Monday, September 7, 2015

2015 Leadville Trail 100 MTB Part 2

Leadville race day starts early. 3:15ish EARLY. Coffee is on, and John, Jake, and I eat our pre-race breakfast, then go about gathering our gear. With bikes and gear loaded, we leave Frisco, heading south 35 minutes to Leadville. We intentionally arrive early to secure a decent parking spot and a reasonable corral position. 

John, Jake, and I before heading up to the start corrals. 

While we're on the subject of corral position, I'm going to share some thoughts on starting corral douchebaggery, and this happens every year. You and your friends stake a position at the front tape line, standing with your bike, in the cold, for over an hour, and inevitably a guy shows up 15 minutes before the gun, wanting to stuff his bike on the front row of the corral. Unless you're up in the Gold corral getting a call up while sporting a UCI rainbow on your jersey, I have some advice. Don't be this guy! You want a position at the front of the corral? GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED EARLIER!

Your success at Leadville has little or nothing to do with your starting position. Need proof? Ty Hall clocked in on the red carpet at 8:36, raising $7,400.00 dollars for the Leadville Legacy Foundation as he passed 1,480 riders. His starting position? DEAD. LAST.

Kudos to Leadville native, Ty Hall

Aside from the aforementioned douchebaggery, I enjoy visiting with friends and making new ones while trying to stave off starting line anxiety. The visiting, along with 8-10 bathroom trips, make the time pass quickly. 

L to R- Jake Bradley (Blue), Joe Stiller, and Myself (Red) on the starting line

It's unseasonably warm this morning, and I quickly shed my Patagonia Houdini, storing it in my center rear jersey pocket. When you're above the treeline on Columbine, the weather can take a nasty turn in short order. Cynthia checks on us a few times to make sure Jake and I are race ready. 

Dave Wiens' son belts out another amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and moments later the barriers blocking off 6th street are pulled back, initiating a surge of bikes, bodies, and race tension, all putting pressure on the riders ahead. There was specific pressure on the back of my leg, as the rider immediately behind me tried to ride up it. You can see the starting line video here.

Jake (Blue Jersey) Myself (Green Jersey) and Joe Stiller (Yellow Jersey) at race start.

A shotgun blast is followed by (in my opinion) the most harrowing part the Leadville Trail 100 MTB. In the 3 mile paved section from the starting line to the railroad tracks you drop roughly 300ft. in elevation, I average +28 mph here, and the pros are averaging over 33 mph. With an abundance of testosterone, compounded by early race enthusiasm, it's a good place to end your race day early.

The race to the base of St. Kevin's is my fastest to date at a 21 mph average. Jake and I are working together, and it's nice to have company.

I keep my heart rate in the 160's on the Kevin's climb, knowing there's a long day ahead. In the week prior to Leadville I was fortunate enough to listen to Fat Cyclist and Rebecca Rusch share details of the course via webinars, and found it comforting to know the details of each climb, specifically the distance to the turn on St. Kevin's. It doesn't make the climb any easier, but it's a distinct psychological advantage.  

Jake and I summit Kevin's together and make short work of the section over to Carter Summit. The paved descent from Carter Summit to the tip of Turquoise Lake is fun, dropping 800 ft. in 3 miles. Evidently I get more brave (or foolish) each year, hitting 33+ mph this year.

In late June, I finished building up a Niner Air 9, and it's working flawlessly. 

The 5 minutes of rest and relaxation provided by the descent is ended by the charge up Sugarloaf. Jake and I are still riding together and performing well. While I'm unaware of my improved performance at the time, I summit the climb with a new PR. 

Now, it's show time. The powerline descent. Jake descends like a mad man, I know this, and I know he's holding back. After the first 1/2 mile of the initial descent, I shout, telling Jake to let'er rip. I will catch up on the flat over to Pipeline. A few twists and turns later, Jake is out of sight. Not sure why, but I'm 20 seconds slower descending Powerline than my 2014 descent. If sound bites were included in the pictures below, you'd hear me screaming like a baby. Sections of this descent are +20% grade, T-W-E-N-T-Y percent! Throw in some loose sandy dirt, BIG ruts, and you've got a face plant looking for some place to happen.

Jake and I make it to the bottom unscathed and head out on the highway, en route to Pipeline. 

The flatish over to Pipeline was quick and we averaged 23+ mph. The trip lasted about 10 minutes. In stark contrast, the return trip feels like it lasts for H-O-U-R-S. Jake and I skip the aid station, and hammer down the dusty Pipeline doubletrack. In short order, we're plunging off bitch hill into singletrack. 

I'm in the singletrack groove and all is right with the world. Near the end of this section I see artist Linda Guerrette doing her magic. This woman is amazing! Check out her work here.

Linda Guerrette snapped this of me in the singletrack. Good Times!
We leave the singletrack and work the gravel over to Twin Lakes. It's here that Jake and I meet the starting corral douchebag's brother. We're using this "low concentration" section to eat and drink. Jake is hands free trying to eat, we're off to the side of the road, (the 20+ ft. wide road) and this guy comes up behind Jake and screams, "HOLD YOUR LINE!" Jake and I both give him our best "you're an idiot" look, and he rides on. I didn't have the heart to tell him that his chances to podium were already gone.

I've got 40 miles behind me and I'm 32 seconds quicker into Twin Lakes this year, still feeling good. Like the veteran racer she is, Cynthia has me refueled and back in the race in record time. I finish crossing the dam, and enjoy a few seconds of the Twin Lakes Mardi Gras atmosphere. My friends Mark and Trevor Gullet give me a much needed shout out. Mark is fresh off of the Breck Epic and knows my pain all too well.

Rumor has it, there's a tough section ahead.


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