Just some thoughts and experiences from a mountain bike endurance racer who likes to ride and race his single speed mountain bike a long long way on remote single track in the mountains and desert.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The 2012 Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Finished 3rd place in the singlespeed category

The 2012 Leadville 100 mountain bike race.  Finished 3rd place in the singlespeed category.  103 miles and 12,170' elevation gain in 9 hours.  This race was huge!  Lifetime Fitness did an excellent job organizing such a big event.  The course is an in-n-out that is mostly dirt roads with a little bit of singletrack and some pavement sections.  The route takes you through some awesome Colorado scenery.  I can see why road bikers tend to like it, there is not a lot of technical riding ability required but you defiantly need to be super strong just to finish the race.  There are some long big climbs on this course with some steep and chunky hike-a-bike sections.

With around 2000 racers I was happy to have been assigned a spot lining up in the first few rows at the start.  Once the race started is seemed like almost everyone passed me while I was completely spun out on the road section.  When we got to the first climb I start passing a ton of people back.  It was very crowded and hard to pass but I was happy everyone was still riding.  About ten miles into the race things spread out just enough to make the passing easier.  I was doing a ton of passing on all the climbs and felt good at that point.  At about ¼ of the way through the race we got on a flatter road section that was long.  Huge groups of racers were passing me drafting each other.  This section was a giant disadvantage for a singlespeed.  I’m not into drafting in a race anyway, but even if I could have jumped into a group I didn’t have the gearing for it.  On that road section I think I moved into 1st place for a while then dropped to 2nd.

We dropped into twin lakes which was beautiful!  That’s where Dan Durland was waiting with my first resupply.  There was a pretty cool section of singletrack just before the pit stop that was nice.

This was the start of the big climb.  It’s long and grueling with some false summits and steep rocky sections towards the top that most racers were hiking.  There really wasn’t any breaks, just up up up.  I was able to pass a significant amount of racers on this climb. Towards the top the fastest geared riders passed us coming back down.  Since the race route is an in-n-out this section of the course had a particularly dangerous element that you don’t have in looped routes.  There are racers bombing down the mountain and tired racers climbing up the same road weaving and trying to pass.  I only had to deal with the downhill traffic towards the top but a majority of the racers behind me had constant traffic coming downhill which had to make passing difficult since it meant moving into oncoming traffic.

The downhill was a nice break but when I got back to the road section we had a strong headwind and the geared racers were flying by me again in large groups.  At the end of the road section there is a mean climb that a lot of people were hiking.   My stomach started killing me on this section which was about ¾ of the way through the race.  I was defiantly suffering and about half way up I got passed so I moved into 3rd.  I tried to keep up his pace but my stomach was really hurting.  Even when we crested the top of the climb the downhill I didn’t feel any better.

On the last bigger climb I was starting to feel a little better.  When we crested the top of that climb I was able to ride harder and continued to feel better.  Climbing back into Leadville I thought I saw another singlespeeder behind me.  I felt pretty strong again and hammered the last five miles out without getting passed.  It turns out there were four singlespeeders within five minutes behind me.

It was great rolling into the finish line and getting my belt buckle.  They had a sweet setup with a beer garden and free food at the finish.  There was a grand awards ceremony which was probably the biggest I have ever been to.  Great to see all the other racers get their awards and I was happy to be up on the podium myself as well.  Good times!