Leadville: The During and Aftermath

When you ask someone about Leadville they’ll tell you how brutal the course is, how it’s all pavement and fire road, and how the amount of climbing will blow your mind. While this is all true, I feel that no one prepared me for how beautiful the ride would be. I was pedal to the metal for 7.5 hours but I still managed to find time to pick up my head and look around. Whether it was the dark clouds silhouetted agains the sage brush or the alpine meadows at the top of Columbine the scenery was stunning.

I woke up at 4:45 am on Saturday morning and found Robbie and Dave already sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee. Dave was humming a little song “put it, put it, put it, put it….” and had a sly smile. “I just have to keep it in for 10 more minutes he winced.” He’d gone against all of our advice and used the Dulcolax to get his system cleaned out. This would end up backfiring on him big time.

The start was chilly. We left our house as the mountains started to glow deep purple. It was 34 degrees out and luckily a very short ride to the start. Dave and I said goodbye to Robbie and made our way through the mob to the middle of the empty gold corral. The energy was huge. A drone was flying overhead. People were trying to get in a last minute pee behind the cars, and before I knew it the national anthem was being sung and the shotgun blast reverberated my chest. We were off.

The pace was quick. The first 5 miles are basically a road race. We shot off at about 29-34mph the whole way to the base of St. Kevins climb, which is where the top group exploded. Todd, Alban, and the gang quickly disappeared after the first switchback. Dave hopped off the saddles and disappeared as well. I was focused on keeping my heart rate down. There were 97 miles to go and I didn’t want to pop just yet. We hit the top of Powerline and I was fooling with my GoPro to get footage of the descent but my hands failed to work and I dropped the remote. Oh well. On the descent there were 2-3 racers from the front group of 10 that were fixing flats. A Kenda/5 Hour Energy rider on a cross bike had his machine flipped upside down and fiddling with the brakes. The Topeak/Ergon rider who’d shot ahead of me on the climb was rolling around on the ground after a crash (he was ok and ended up passing me on the Powerline climb).

Ryan Steers races the Leadville 100 for team Pedalers Fork/10Speed Coffee

Ryan in race mode.

The pavement comes quickly at the bottom of Powerline. I had lost a little speed on the cautious descent and was somewhere near 23rd position. Not bad. The group of about 6 riders in front of me hit the pavement and disappeared in a pace line. I spent 4 miles chasing only to catch them as the pavement turned back to single track. Boo. My legs were getting heavy. I missed the Pipeline bottle hand off in the chaos and luckily Mike did a flawless bag toss at Twin Lakes. I restocked the bottles for the Columbine climb and up we went. The road switchbacks were great. It was like being in a grand tour stage…until the top section hits. The top is loose, rocky and kicks to 25% in a few spots. And on top of that you have Wells, Sauser, and Alban shooting back at you from the turn around and looking for any line they can take, including the one you’re trying to climb. I felt great on the climb an didn’t have to unclip, I just pushed a low gear and kept spinning. Reaching the turnaround was huge. Mentally you’re ready for the 10 mile descent. After a few minutes descending I saw Dave and was confused as to how he was now behind me (turns out he’s had to make a few laxative induced bathroom stops). I passed Gideon at the top of the road section and then Robbie a little lower down, he was making great time.

The way back lasted forever. At mile 60 my legs started to cramp so I popped a few Endurolyte pills and kept swigging my Skratch laden bottles to recoup sodium. Every 10 miles I’d feel my hamstrings tighten back up and start the charlie horse phase and I’d repeat the process. By the time we hit the long road section again I was lucky enough to have 2 other riders near me and we were able to pace line back to the base of Powerline. Screw it. I’m walking. I jogged/walked the steep section and just about kept pace with those riding it. Oh well. I hopped on my bike a little bit past the camera and kept spinning. The top kept disappearing with every false flat. And that’s where Sally Bingham passed me. She was flying.

I can’t recall much of the rest of the race other than ascending the backside of St Kevins with “Washington, Washington, twenty feet tall made of radiation…he’s coming, he’s coming, he’s coming” (George Washington Video) stuck in my head thanks to Dave and his YouTube sharing a few days before. I was delirious and every pedal stroke became a fight. I kept looking for Dave behind me, hoping we could work together and catch the Ergon and Herbalife 24 riders who had just slipped past me but no such luck.

