With more clouds in the sky than day one and the threat of thunderstorms looming, Stage Two of the Breck Epic got its start in downtown Breckenridge. The weatherman would, thankfully, end up being [mostly] wrong and the second-longest (lengthwise) day of the week suffered blue skies for most of the day. Complete stage 2 results are here.
Despite her affinity for the descents and having now won the first two enduro segments of the week, Katerina Nash's (Clif Pro Team) crash on the first descent of stage one could have created an insurmountable gap between her and race leader Erin Huck (Cannondale - 3 Rox), who separated herself from Czech on the penultimate climb to put another 33-seconds into Nash on day two.
"On that last climb out of Aid 2, I tried to put the hammer down a little, but based on my face at the finish, I paid for it," said Huck at the finish where she was showing signs from the effort.
Amy Beisel (Pro Cycling / Kenda) who was fourth on stage one clawed her way to third on day two and took enough time back from Evelyn Dong (Full Cycle) to take third overall with Dong about 18 minutes behind third overall.
"My legs felt a little better," said Beisel. "I was three minutes back on Evelyn yesterday, but I got enough time today to move up to third."
Fourteen-time cyclocross national champion Katie Compton took some time back from her rivals to finish fourth on the day and move up to fifth overall after suffering from an asthma attack on stage one.
"Yesterday I had an asthma attack, so I was nursing that for the first couple of hours," said Compton about her previous day. "It was one of those days where I just had to survive and get to the finish. Today was better - I eased up on the start some and I took more allergy medicine which helped a ton."
Going in to the third day, which is arguably more challenging the first two, Huck has a gap of 2:34 over Nash and 28:34 over Beisel.
On stage one Howard Grotts (Specialized) was the animator every time the trail pointed up - putting the pressure on the other riders at the front early, stripping down the lead group, but ultimately, he couldn't follow Todd Wells (SRAM / TLD / SCOTT) and Jeremiah Bishop on stage one's final climb (TEAM TOPEAK ERGON).
On day two, the youngster from Durango waited for the right time to attack, attacking on the climb after Aid 2, and he soloed to the finish with a gap of 1:12 over Wells, which was enough to take the GC lead. Geoff Kabush (SCOTT Sports - Maxxis) and Bishop finished in third and fourth, both within three seconds of Wells.
"The pace wasn't crazy and we still had six or seven riders going through Aid 2 and on the following climb, I knew that's where I had the biggest advantage," said Grotts. "I had about one good attack in the legs today and I just had to send it and time trial to the finish."
Grotts' youth, build, and affinity for high-alpine riding, lends him to be the favorite when the trail really kicks skyward and while second place Wells recognizes this, he added, "He has such a good surge up here at 10,000 or 11,000 feet, but it's a long race, anything can happen and it's not like the road where you can just sit in the group. There's no hiding out there."
Overall, the top three are separated by just 40-seconds, with Grotts leading Wells by 19 seconds and Bishop behind Wells, while Kabush has over two minutes to make up to be in contention for the overall podium.
"Pacing is kind of my strong point," added Kabush about his staying with the first chase group to the finish. "Yesterday I definitely didn't have enough horsepower, but today I felt good enough to be at the front and push the pace a little bit. This will be a heavy week, but hopefully recovery goes well and I keep getting better."
Nash made it two-for-two with a win on stage two's enduro segment - the 5-mile descent down the Colorado Trail.
"I do enjoy the downhills," said Nash about chasing the enduro segments. "I like to go fast and that's probably where I gained some time on Erin, so we'll see."
On the men's side, Stephan Davoust (Giant Factory Off-Road) took the win, with Barry Wicks (Kona) in second. Carl Decker, who won the stage one enduro segment finished third and is now tied for the lead with his teammate Davoust.