For me, the last day of the Break Epic was a fun filled race with lots of great people and some really awesome trails. I got to the start line a bit tired, but ready to give it my best and finish strong. I achieved these goals whole heartedly.
The start was quiet again since the UCI elite rode out before the rest of the racers. I remember climbing the first hill happily, listening to the forest around me. As the USAC pro/cat 1 men came past me, I enjoyed watching all of them working so hard, each one jockeying for their position. They were all very kind and encouraging as I tried my best to hang with them.
The first descent of the course was absolutely magnificent! I felt like a kid again as the bike and I flew through the flowing single track, laughing and cackling like a school girl. Sometimes the best moments on a mountain bike are when you can just relax and enjoy the trails for what they are.
Quicker than expected, I was climbing again. I knew this was the last major climb of the race, and l was happy to be done with it. A headwind started to pick up making the climb more difficult and slowing me down a bit. Suddenly, I heard someone say, “Ashley! You’re doing awesome!” I honestly don’t know who this individual was, but I screamed “Thanks, Estoy cansada!!” (Which means, “I’m tired “ in Spanish). A man riding next to me looked in my direction and said, “Bueno, get on my wheel.” Turned out, he was from Ecuador, and he was super strong. He blocked the wind for me and helped me climb that last hill in style. These are the moments that I love the most in races. The moments when we, as cyclists, help each other.
I finished, once again, with a smile. I’m so thankful for the opportunity that I had to experience this race. It was difficult, but well worth the effort. I’m happy with my results and most of all, I’m happy with the lessons I learned.
My biggest take home lesson, mountain biking is a community, all across our world, of great, talented and beautiful people. There were cyclists from across the globe, spanning many decades and from different walks of life, who came together to ride some of the most beautiful and brutal trails that Colorado has to offer. We laughed, we encouraged each other and we suffered together. For all of these things, I am grateful. Camaraderie is not something that we get to experience often in our world today. I always think that I’m happy alone but, as I learned this past week, I’m actually happier and more fulfilled when I’m surrounded by other people; especially when those other people enjoy crazy bike riding adventures like me.