So, Leadville isn’t actually 100 miles, it’s 104 and those last 4 miles are some of the hardest you’ll ever ride. They’re uphill, rocky, dirty, and demoralizing. You keep checking your Garmin and you know you’re 2 miles to the finish but time stands still. Finally, you pop out on the pavement by the gymnasium, struggle up the last climb and see the finish line. It’s never felt so good to cross the line. I glanced at the clock 7:30:24, I’d hit my stretch goal of 7.5 hours and managed a 33rd overall. It’s hard to feel emotional as you hold back the vomit. Shower time.

The ride to the Leadville Traill 100 Finish line. One of the greatest sights you'll ever behold.

The ride to the Leadville Traill 100 Finish line. One of the greatest sights you’ll ever behold.

The Leadville Traill 100 Finish line.

The Leadville Traill 100 Finish line.

Ryan Steers Leadville

Ryan minutes post Leadville 100 with a dirt unibrow.

In retrospect the bike and equipment choice were flawless and I couldn’t have been happier with my Leadville gear. The Moots RSL was fast, light, and extremely comfortable. The 2×10 XTR setup was perfect, I used every gear. And, most importantly, after shredding sidewalls during the NUE Big Bear Race the Continental X King Protection 29ers tires are Leadville perfection. They’re fast, fairly light, and hooked up and descended with confidence, including on Powerline where the wet winter made things more technical than usual. Hats off to team Pedalers Fork/10 Speed Coffee. We all went out with different goals but all four of us walked away with a buckle and a smile.

The prize: A large Leadville belt buckle.

The prize: A large Leadville belt buckle.

Dave Zabriskie Leadville 100 mountain bike race

Ryan, Robbie and Dave show off their Leadville buckles.

Leadville: The Final Countdown.

Yesterday things began to feel real. We checked in and got our numbers when the table opened at 9:30. Dave is number 51 and was put in the front gold corral. Since we are riding for Challenged Athletes Foundation I got number 1192 and the second to last corral  behind over 1,000 other racers. I went in to panic mode. I’ve heard horror stories of crashes, pileups, and massive lost time due to the congestion at the start. I’d heard that if you have a USAC XC pro license you can move up to a better starting position.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask so I approached Abby and just mentioned the scenario. “Oh, you you’re a pro! You’re in the gold corral, here’s a sticker.” Wow, that was easy. She slapped a gold sticker on my number plate and with that shaved about 45 minutes off my race time. What a nice and cheerful individual. Huge thanks. In the afternoon we took a ride to explore a little of the course and descended Power Line, which is basically a rock and rutted fire road. It has some technical challenges but after the Seven Oaks descent at Big Bear everything seems easy.

This morning we woke up on the early side and hit the high school gym after breakfast to get our t-shirt and catch the pre-race riders meeting. The mayor spoke, the sherif spoke, and basically the whole theme revolved around how great the race is for the community. It’s cool to see so many riders out here supporting the town of Leadville and they seem genuinely happy to have us here. After the meeting we attended the CAF lunch, after all we wouldn’t be here without them. It’s an amazing cause and they played a short video and it was hard not to get emotional just watching how these athletes have overcome some huge physical disadvantages. Dave was a hit and everyone wanted a picture with him.

We just finished packing our feed bags for tomorrow. Mike will be handing them out at miles 40 and 60. Ben Bostrom had some scheme to ride with one bottle and a bunch of hand offs but I’m a little nervous about running out of water. I’d rather carry the weight. Well, the nerves are beginning to set in now. Off to bed early tonight!

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Team Pedalers Fork/10 Speed Coffee pre-riding the Leadville 100 course.

 

Leadville 100 pre-race riders meeting

The pre-race riders meeting

Team 10 speed coffee/Pedalers Fork Leadville 100

Team PF/10 Speed at the race meeting

Challenged Athlete Foundation Leadville Lunch

Challenged Athlete Foundation Leadville Lunch

pedalers fork 10 speed coffee

With our power combined, we are team 10 Speed!

Leadville: The Journey Continues

The time is flying. It’s Wednesday, which means tomorrow is Thursday, and with that comes check-in. It also means that Saturday and pure pain are quickly approaching. Today was another sleep in day. Last night was fun; childhood sleepover fun. There was Chef Dan’s fabulous dinner, which we had family style, and then there was the hair cutting. I brought my clippers for the occasion and Gideon and I got racing strips and Robbie got a PF in the back of his head.

