The Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race: A True Test of Courage

I know the title might be deceiving, because as much as I would have liked to brag, I did not participate in the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race. Instead, on August 13, I was a spectator to the one thousand plus athletes that participated. I attended in hope of catching a glimpse of the famous/infamous Lance Armstrong. The former seven-time champion of the Tour de France was rumored to have qualified for the race with the goal of participating. Instead, he was a no-show. As a result, the day’s victory went to Todd Wells of Durango, Colorado, the 2010 American Champion in Cyclocross and a 2008 Olympian in Mountain Bike racing.

The Leadville Mountain Bike 100 race started in 1995. Originally a small event, it has flourished into what is considered America’s toughest mountain bike race. The race has a low point of 9,200 feet and a high point of 12,424 feet at Columbine Mine. The race started to gain prominence once elite road cyclists with “bottomless lungs” like Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer started participating.

The course itself navigates over an out and back road, traversing through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. My day was spent mostly as a spectator near the intersection of county road ten and state high way twenty-four, where the racers make the transition from pipeline to the long climb towards Columbine Mine, at approximately the one-fourth/three-fourths point along the way.

Within simply a couple hours of watching, I was shocked by what I witnessed. One racer yelled to the watchers that there was a broken shoulder on the course. Not much later, a bespectacled competitor slowly trudged down the course, holding his right shoulder. In addition to the broken shoulder, there were competitors on tandem bikes. Most often the husband would be up front with his wife riding in the back. My friend who came along with me simply asked, “How these racers would be judged in the scoring?”

I am also afraid that the final event I watched was not nearly as exciting. Some racers exemplified the saying: “When you got to go, you got to go.” Once completing the pipeline, they pulled off to the side to pee. With children nearby, one could do nothing but simply just laugh and remember that when you got to go, you got to go.

Overall, my time in Leadville was a great day. For me, it was just another adventure, an adventure which can hopefully be outdone next year if I compete in the race myself.


“Leadville Trail 100 MTB.” Leadville Race Series.


“Todd Wells.”

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