What happens when 1900 riders and their families and support crews take over the mining town of Leadville at 10,000 ft? Chaos ensues. Not really, but you have to wait in line for everything. You can't go out to eat because everywhere is overrun and the grocery store gets cleaned out. Lycra clad riders and their $10k rides are all over town. The locals must have a hate and love relationship with this event.
How does a mountain bike race have a mass start with 1900 riders? Again, chaos ensues. The start is right in downtown Leadville and is pavement for the first 3 miles, downhill pavement. I was lucky enough to get to start in the top 100 because of my Pro license. The gun went off and I had the most tense 10 minutes on my bike ever. For a solid 10 minutes we were riding at 35+mph (spun out) with a few 90 degree corners thrown in for some fun. I was quite prepared for this as all I wanted to do was stay upright so I didn't get run over by masses behind me. I survived the pavement and as soon as we hit dirt began moving up through the crowd despite the nasty dust cloud prepping everyone's lungs for the rest of the 100 miles.
Once we hit the first climb, 5 miles in, things calmed down a bit and it became more of a normal bike race. I realized I wasn't nearly aggressive enough off the start and it took me most of the first climb to move up from 100th to around 30th. I then found myself in a pack of about 8 guys who I would ride with all the way out to Twin Lakes taking turns pulling and drafting. I quickly realized that my legs hadn't seen enough of my road bike as the flat power sections were sucking the life out of them. And yes, Leadville is a road race. By the time we got out to Twin Lakes (40 miles in) I was wondering if my legs were going to get me up Columbine.
I stopped for a quick feed at our Team Alpine Ortho tent to fuel up before the long climb up Columbine hoping my legs would come around for the climb. I had no such luck and instead of making up time on the climb I watched some of the flat-landers put time on me. I was relieved to reach the top and turn around to be more than half way done with the race. Descending back down Columbine for a solid 20 minutes at high speed, I realized how far I had just climbed up. It was cool to see the 1000+ people in a conga line still coming up the road as I descended and thanks for the cheers whoever was cheering for me.
Back into the aid station at Twin Lakes and all I wanted was a new set of legs to get me to the finish. I settled for half a PB&J and took a bunch of goodies to hopefully get me back to the finish. For the next 15 miles I rode in no mans land (the section from Twin Lakes to Powerline), mostly riding solo. Shortly after the Powerline aid station Rebecca Rusch caught up to me. The women were riding fast this year! As soon as she caught me, my new goal for the race was not to get chicked.
As I hit the base of powerline my legs miraculously felt fresh again (probably due to all the Aclimate and food I put down since Twin Lakes). I was riding behind Rebecca for the beginning of the climb, but she opted to get off as soon as it got steep. I felt good and stayed on the bike riding by to luckily never see her again (during the race). The last 25 miles of the race I felt good and picked off riders one by one to eventually catch Bill Demong at the bottom of the last decent. We ended up riding the last 5 miles together, taking turns pulling to finish under 7.5 hours.
I was pumped to ride across the finish line in 7 hrs and 27 minutes and glad I came around for the last quarter of the race. I ended up finishing 34th which isn't quite what I was expecting place wise, but shows how many fast guys raced this year (including a lot of pro roadies). My time would have placed me 14th in last years race, top ten the years before that. Not bad for a mountain biker who has only ridden his road bike twice in the past two months.
Thanks to Alpine Orthopaedics and Dr. Griggs for the awesome support out on course (and all season)! And Rock n Roll Sports for hooking it up all the time!
I highly recommend doing the event to anyone just because it is such a spectacle and experience (and probably the most popular mtb event in the U.S. now).
Top 5 guys- (Nice job Jay, your the man!)
- 1. Todd Wells, in 6:23:38 DURANGO CO M3 (30 to 39)
- 2. Alban Lakata, in 6:27:57 LIENZ AK AUSTRIA M3 (30 to 39)
- 3. Alex Grant, in 6:35:32 SALT LAKE CITY UT M3 (30 to 39)
- 4. Jay Henry, in 6:38:31 AVON CO M3 (30 to 39)
- 5. Jeremiah Bishop, in 6:43:34 HARRISONBURG VA M3 (30 to 39)
- 1. Rebecca Rusch, in 7:31:46 KETCHUM ID F4 (40 to 49)
- 2. Gretchen Reeves, in 7:35:38 AVON CO F4 (40 to 49)
- 3. Pua Mata, in 7:37:50 ANAHEIM HILLS CA F3 (30 to 39)
- 4. Jennifer Smith, in 7:39:14 GUNNISON CO F3 (30 to 39)
- 5. Tammy Jacques, in 8:02:30 STEAMBOAT SPRINGS CO… F4 (40 to 49)
Congrats to Jenny Smith on finishing 4th in the women! You'll get it next year.
For some awesome pics from Crested Butte Photography (Thanks Kevin!)
Of course the one on the main page has to be me and Rebecca (note to self; do not let the girls actually catch you!)
For full results-