Today was a team breakfast followed by a few hours on the amazing singletrack system that Dave and I scratched the surface of yesterday. We followed the Boulder trail until it ended in a river that seemed questionable. We just finished up lunch and are off to explore the bustling metropolis of downtown Leadville.

 

Dave Zabriskie Leadville 100

Dave disappears into the Aspens

Team Pedalers Fork lunch spread at Leadville

Team Pedalers Fork lunch spread at Leadville

Gideon and I get racing stripes.

Gideon and I get racing stripes.

Saving grams and increasing aerodynamics.

Saving grams and increasing aerodynamics.

Pedalers Fork Leadville

Team Pedalers Fork family dinner

A well stocked fridge

A well stocked fridge

Getting ready to ride out of the team race garage.

Getting ready to ride out of the team race garage.

Team 10 Speed Coffee

Robbie leads up the Boulder trail as a storm approaches

Leadville: The Lightning Strikes

Pretty sweet day today. Slept in. We’re at the house without chef Dan, or we were, so we were food-less. Robbie poached the cooking talent and convinced chef Dan to shack up in our mountain retreat and bring the kitchen with him. Awesome. We’ll eat like kings. Got in a great ride on some singletrack right out the front door. Dave and I hit the trails but the thunder in the distance was cause for concern. Quickly, back to the house! The bolts started streaking across the sky right when we were under the power lines but the skies waited to open up until we were about 10 feet from the garage door. Whew. Hail, downpour, lightning. Definitely not in SoCal anymore.

Pedalers Fork Leadville

The view from our house in Leadville

Chef Dan prepares team lunch.

Chef Dan prepares team lunch.

Infinite riding among abandoned mines.

Infinite riding among abandoned mines.

Dave Zabriskie

Dave warding off the oncoming storm.

Leadville: The Journey Begins

It’s been a long day. I’m writing this from the back seat of the 10 Speed Coffee F250 and we’re somewhere just past Grand Junction, CO. It’s 9:26pm and we left Pedalers Fork at 7:30am. We met at Robbie’s for a 6am departure but that quickly got pushed back. There was car packing to be done, a Robbie to be woken up, and coffee and burritos to be consumed. The drive’s been beautiful. We hit the 14 through the high dessert and then jumped on the 15 through Vegas, touched the tip of Arizona and then after a lunch stop at Cafe Rio in St. George it was a long haul through Utah. Desert, canyons, red rocks, mesas, sunsets and rainbows. Almost there. Can’t wait to crawl into bed.

Unloading after midnight. We finally made it

Unloading after midnight. We finally made it

Moots, Leadville, Pedalers Fork, 10 Speed Coffee

That’s a lot of Moots on the G Wagon

Pedallers Fork Leadville 100 Dave Zabriskie

The Peddlers fork crew ready to head off to Leadville.

Cruising down the highway.

Cruising down the highway.

Dave Zabriskie coffee

Dave gets caffeinated with the Extreme Brew

Ride and Pint

Thursday night is always one of the best nights of the week. Why? Ride and Pint at Pedalers Fork in Calabasas. I’d gotten in the habit a few months ago of ditching the car and riding the 22 miles along Sullivan Ridge and dirt Mulholland. It takes about an hour and a half in the dirt, but if I leave my house at 4:30 and drive…it also takes an hour and a half. I’d much rather be pedaling than sitting in traffic up and over Topanga.

Last night Josh Cady of the Moots Grassroots racing team joined me. We met up at 26th and San Vicente and suffered through the afternoon heat of the Santa Monica Mountains and all the way to Old Town Calabasas. We got there  a little early and had time to pound some water and refill our bottles (no beer beforehand this time, we were way to parched). Robbie had something up his sleeve. This was the last group ride before we head to Leadville so there was a sense of excitement in the air. Gideon kept dropping grenades this week though, pushing the pace faster and faster with Dave and I playing catch up. We hit Long Valley and from there made our way down Deer Bone, up Pump Hill and up the gut to the top of the overlook and got to the peak right as the sun was setting. We savored the view for a moment before we jetted back down to race the daylight. A few of us had lights but we rolled back to Pedalers right as darkness fell. There was food, beer, and great company as usual. But then, the party was over- it was time for Josh and I to hit the dark dusty trail and make our way back to West LA. 

A Moots party at Pedalers Fork Calabasas

Moots City, USA

cheeseboro pedalers fork ride and pint  mountain bike ride

Catching the sunset in Cheeseboro