I realized today that I am precisely 1 month out from what will be my greatest accomplishment in cycling, the Leadville 100. Last weekend I drove out to Leadville with my friend Kris to see what exactly I am getting myself into and was it ever eye opening! Upon arriving into Leadville we ventured into Bill’s Sport Shop for some advice on getting to the course. The shop owner welcomed us with open arms and was a pleasure to talk to about the legacy of the Leadville 100. From this brief encounter with a local it seems as though the town of Leadville is as excited about the race as I am. It is almost as if Leadville will transform into a host town in the Tour de France for a weekend. I cannot wait!
Kris and I got back into car with some much needed junk food from 7-Eleven comprised of Cheetos, Combos, and Nut Rolls. I think this was my first time having Combos since my “heavier” days, but damn do they taste awesome! We headed south on Highway 24 for about 15 minutes towards the town of Twin Lakes which is also the base of the famous Columbine Mine climb of the course. We parked on one of the county roads, suited up, and headed out for some quality MTB time.
Our ride started flat and then we actually had a screaming descent down to the Twin Lakes Reservoir. After getting a little lost on the course we found our way over to the base of the Columbine. Only a few days prior to this ride I actually had the privilege of meeting the 6-time winner of the race, Dave Wiens. He instructed me to ride the Columbine and that it is a “gentle” climb that can easily be done in the middle ring. Well I guess that just goes to show that I am nowhere near as strong as Mr. Wiens since both Kris and I were in our granny gears going up. The climb started out on a well maintained fire road, however after a few miles the road turned into a much more rugged 4×4 road. It seemed to go forever until we could see what we thought was the top of the climb above treeline. Little did we know that we ventured a bit off course and had to descent down to pick it up again. After almost 2 hours of climbing we made it to the top of the climb. The Leadville 100 is also called “The Race Across the Sky” and being up at 12,700 and having unobstructed views for hundreds of miles made our 2 hours of suffering all worth it. I for sure know that I won’t be taking in the views too much while racing next month.
After soaking up the vistas for a good 15 minutes we began our long descent back towards Twin Lakes Reservoir. The descent will be a great time for recovery during the race; however this is one hell of a descent, especially with two-way traffic. I will definitely take it easy on race day especially with all the jagged rocks and washed out sections from all the rain we’ve had this summer. I’ve always been told that mountain bike races can’t be won on the downhills, but can definitely be lost. I think those are words to live by at Leadville.
Once we completed the Columbine we had a little bit more time to ride so we drove back to town and rode the first 3 miles of the course. Dave Wiens mentioned that the start will be utterly important come race day and that I should have it pre-programmed in my head. So the first few miles of the start are neutral with police escort, but quickly it becomes a mad dash to the front to get to the dirt first. I’m thinking I’ll have to be at the start line a good hour before the start to ensure a good position.
Overall this was a great day of riding out in Leadville and I for sure now know that this is going to be the hardest race I will ever do. I’m not sure if it will be a “1 and done” kind of race since it is so unique, but I think I’ll have a better idea say by 3pm on August 15th!