Locals compete at mountain bike championships in Breckenridge

“I made up a lot of ground on the second lap”

The marathon mountain bike race world continued to gain steam this summer as droves of endurance riders headed to Breckenridge last weekend to compete in the annual Firecracker 50 on Sunday, July 4.
The Firecracker 50 is a 50-mile race, two 25-mile laps, on mining roads and singletrack surrounding Breckenridge, and is the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships. As a result it attracts the top endurance riders in the nation.
Five riders from the Gunnison Valley joined in the mix, including veteran endurance bike champion and Topeak-Ergon athlete Dave Wiens, as well as Team Alpine Orthopaedics pro rider Travis Scheefer.
Wiens won the inaugural event in 2001 and is always in the mix at the front, using the Firecracker 50 as a warm-up for his premier event, the Leadville 100.
“It’s a great stepping stone to the 100-mile race in August,” says Wiens. “You get to test yourself against some really strong bikers.”
Every year Wiens follows the same pre-race routine for the Firecracker.
“I drive over the morning of [the race] and then get back home for the Fourth,” says Wiens.
This year, a couple of riders broke away early at a frenetic pace and Wiens settled in with a second wave that was nearly as frantic.
By the time they reached the high point of the course, Wiens was feeling it.
“I was cooked at the high point of the climb,” says Wiens. “It was really difficult for me. The pace this year was faster.”
But being the savvy 45-year-old veteran rider that he is, Wiens remained calm, knowing full well that the rough conditions on the course can ruin the day of the top riders.
“It’s a tough course,” says Wiens. “It’s mining country so there’s lots of blasted sharp rocks—rocks that can rip up your sidewall or kick up and break your derailleur.”
Two-thirds of the way through the race, he settled in with a couple of other riders and started seeing some of the lead group pulling themselves out with mechanicals or just blown up from the pace.
The strategy paid off as Wiens came from 12th place after one lap to finish in third overall in a time of three hours, 47 minutes.
“I was able to keep it steady and keep air in the tires and ride a mistake-free race,” says Wiens. “Next thing you know, I got third place.”
Scheefer was back for more this year after having a rough go last year, blowing up and being forced to drop out.
With the experience still in his mind, Scheefer came in with a slightly different approach.
“I was smarter going into it,” says Scheefer. “I knew I should be more conservative on the first lap.”
With the leaders charging off the front, Scheefer settled into a group, riding in 18th place after the first lap.
Then things started happening as Scheefer started passing big names on the marathon mountain biking circuit.
“When you see some of the top guys drop off the front you know you’re doing well,” says Scheefer. “Even the top guys blow up.”
Scheefer maintained his first lap pace on his second lap, passing nine more riders to move up into ninth place by the finish, posting a time of three hours, 58 minutes.
“I made up a lot of ground on the second lap,” says Scheefer. “I just rode consistent. I’m psyched with top 10.”
Sydney Fuller was the lone local woman to make the trip to Breckenridge and competed in the women’s Maverick class.
The Maverick class is set up for anyone who wants to race but isn’t interested in being a part of the sanctioned USA Cycling event.
Fuller came into the Firecracker 50 a bit off the back, having been waitlisted for the race. She crushed the Wildcat 40 the week before to finish in third place in the open women’s class and had no plans to go to Breckenridge until Thursday night, when she found out she was pulled off the waitlist and entered.
Fortunately, she had some history with the race, having competed in it the past four years.
“I knew what to expect,” says Fuller.
Still, with her legs fatigued from the Wildcat 40, it took Fuller a while to get going. Nevertheless, she battled through the massive field of riders and instead of worrying about where she was placed, just kept cranking over her pedals.
“I was unsure of where I was, which is good,” says Fuller. “With those kind of races you need to go hard but not too hard so that you don’t finish.”
Fuller pulled into second place during the early part of the first lap. A quick stop to refuel before lap two dropped her back to third place but she returned to her second place position and held it the rest of the race, posting her best time at the Firecracker 50 of five hours and 36 minutes.
“I’m definitely psyched to finish in second, given I didn’t prepare at all that week,” says Fuller.
Additional local competitors included Brick Oven/Crested Butte Builders rider Dodson Harper, who pedaled to a 12th-place finish among Maverick men with a time of four hours, 38 minutes, and Tim Poppe, who took 32nd place. 

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