BRECKEBEINER NORDIC MARATHON Glides into Breckenridge this Weekend


Tallying 240 rugged miles over 6 stages, the Breck Epic MTB Stage Race draws competitors from around the country and world each August to the single track trails of Breckenridge. The race’s sprawling courses pen a love letter to Summit County’s backcountry, and the care with which the event crafts the weeklong experience for its competitors resonate deeply within the global mountain bike community, cementing its status among the world’s most celebrated endurance events.

Epic is an authentic, quirky and welcome independent counterpoint to cycling’s increasingly templated ‘super-events’. The events dominating the domestic racing calendar are easy to produce and often taking place on roads. Neither is true of Epic. Instead, it’s a 6-day human-powered tour of the wilderness cathedrals and public lands surrounding the historical Victorian mining community. In acknowledgement of fact that solitude is a vital component of worship, Epic’s field is limited to just 400 riders each year.

Epic’s organizers specialize in audacious back-of-beyond experiences, so it comes as no surprise to learn that they’re setting their sites on the creation of yet another iconic silent sport event in Summit County. Race director Mike McCormack had been enamored with the idea of re-creating a winter version of Breck’s iconic Firecracker 50 for years (an event he co-founded 23 years ago with then-business partner Jeff Westcott). While no longer involved in the Firecracker’s production, McCormack lovingly describes it as “the world’s best 50-miler,” citing its organization, energy and authenticity as the inspiration for his Epic’s new event, the Breckebeiner Nordic Marathon

Earlier this year, members of USA Triathlon’s executive team, all of them Epic veterans, approached McCormack to request help identifying potential venues for the org’s winter duathlon (run/ski) and triathlon (run/bike/ski) national championships. He quickly realized that these marquee championship-caliber events paired neatly with the Breckebeiner concept. After conducting an initial canvas of potential venues across Colorado, Breckenridge’s Gold Run Nordic Center quickly emerged as a front-runner in a bid to host the 3-day festival.

Several months of discussions with town’s event staff, the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Gene and Therese Dayton (owners of the original Breckebeiner) and the leadership team at the Gold Run Nordic Center indicated enthusiasm and a willingness to collaborate. This important initial consensus then led to the identification of potential dates. McCormack and team began planning for a freshly imagined Breckebeiner, one that was in line with the event’s roots with the BOEC and added new components of winter triathlon and duathlon.

The centerpiece of the Breckebeiner weekend is the Nordic Marathon. Taking place on Saturday, February 24th, it offers categories for skate and classic skis as well as 15 and 30-kilometer options. Breckebeiner’s Duathlon (DU) and Triathlon (TRI) events (February 23rd and 25th) offer both sprint and intermediate (Olympic) distances with a focus firmly placed on adaptive categories and athletes. Both DU and TRI also award slots on USA Triathlon’s World Championships team in addition to their designation as national championships.

“I’m not sure that Jeff or I realized the longevity and impact that the Firecracker would come to have when we first started planning it over a pizza at Downstairs at Eric’s in 1999. Looking back, its created joy, wellness and more than its fair share of fun. Also, a few bruises and scrapes!” offered McCormack. 

“The community came to embrace it as something special, something uniquely Breckenridge-ian. I see the opportunity to do something similar with the Breckebeiner; to create an event from whole cloth that adds something uniquely in line with the community’s sensibilities, highlights a lightly used hidden gem at the Breck Nordic center, while also generating resources for organizations like the BOEC, Team Summit and the high school’s Nordic and MTB teams along the way. I suspect that like the Firecracker, we’ll also have a little bit of fun.”

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