When Carlos Vulgamott won the singlespeed division of the 2015 Breck Epic stage race, he not only did it on a Gates belt drive–he was also 100 percent plant powered. Carlos has been meat, egg and dairy-free for four years, and he credits his vegan diet with making him lighter and faster. His speed and endurance were on full display this summer at the Breck Epic, a monster race with six stages of between 30 and 50 miles, 40,000 feet of grueling climbs into the thin air of Colorado’s high alpine, and lots of fast and rocky descents. He first raced the Epic in 2013 and vowed to return and win it.”I was instantly enamored by this event and the international feel, plus I found joy in being around a group of individuals who are ambitious enough to take on a six day stage race of this magnitude.”
A member of Team Gates Carbon Drive, Carlos hoped to win in 2014 and took several stage victories, but he suffered two tire slashes that cost him major amounts of time. This year luck was on his side. He also made winning the Epic his top priority. “In 2015 I focused all my training and racing around the Epic and didn’t stray from that goal.” It all paid off on Stage 5 this year, when he turned a 40-second deficit after Stage 4 into a 12-minute-and-16-second lead. “Going into Stage Six I couldn’t have been more stoked. I was in the leader’s jersey and my wife and daughter were there to cheer me on for the win.” Overall, Carlos had three stage wins and finished on the podium all six days. Scroll down to read our Q&A with Carlos, who discusses singlespeeding, the advantages of racing on a belt, and giving up meat following a family cancer scare.
Belted Blog: When did you start racing bikes, and when did you take up singlespeeding?
Vegan Singlespeeder: I started out racing BMX as a kid and went for my first mountain bike ride in 1984 in my hometown of Buena Vista, Colorado. I didn’t actually begin racing bikes until 1997 when I finally started making enough money to buy a bike and pay for entry fees. I started racing singlespeed in 2003 when I decided to spice up my riding adventures.
Belted: What do you like about singlespeeding versus geared riding?
Vegan: Singlespeeding is a simplistic and primal experience for me. At this point I have been riding singlespeed mountain bikes for so many years I am actually slower on a geared bike because I find myself fussing around with the gears.
Belted: You’re known as the Vegan Singlespeeder. Why did you become a vegan and do you think it helps your racing?
Vegan: My wife, Erica, and I have been vegans for four years. We moved to a plant-based diet after she went through breast cancer. After all her treatments, the doctors had her on a list of medications, oral chemotherapy, anti-depressants, and more. At that point we decided to take control of our lives and get off of the prescriptions and begin a completely plant-based diet. Today my wife is cancer free. I have lost weight, I recover faster, and I just feel healthier overall.
Belted: You’ve been racing a titanium Spot Cream SS with Gates Carbon Drive for several seasons As a racer, what are your impressions of the Gates drive?
Vegan: When I first heard of the belt drive concept I was intrigued but also apprehensive. But after I started riding and racing the Gates Carbon Drive system I was blown away by the level of engagement. You can feel every ounce of energy you apply to the pedals go into your forward momentum, which is key for singlespeeding. I also like the “set it and forget it” aspect of the Gates drive. All you need to do is apply the proper belt tension, make sure it is aligned and then get on your bike and go. The low-maintenance aspect is key during stage racing because after a stage I can rest and recover rather than work on my bike. After every stage all I did was wash my bike and belt. It’s also incredibly strong and gave me the confidence to really hammer the climbs.
What a nice guy! Did we mention that Carlos also won the 2014 Breck 100 and the 2014 Rocky Mountain Endurance Series overall in the singlespeed category? Carlos is now beginning the fall cyclocross season, racing on his Gates Carbon Drive equipped Sycip singlespeed CX bike. If you’re inspired by his story and want more information on veganism, his bike and racing results, check Carlos’s Vegan Singlespeeder Twitter feed, and watch the video interview by Spot Brand where he shows off his 21-pound Cream SS.