A man of medium stature with a slightly large, dark trucker ball cap, a nondescript short-sleeve button-up and dark slim-cut denim jeans approaches slowly with a slight swagger. As he approaches, he isn’t in a hurry and seems to be in deep thought or studying the concrete. There is an air about him that is approachable and yet you aren’t quite sure, but you could be missing something…
His mild manner, easy crooked smile, and intense eyes give you the impression there is WAY more going on than he leads you to believe.
I know Matt Powers as a dad, neighbor, mountain biker, runner and as a colleague in the real estate world of Breckenridge, Colorado. He also works for pizza, “One night a week at Downstairs at Eric’s…for the pizza.” (Thanks, Eric!) In business, he is thoughtful, easy to talk to and slow to judge, but when the time is right, he attacks with vigor. From what I gather, that manner is mirrored in his racing.
Powers likes to ride. His friends give his wife, Ali, all the credit in the world for putting up with Powers’ work and training schedule. “She is solid,” was a common sentiment. Powers is training for the Breck Epic, a stage race that is composed of 6 big backcountry loops that range from 35 to 50 miles long. It’s grueling, challenging, and in a bizarre way, a rider’s dream vacation. The vibe at the Epic is “big rides with friends, long middle-ring climbs, and endless big-ring mashing descents.”….endurance.
“I am training for the Breck Epic, that is my big goal this year, also doing the Firebird 40 in Eagle in June and the Firecracker 50 on the 4th of July here in Breckenridge. I will also throw in a couple SMC Wednesday night races if the family schedule allows. My training is pretty much the same as it was last year; ideally I get 12-15 hours per week on the mountain bike. The best part about doing the kind of races I like is that the training is going for long, fun mountain bike rides,” explains Powers.
“Powers rides to train and races selectively,” says Jeff Westcott, owner of Maverick Sports Promotions and producer of the Firecracker 50 and Summit Mountain Challenge race series. “He’s (Powers) one of the best riders you will never hear about. He’s low-key and saves his bullets for the Breck Epic.”
I asked Powers how he views his competition. “Really my biggest competition is me. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t racing to finish in a better position, but I’ve come to a point where I understand what my limitations are. I think I’m better in long races just by virtue of having a bunch of miles under my belt over a bunch of years. There are definitely a few guys I use as a barometer of my fitness, but I am training to be able to go the same speed from beginning to end and hope that translates into a good result. I think I stack up all right. I had some unexpected finishes last year that totally screwed up my head. Now my expectations are a little more defined, but I definitely want to race with the fastest guys over the longest distance and see what happens.”
Jeff Cospolich is the VP of Great Western Lodging, dad, friend, road and mountain bike rider and a Breck Epic competitor. I asked Cospolich to describe Powers in three words. “Diesel. Humble. Super-Clean Living. Ha… that’s more than three but what comes to mind…diesel, as in he’s strong with a lot of horsepower, and I’m not even sure the guy drinks coffee.”
Apparently Powers is also a runner, a strong runner, and legend has it that a few years back he ran a marathon in some ungodly fast time like 2:40:00 or something. Powers never mentioned it.
Power isn’t one to boast. So what motivates this humble man? “I am motivated by the people I ride with and race against. There are so many great, fast riders in Breckenridge. I am constantly challenged and pushed by the people I am lucky enough to ride with every day (you know who you are). My goal….is to be better than I was last time, whether it’s faster or technically better or not as scared. Some people I ride with are better climbers or better descenders…I hope I can take a little from all of them and it will make me a better rider overall.”
We live the lifestyle and make it all work. It isn’t easy and sometimes can be overwhelming, but we can’t complain because we love it and can’t imagine living any other way. I asked Powers if he had any suggestions for other people as to how to fit it all in …. “Making it happen is a tough thing for any family. I’d like to think we have a good balance of family and exercise. I hope that getting out there and doing the things that we chose Breckenridge for…hike, bike, run, ski, etc… makes us better people and sets a positive example about a healthy lifestyle for our kids. I realize that riding tons of miles every week isn’t realistic for most, but it doesn’t have to be like that. The Town of Breckenridge has created such an incredible trail network that most people can do a quick 60-minute loop from their house or work. And getting out for an hour can be really refreshing for mind and body.”
Powers is this year’s mountain bike poster boy for Breckenridge. Local photographer, rider, and friend, Liam Doran was hired by the Town of Breckenridge to shoot some mountain bike promotional/PR material. Doran asked Powers to be the rider. “I think he called me because he knew I would happily ride up and down the same hill 25 times if he needed me to until he got what he wanted. Also, I may have been the only guy willing to meet him on top of Baldy at 5:00 a.m. for a sunrise shot he wanted. He makes me look way cooler than I am.”
Enjoy the Climb.
Feature Photo by Liam Doran