At 4am on Saturday morning I was struggling to eat a breakfast of oats and gluten free bread forcefully washed down with very strong coffee - I've been intolerant (to gluten as well as eating at 4am) for the last 10 years. It's not easy to eat in the middle of the night but with 100 miles of racing ahead it's essential.
Warming up on an indoor trainer helped to raise my body temperature in anticipation of the fast downhill start in zero degrees celsius at 06.30am - a chilling experience when wearing only a skin suit and arm warmers. Fancying their chances a number of pro and ex-pro roadies took to the start and it appears that 'full gas' from the line is not a concept that they're used to! Teammate Jeremiah Bishop (JB) initiated an attack almost straight from the shotgun, a pace that the chase group - consisting largely of said roadies - did not want to follow, allowing JB and MTBr Todd Wells (eventual winner) to ride out of sight within minutes! Now if JB had made me privy to his race tactic I'd have been sure to position myself favourably but he kept his cards firmly to his chest! The initial leisurely pace allowed the roadies chance to have a good old natter amongst themselves but it cost me 2 minutes relative to the previous year before the first steep rocky climb of the day up to Carter's Summit.
Racing 100 miles takes careful preparation and a meticulous nutrition plan which must be adhered to! With an approximate race time of 7 hours and a target of 90g of carbohydrates per hour that's a lot of eating and drinking!
This distance is only one challenge, the biggest hurdle is the altitude: 10,000ft of climbing all an a elevation in excess of 10,000ft commands the greatest respect! Leadville 100 has become a world famous mountain bike race with it's 100 mile out and back course, the turning point is at the highest point: Columbine Mountain at 12,500ft.
The terrain is pretty mixed with smooth dirt tracks and some long asphalt sections as well as steep rocky climbs, which given the out-and-back nature of the course also become fast, puncture prone descents on the return journey - especially when descending Columbine at high speed whilst dodging a long procession of on-coming riders who are usually gazing at the ground in utter exhaustion! I chose to ride my Canyon Exceed CF SLX (hardtail) with 2.2 Continental Race Kings front (19psi) and rear (20psi) - opting for a lower starting pressure to allow for the increase associated with increasing altitude and air temperature.
With two previous wins (2013, 2014) my aim was undoubtedly to win my third title but at the same time I also had my eye fixed on a sub-7 hour race time. To break 7 hours requires many factors to fall neatly into place including having a good group of riders working together along the flatter sections of the course - although I often had a group not everyone was happy to pull through, which caused group morale to collapse and the pace to slow. At the top of Columbine - the 50 mile turning point - I was on 7 hour pace though I didn't know it because my computer had long stopped working. My legs felt strong back up the notorious Powerline Climb and all the way to the red carpet back in Leadville town centre but alas the big clock showed 7 hours and 5 minutes. Upon seeing the time initial disappointment gradually gave way to pride at having won my third Leadville 100 title while finishing 14th overall of 2000 riders and ahead of some pretty well known roadies
Congrats to JB for his 3rd place (6 hours 28 minutes) and big thanks to Topeak Ergon for top race support!
You can see my finish here (disappointment mixed with fatigue!):
Here's a link to Pinkbike race report.
Full results here.
Photo credit: Eddie Clark