a rider’s eye view. In addition to daily updates from the race, this series of “Breck Epic Basics” will offer tips on how to handle the challenges of an event like Breck Epic — or any multi-day cycling trip or event you might plan to do.

The Colorado mountains cast a cruel spell on mountain bikers. When you think you can pedal faster, your lungs go haywire. When you try to sleep, your heart is pounding.

High altitude affects everyone in different ways, but once you are above 9,000 feet (and Breckenridge is), you have to be a specimen of freakish aerobic abilities to ignore the difference. The Breck Epic mountain bike race is six stages of riding all above 9,000 with some summits reaching past 12,000 feet. This is even hard for people accustomed to racing in thin air. So how do you cope with this invisible challenge?

We talked to three-time Breck Epic winner Jeremiah Bishop (Canyon-Topeak), Amy Beisel (Orange Seal), and Fernando Riveros (CZ Racing) to hear how they manage racing at altitude.

Jeremiah Bishop:

“Racing at high altitude gets easier the more you do it. I’ve written a training plan for Leadville on Training Peaks; four weeks out, if you have a chance, go to altitude for some training. If you live in Florida, Beech mountain is 5,000 feet — you still get some adaptation. I have a hypoxia trainer I can do some intermediate hypoxic training on. That’s really beneficial just to get the feel of it. You do get some minor adaptation from it.

“There’s a lot of theory on how your brain will protect you from cold, heat, lack of oxygen. A lot of things you get from short-term adaptation is a change in your central governor. If you are pretty used to pushing at high tempo or low threshold, doing a little hypoxic block can help.

“If you can get up there 10 days ahead of time that’s where you’re starting to get some real effects hematologically, but I think it’s even better to get a trip up to altitude a month ahead of time. It kind of hits you differently each time. But having experience of how to pace at altitude is really valuable.

“Usually, I increase the amount of carbs I take into about 75 percent. That’s really different from my usual diet and that really makes a big difference because your body prioritizes glycogen more. I also try to get more sleep. Hydration is big as well. Purely in-the-bottle nutrition. There’s a reason for that. At elevations that high, you’re looking at very low humidity and your lungs are getting incredible amounts of evaporation with that elevated breathing rate and it’s hard to chew when you can’t breath!

“When you’re going up to altitude, there’s normal effect and some people get altitude shock. I’ve had it before, I used to suck at altitude. Advil can help with High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema. There’s some pretty good research on that, just the inflammation response. Lower O2 causes vasodilation. That’s one of those things that’s supposed to protect from acute mountain sickness. Blood volume changes, your ph changes. Your body is compensating for higher CO2 so you have more acidic blood. But you also have more hemoglobin, so your body is making all these changes and one of these changes is vasoconstriction. It can go a little haywire. And that’s when a lot of people get altitude sickness.”

Barry Wicks dropped in above the treeline on the Wheeler stage. Photo: Eddie Clark

Amy Beisel:

“I love racing at altitude. I don’t know what it is but I like the way it makes me feel for some reason. When you are racing at altitude, you’re just not going into that red zone for too long and just set a good pace that you know you can handle. Because it’s really hard to bounce back if you do bonk.

“I always try to stay super-hydrated especially three days before the race. I do it as it is now but definitely at least three to four days before. Try not to drink plain water. I’ll add maple and salt and a splash of lime to every water that I drink. It’s just a homemade sports drink; it’s really just cheaper to make and very clean, you know what you’re putting in it, so you’re really topped off before a six-day stage race.”

Fernando Riveros:

“The first days, they’re harder for me. Me and altitude don’t get along very well, even though I was born at 8,000 feet in Bogota. I was fine when I used to live in Colorado Springs, I was fine riding and racing there. But now I moved from Colorado it’s been a struggle for me to perform well in altitude.

“The point of me going to the Leadville Stage Race [July 27-29] was just to get used to it and tune up before Breck Epic. I’m trying to be more conservative in my efforts. Coming from sea level, you produce more power here than you produce there. I have to remember those kinds of things that I can’t put that power out at elevation. That’s the main thing, just being more cautious with my efforts, and hydration is the most important part.”

Breck Epic
Spencer Powlison rolled into the feed zone on Breck Epic stage 2. Photo: Linda Guerrette

Spencer’s take:

“I have had so many horrible mountain bike races at high altitude that I’m probably not the best person to ask. I will say that my best days have been when I’ve paced myself very conservatively — never attack, never go into the red, stay relaxed.”

Check out the Breck Epic website for more >>

Read the full article at Breck Epic Basics: How to cope with high altitude on