|Freezing at the start line|
I was really sad on Friday after Breck Epic ended. It was such a fun race, amazing trails, amazing people. I wanted to ride more stages. After finishing Leadville, I am happy to report that my legs are toast, my bottom is scabby, and I am very happy not riding my bike for a very long time!
Leadville is the exact opposite of Breck. Breck feels personal, Leadville feels corporate, Breck is all about singletrack, Leadville is all about dirt roads, Breck focuses on trail stewardship and being nice to everyone else who is out racing, Leadville is heads down hammer pace.
We arrived in Leadville at 9pm on Friday evening after the post Breck banquet and awards. We stayed in the happy hippie tie dye house, which is one of the most interesting air bnbs I have stayed in. Each room is equipped with rolling papers, a glass pipe, and ashtrays for your 420-friendly stay. Floyds of Leadville is right across the street.
Alarm went off at 4:30 am. I stuffed a couple of cliff bars down my throat, we got our hardtails ready, chains lubed, numbers on. Then we sat in the car with the heat blasting until 6am. It was freezing out. We had to check into our corral (silver) by 6:15 and so begrudgingly got out of the car. We were both tired and feeling the fatigue of 6 days at Breck.
|At the start line|
The gun went off at 6:30 and it was an all out sprint downhill for about 3 miles. My fingers and toes were completely numb. Last year, for High Casacdes, Jeff and I bought goodwill jackets to leave at the race start and not care if we got them back. We have retrieved them from a lot of races, but I think mine is finally gone for good. I rode the 1st 3 hours in it and then ditched it at one of the aid stations once the sun came out and it warmed up.
Things that were fun about the race:
1. There were a lot of people out on course cheering for you. Every 8-10 miles there seemed to be some type of aid station with tents set up and people cheering you on.
2. The guys on the powerline climb who were pouring ice cold water onto your head and neck and the one guy who filled up my water bottle with cold water for me while I was hiking up.
3. Passing so many people on the downhills. I am not a fast descender compared to other mountain bikers but compared to roadies/triathletes on mountain bikes, I am a pro. I was passing so many guys on the downhills. It was awesome!
4. The views from the top of Columbine climb were incredible. It was a long partial ride, partial hike up to 12,500ft, but the surrounding mountain views were pretty awesome.
5. The cold wet towels that were being handed out at the bottom of Carter climb felt amazing.
6. Finishing sub 9 hours, which was my goal. I finished in 8:29, 5th overall female and 3rd in age group. I crossed the line, sat down on the pavement and did not move for about 30 mins. Then I drank some beers, cheered for Jeff finishing, and basked in the glory of having nothing to do for the next 24 hours.
|Relieved to finish!|
7. The pre race swag sucks but the post race swag is really awesome. Belt buckles and quality finishers jackets with your name and finishing time printed on the sleeve. They make over a thousand of these sweatshirts overnight so we get them at the award ceremony at 7:30 am the next morning.
|We got our buckles!|
Things that were unimpressive:
1. Packet pick-up. Every year, Breck happens either before or after Leadville. You would think that the Leadville people would understand that and make accommodations for racers paying to do both races. But no. They insist that packets must be picked up in person and they make you drive to Leadville either on Thursday night in the middle of the stage race or on Friday night and make you miss the post-Breck banquet and awards ceremony. Jeff and I drove 2 hrs to Leadville and back to Breck on Thursday night, but it was super annoying to have to do that in the middle of a stage race.
2. The course. It is out and back course. The course is challenging because of the climbs but it is boring. I knew it would be a dirt road race, but at least make it a loop!
3. There are too many racers on the course. It is a conga line of people snaking up the climbs and descending off of them. It does help for drafting and working together on the flats, but would be more fun I think with fewer people out on course.
4. The cost. Over $425 to register (after paying for a qualifying race) and there is no payout for the pros. If you want the race to be about the love of biking and the sport, then make the registration fee reasonable.
|At the finish with Jeff|
What I would change for next time. This is a one and done race for me, but this is the advice I would pass on to others:
1. I think you really need a 2x11 drivetrain. This is a race where you need more range than a 1x eagle offers. I ran a 34t front chain ring with eagle, but I needed more power for the flats and more low end for the climbs. I think a hardtail is ideal, I rode my Trek Procal; having a front fork definitely made the chunky rocky descents faster and more tolerable.
2. I would probably put on aerobars. I spent a lot of time with my hands and forearms draped over the handlebars and aerobars would have made that position more comfortable.
3. I would ditch the camel pack and I would recruit someone to run support for me at a few aid stations and hand off bottles. They make the aid stations very accessible to support crews and lots of racers around me never had to stop moving to refill bottles.
4. I would have fresh legs! Breck definitely helped me adjust to the altitude but 6 days of fatigue in the legs made the race extra challenging.
|The awards ceremony. So many racers!|
Overall, I am glad I have done Leadville, simply because it is a famous 100 mile bike race and having the belt buckle is pretty cool. There were a lot of fun things about the race, which made it worthwhile to be at. But, I think any of the NUE races are more fun than Leadville, many are more challenging, and all have way more singletrack riding!
|Women's 30-39 podium. Larissa Connors in 1st and Chase Edwards in 2nd|