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By Kirsten Le Roux
Special to The SUN
You’ve seen them on ESPN, winning world titles in their respective sports of mountain biking, mountain running, trail running, XTERRA, off road triathlon and cross country triathlon, and now you’ll see them live as they descend on Pagosa Springs this weekend for their chance at a Golden Pay Day.
With a $60,000 cash prize purse from contributing sponsors First Southwest Bank, GECKO and The Springs Resort and Spa, Epic Mountain Challenge is one of the richest prize purses this racing season, and has drawn interest from athletes from across the country as well as from Australia, Great Britain, Switzerland, South Africa and Mexico.
This is a unique opportunity to watch some of the most talented athletes in the world run and mountain bike to victory, and be part of the epic action in your own backyard.
“Four all-out races in two days mean that recovery is crucial,” said endurance athlete and coach Travis Macy, of Evergreen, Colo. Macy is coming off a win and new record at the prestigious Leadman, which involves running and biking 284.2 miles around Leadville, Colo., as part of the Leadville Race Series, but he doesn’t think he’s the favorite in this race. “Josiah Middaugh is definitely the guy to beat. He is incredibly strong, especially in the mountains on the bike, and there’s a reason he’s one of the best XTERRA triathletes in the world. The Team Teenek Racing athletes from Mexico will also be very tough.”
Middaugh has had a stellar 2013, taking second place at the XTERRA US Championships and winning over Macy in the GoPro Mountain Games Ultimate Mountain Challenge, which uses a two-day, four-race format similar to the Epic Mountain Challenge.
“This race is a true test of endurance, and it’s perfectly suited for mountain athletes, including trail runners, mountain bikers, and off-road multisport athletes,” said Middaugh, the Vail, Colo., strongman, who is rarely bested in the mountains in summer or winter.
Athletes will have personalized race bibs with their names and place of origin so you can easily spot the who’s who of sport and yell out your encouragement to them by name as they whish past. Walk up Reservoir Hill, get a bird’s eye view of the start/finish and secure a premier spot to watch the action.
Below are some highlights from the EPIC schedule (the full schedule can be found at joingecko.org/epic). There’s plenty to do for the whole family, with a variety of entertainment planned to keep you interested as excitement builds leading to the awards ceremony on Sunday. All the Epic action will take place on the grounds of The Springs Resort and Spa on Hot Springs Boulevard, so look for the EPIC Big Top Tent and make your way down.
Anyone can enter an event individually (you don’t have to be an uber athlete). Just come to the event an hour prior and register. Full details at joingecko.org/epic.
Friday Oct. 4
6 p.m. — Ribbon cutting.
7:45 p.m. — Elite Parade. Introduction of the expert athletes and their racing histories. Race briefings and course information.
Saturday Oct. 5
9 a.m. — Bull & Bar half marathon on trails.
9:30 a.m — B OK Corral and Epic Expo opens (closes at 5 p.m.).
10 a.m. — Coors Beer Garden opens (closes at 8:30 p.m.).
10 a.m. — Cheer the Elites as they start to cross the finish line on Hot Springs Boulevard.
10 a.m. — Huffy Toss (ends at noon).
Noon — Pagosa Disc Golf Club Putting Contest.
1 p.m. — IMBA Epic Kid’s Ride (16 and under) meet at The Hub Expo Tent (ends 2 p.m.). Bring your mountain bike or strider/balance bike (free).
2 p.m. — Pagosa Disc Golf Club Long Drive Contest.
3 p.m. — The Hub Hammer Cross Country 20-mile Mountain Bike.
4:15 p.m. — Cheer the Elites as they start to cross the finish line on Hot Springs Boulevard.
6:30 p.m. — EPIC awards ceremony and day’s racing review, interim results and photos/video of the day. Elite Q&A.
7:30 p.m. — Music by DJ 21.
Sunday Oct. 6
9 a.m. — Hot Springs Hot Laps 10k (seven laps of the River Walk).
9:30 a.m. — B OK Corral and Epic Expo opens (closes at 2 p.m.).
10 a.m. — Coors Beer Garden opens (closes at 5 p.m.).
9:30 a.m. — Cheer the Elites as they start to cross the finish line on Hot Springs Boulevard.
10 a.m. — Huffy Toss (ends at noon).
1230 p.m. — Rez D’Huez Mountain Bike Time Trial on Reservoir Hill.
2 p.m. — Free outdoor concert with Tim Sullivan and the Narrow Gauge Band.
3:30 p.m. — EPIC awards ceremony and awarding of the $60,000 cash purse.
5 p.m. — EPIC Mountain Challenge closes.
To be part of the action — as an athlete, spectator, volunteer or sponsor — contact race director Mike Le Roux, (970) 398-0612 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or GECKO founder Morgan Murri, (303) 475-6053 or email@example.com.