Discussions appeared dead last summer, but ongoing talks between the owner and founder of the Breck Epic and the president and CEO of Ironman have renewed hopes the locally grown mountain bike race could land on the global endurance giant’s lineup of world-class events.
Andrew Messick, president and chief executive officer of Ironman, confirmed Sunday that his company, known for organizing triathlons across the world, is interested in investing in the Greenspeed Project, in its owner and founder Mike McCormack and in the company’s flagship race, the Breck Epic.
“It’s not a secret that we’ve known Mike for a long time,” Messick said over the phone, adding that he likes what McCormack has done with the company and with the Breck Epic.
The Greenspeed Project organizes events, like the Vail Outlier Allroad Festival and Firebird 40, with proceeds flowing to local open space organizations and initiatives. However, the company based in the High Country is best known for creating the Breck Epic, a six-day, 250-mile staged mountain bike race that crisscrosses the trails outside Breckenridge in August.
“It’s a fantastic destination — the riding’s great,” Messick said of the area. “I think being able to be an investor in a company (like the Greenspeed Project) and in a race that’s as good as the Breck Epic is something that’s really interesting to us.”
The Ironman CEO said bringing the Breck Epic under his company’s umbrella would enable Ironman to continue offering “great mountain biking experiences” across the globe.
“We’ve been clear that we intend to continue to build mountain biking on a global basis,” he continued. “We own the Absa Cape Epic (and other well-known mountain bike races in South Africa, Australia and Europe) … and we think there’s an opportunity to really capture the imagination of the global mountain biking community with great races.”
The Breck Epic could certainly boost Ironman’s portfolio of mountain biking events, and news of a potential partnership broke when McCormack came before Breckenridge Town Council last week to tell local leaders that Ironman is interested in investing with his company, in McCormack himself and in the Breck Epic. The revelation follows last summer’s discussions between McCormack and Ironman, when Ironman courted the Breck Epic but it fell through over concerns about the size of the race field, impacts on trails and because it came with a significant financial request of the town.
Framing McCormack’s return before Town Council, Town Manager Rick Holman explained it’s different this time, as McCormack isn’t seeking anything from the town. Rather, Holman said, McCormack was simply dropping by to keep elected leaders informed of a possible private business development and to get their feedback. In response, town leaders reiterated many of the same concerns that surfaced last summer, as they told McCormack they hope he will “maintain control” of the race.
Talking to McCormack and Messick, it doesn’t sound like that will be a problem.
In fact, both of them described last summer’s talks as a helpful step in the process, one that let Ironman know where the community stands and what’s expected of the Breck Epic going forward.
Describing how a potential partnership might affect the race, McCormack said Ironman would provide deeper operational support while having a stake in the event, and the Breck Epic could become a North American qualifier for the Cape Epic, sometimes referred to as “the Tour de France of mountain biking.”
“Sometimes it feels like we’re wandering alone out there and struggling to do some things — operational, to make ends meet, to get over the hump ideologically,” McCormak said of the race. “The Ironman group would provide help, balance — and they’re really, really good at what they do.”
Covering how the Breck Epic might evolve under such a partnership, McCormack said he doesn’t think it would be much different from the event his company is currently producing. He sees room for a larger tech expo and heightened festival-style atmosphere, but he wants to keep race’s core values where they’ve always been — squarely focused on stewardship, rider responsibility and backcountry sustainability.
McCormack said he believes there’s a potential to boost the field of competitors, though he emphasized that number must “live within a certain size” and can’t grow at the expense of the trail system. McCormack also said that permitting agencies, like the town of Breckenridge, Summit County government and U.S. Forest Service, have mechanisms in place to ensure the Breck Epic doesn’t overwhelm the trail system, and “those open-space partners have a voice in everything that happens moving forward,” as does the community.
Additionally, McCormack said the Greenspeed Project puts a spotlight on responsibility and backcountry stewardship every year with the Breck Epic, and he believes a partnership with Ironman would only spread the reach of those conversations.
“I think we can do some really good work there,” McCormack said. “The proof is in the pudding and we’ll see where we go with this — but if we continue on our path, I think people will like having a conscientious partner in charge of our signature event.”
And it sounds like Ironman is on board with that, too.
“We operate literally hundreds of races around the world, and you can’t do that without the communities that host the races,” Messick said, adding that Ironman can support the Breck Epic, “but ultimately this is about Mike’s relationship with the community and Mike’s vision for the race.”