Breck Epic - Stage 1

Stage One. Here we go! Amber and I lined up further back then I normally do, but in a comfortable location. As long as we kept the rubber side down during the three mile climb up Boreas Pass Road, it really didn't matter. It's only the first day. You might not win a race in the first day, but going out too hard and we could blow sky high. It was the mass start that had me most worried for Amber - she's never done anything like this before and riding with 600 people handlebar to handlebar isn't exactly easy. I was also worried about me going too hard on the climb and putting both of us into the red. There was a lot of talking and checking in to make sure we were riding smart, but I was still going a little harder then we needed. I wanted to be in a good position entering the first section of singletrack. Once we got of the road and settled in on the Pennsylvania Gulch Climb, we had bit of a chat, and it was time to chill out a little. It's a long week to come. And that leads me to the next thought.
Ready to go! We think...

Why duo? Why not? It's a different challenge. Amber and I are very evenly matched on most things- I descend better just because of time on bikes; we both power the flats and gentle climbs well; but when it tips steeply uphill and rocky? Amber's got some ponies! And that's a good combo for a race like this. We both have our strengths and weaknesses. This race will play into both. While I might be able to power up the road, I know on things like Little French Amber can just ride away from me. And she did just that today. Even on Indiana Creek Gulch, she was able to ride smoothly things I had to think about. Hopefully, that keeps up as the days get longer - both of us riding smoothly.

Once we got the start nerves out of the way and hopefully the only stupidity of the race over with, we started ticking over the miles. Sometimes fast, sometimes a little slower - but it seemed that we were the only riders chatting and enjoying the day. It was too nice a day not to be enjoyed! And it was stunning scenery around every corner. We survived the first chunky double track descent and river crossing - I was wishing I'd put on my wool socks! That water was cold! Then the Indiana Creek Gulch climb up to Boreas Pass Road. I've ridden that twice - both back in 2012 when I was doing the Breck 100. I was hoping to be able to ride the entire climb this time, but got bounced off twice and did some hiking. I think this week will have lots of taking my bike for a hike.... Amber waited just a little at the top and we rolled into and thru the first aid station. Didn't need anything, so kept going. Time for some descending! At least that's what I thought would happened - but it seemed to take a longer time then I though it would to actually get there.

Aid 2 was just at the start of the the Little French singletrack. This time we stopped. I wanted some more fluids and some food before we tackled that bugger. Amber had some choice words for that section of trail - most of them unprintable! I'm sure that she could have ridden that entire trail easily, she was ticking it over smoothly. I on the other hand was a little worried about burning matches so early into the race and opted to join the line of people walking. Again, its a long week. I know my strengths and weaknesses and would rather give up a few minutes on that then blowup trying to ride something like that. Amber led the Flume trail descent - time to work on that left exposure! Yikes.

Then time for more dirt road climbing. I had an idea of where we were, but not entirely sure so was perfectly happy following arrows. We'd settled into the effort of riding and were comfortable the small group we were with. It did feel a little like no-man's land at times since we didn't know anything about our position and there weren't that many riders around us. Following arrows was about all there was to do! We were both riding blind - having no idea of what lay around the next corner. It was kinda fun, but we were definitely slower then we would have been had we gotten a chance to pre-ride. There were some giggle inducing descents, some grunter ugly climbs and a few more road sections. But we were still riding smart and talking. That was the key to pacing for the back half of the race since there was no one around us. I was leading for most of that last section since I'm a little more comfortable riding the descents blind. Finally, we turned onto the last climb of the day. Amber's raced that section recently, so she was able to talk us through the last switch backs. Some how, she did manage to forget the real, final climb of the day!

Duo Women's Stage 1 Podium
Rebecca Gross and Dani Arman 1st, Amber and I 2nd, Rocky Mountain Racing 3rd
In the end, we finished in 4:16, solidly in second in the Women's Duo - 16 minutes behind Rebecca Gross and Dani Arman. But a lot can happen in five more days of long, hard riding. The gap may shrink, the gap may grow. As long as Amber and I ride within ourselves, we will survive and have fun. And that's the point - to have fun and push ourselves to our limits.

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