Boniface takes naturally to Breck stage race, finishes 4th |

Boniface takes naturally to Breck stage race, finishes 4th

Kelly Boniface rides last week in the Breck Epic six-day mountain bike stage race based in Breckenridge. Boniface finished fourth in the solo women's category of her first mountain bike stage race.
Courtesy photo

— Discussion about strategy in a cycling stage race like the Tour de France is enough to fill hours and hours of TV programing or bury a cycling news website.

There wasn’t much strategy at all for Kelly Boniface last week as she rode through her first mountain bike stage race, however.

The standout Steamboat Springs cyclist long has been one of the top riders in the region, notching plenty of podium finishes at one-day endurance races. Still, the Breck Epic six-day mountain bike stage race was entirely new to her, and as she tackled the challenges, she found there was only one strategy she needed to focus on.

“It was pretty much, ‘Go as hard as you can every single day,’” Boniface said.

The experience for her was summed up by, “pedal, eat, sleep,” and after nearly a week of that routine, she emerged in fourth place in the elite field.

“It was the hardest athletic feat I’ve done. That’s saying something,” she said. “It was amazing.”

Boniface led the way for a small collection of Steamboat Springs riders in the event.

Robin Craigen and Mel Stewart teamed up to finish in second place in the men’s duo division. Brad Bingham, meanwhile, was seventh in the men’s solo division.

For Boniface, the week started fast.

Rides began and ended in Breckenridge every day, and Boniface found herself on a familiar course on the first stage. She tore it up, winning it by six minutes.

“I had no idea how much I was leading by,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘Should I slow down?’ But I decided, ‘No way. I might not win another stage.’ And I didn’t. Take it, because you never know what’s going to happen.”

The week took a toll, however. Looking back, she said she ate and drank in those first days as if she was doing the one-day events she’s more familiar with. That slowed her on the second and third days.

She tried to cling to her leader’s jersey after the first day but finished nine minutes back of the day’s winner and one minute of the pace overall. She lost more time the next day, finishing fourth.

“I’m used to doing the one-day race where I’m almost done and I’m not taking on another bottle or have another Stinger gel,” Boniface said. “When you’re doing the one-day thing, that works. But here you’re fueling yourself for the next day, as well. I wanted to keep that leader’s jersey and I was racing hard, but I let my nutrition suffer and that affected me.”

It slowed her, but it didn’t stop her.

Boniface bounced back to race well in the last stages. She was third in the fifth stage, in which she was the first woman to the top of the day’s big climb up Wheeler Pass, then she placed fourth in the sixth, ending up 25 minutes and 41 seconds behind the winner, Kate Aardal.

Catherine Williamson was second, 10:55 behind, and Marlee Dixon was third, 14:38 back.

“I really liked it,” Boniface said. “For me going forward, with my kids the ages they are, to go away every weekend for a different race is a pain. But with super cool events like these, it’s a little easier to manage. I like the whole format. I liked getting to know all of the people. I liked the international feel of it.

“Really, I had a fantastic week.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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