Local women win divisions in Colorado mountain bike race

A picture Evans took while riding over Wheeler Pass.
Provided | Genevieve Evans

CARNELIAN BAY, Calif. — Two Truckee/Tahoe mountain bikers took first in their divisions in the Breck Epic, a six-day stage race held in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Over six days, participants ride about 220 miles and gain about 40,000 feet of elevation on some of Breckenridge’s most technical terrain. The race started on Sunday, Aug. 14, and ran through Aug. 19.

Pro-cyclist Katarina Nash, 44, of Truckee, took first in the Pro Women category and Carnelian Bay resident Genevieve Evans took first in the Women 40-plus category. 

Both women have competed in the Breck Epic previously, Nash in 2017 and 2019, while Evans competed in 2014. 

However, this year was very different from any other year. Heavy rainfalls started around 1 p.m. everyday, forcing participants to ride in wet conditions and washing out the trails. 

“The trails seemed much more rutted and kind of destroyed from the amount of water,” Nash said. “The trail network was definitely getting hammered with all that rain running down the trails.”

On Tuesday, race directors were forced to cancel that day’s ride, due to lightning storms. Since the course took riders up 12,000 above sea level and above tree lines, riding on the exposed mountain would have been extremely dangerous. 

While both women were grateful to have a recovery day, the following two days were brutal for the racers. 

Stage 4 is collectively people’s least favorite stage, so organizers decided to remove that stage and still allow races to race Stage 3, which would’ve been held on Tuesday.

However, Stages 3 and 5 are the hardest stages of the race. Stage 3, titled “Tour Du Mont Guyot” is about 40 miles with more than 7,000 feet of elevation gain. It takes riders up and over French Pass. 

Stage 5, the “Wheeler Trail,” is one of the most well-known legs of the race. While only about 24 miles, it starts with an immediate 6-mile climb to 12,500 feet above sea level. The next six miles are spent at aboe 11,000 feet before a long and technical descent takes them back down. 

A picture Evans took while riding over Wheeler Pass.
Provided | Genevieve Evans

Stage 4, which was removed, is intended to act as an easier day sandwiched between the two hardest days. This year was the first year ever that riders were forced to ride the two hardest stages back-to-back. 

Despite those challenging conditions, both women were able to snag first. 

Katarina Nash

Nash, who spends most of her year in Truckee, decided to compete in Breck Epic a month before the race was scheduled, after COVID forced her to cancel another race that had been on her calendar for the summer. Nash has been a professional cyclist for over 20 years and was excited to participate in another multi-day race. 

“I’m always ready for these adventures, it just depends on what fits in the calendar,” Nash said. “But the Breck Epic is serious, the altitude is a big challenge for a lot of athletes, including me. I spend a good amount of the year in Tahoe which is some altitude but obviously, the Colorado Rockies, that’s a whole other level and going to 12,000 feet is a whole different ballgame.” 

Nash said the elite category this year wasn’t as competitive as in years past. 

Each day, racers compete for the winner’s jersey and the overall winner is decided by a cumulative time of all days. In 2017, Nash was barely beaten out for second, while in 2019, she took first by seconds. 

This year, she won first every single day and overall beat second by more than an hour with a time of 17:28:43. 

“This year, I was fortunate enough to just ride at my own pace,” Nash said. “That also allowed me to not take crazy risks on the downhill. But yet, comparing my Strava files, in some sections I rode the best of the three editions which was encouraging because I’m only getting older. To be hitting the same times or even a little bit faster from five years ago was nice to see.” 

Some of the trails in the race are more suited to hiking than mountain biking. Tree roots and boulders forced even some of the elite riders to walk their bikes. The trail that takes riders over Wheeler Pass is one such trail. Still, Nash said that part of the race is her favorite. 

“Even though its almost kind of dumb, because you’re hiking for so long and you’re like, ‘okay, why do these guys hate us, why are they punishing us,’” Nash said. “But the view you’re rewarded with, just getting up there and getting up high and being on top of the mountain… it’s a pretty neat stage.” 

“Finishing is always just a fun feeling of accomplishing something, it’s not just the winning really, it’s just getting through the race,” Nash added. 

Genevieve Evans

Evans first started mountain biking in 1996 but didn’t start doing endurance races in 2006. She first competed in Breck Epic in 2014 with her husband and while she’s competed in long, one-day races, she finds stage races to be a little bit more enjoyable. 

“100-mile mountain bike races are great but they are one-day and they’re really hard, it’s a really hard and painful one day,” Evans said. “Stage races over six days are hard but they are doable, they are each doable days.”

However, about five years ago, Evans had some injuries that prevented her from doing these types of things. She said at one point, she could barely even walk a mile. She eventually recovered enough to get back on her bike and she decided to see if she could still compete in an endurance challenge, leading her to the Breck Epic once again. 

Evans won the first four stages and took second on the final day. However, she won overall with a time of 21:12:58, beating out a Breckenridge local by almost an hour. 

Evans said coming back from an injury, she wasn’t expecting to get first. 

“I didn’t expect to win the age group and I’m definitely still on a high from that,” Evans said. 

Evans took first place in her category.

She said the day off probably helped her. 

“Being older and with my injuries, it’s harder for me to do back-to-back days, so that was helpful in a way, although I would have liked to see if I could’ve done six days in a row,” Evans said.

While Evans had the same comments as Nash about the trail condition, one thing that stood out to her about the year compared to 2014 was the lack of women racers. She guesses that there were about a third less women this year which was a disappointment to her. 

Evans said her favorite part of the race is Stage 3 which takes riders over French and Georgia passes. 

“I like those big days where it’s a hike-a-bike,” Evans said. “Its just beautiful, it’s something you don’t always get. A lot of the trails they build now are sort of manicured but these are raw trails.”

Her other favorite part of this race, and all races really, is getting to meet people from all over. 

Evans said she’d definitely consider doing that race again but she might have to wait another eight years. 

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