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Leadville Trail 100

Aug 15, 2016
by Eddie Clark  
The Leadville Trail 100 is an icon of a race in the world of marathon cross-country mountain bike racing, and with this year's racer head count topping out at just under 2,000 it continues to gain popularity worldwide. For 2016, there were racers from 22 different countries attending the race to bring home a prized gold belt buckle for bragging rights in their local cycling community. The race starts at 10,152 feet in elevation and features over 10,000 feet of climbing at over 10,000 feet with a high point of 12,424 to ensure everyone is at their limits.

This year's race was won by Colorado's own Todd Wells who took his third victory here in 6:19:43 with Joe Dombrowski in second and Jeremiah Bishop taking third place. Notably, a who's who of top World Tour road racers attended this year to keep the pressure on in the very dirt road oriented race. On the women's side, British National Champion, Sally Bigham notched her third win with a time of 7:05:47 over Lorenza Morfin of Mexico and Colorado’s, Jennifer Smith who finished in third place. Looking back, when Lance Armstrong won the Leadville 100 in 2009, his time of 6:28:50 would have seen him finishing 3 seconds behind Jeremiah Bishop who is unquestionably a clean drug-free racer. Obviously, bikes and specific training has come a long way over the years.

Leadville Trail 100
The small town of Leadville books out nearly every empty space to accommodate the racers for this event that pushes the mountain town to its capacity.

Leadville Trail 100
With a pre-sunrise 6:30am start, the high elevation ensures a very chilly morning.

Leadville Trail 100
Todd Wells plays a game of peek-a-boo with his son Cooper to stay relaxed before getting down to the business of some brutal bike racing.

Leadville Trail 100
Sally Bigham and Jenni Smith have a chat to catch up with each other before their race call-up.

Leadville Trail 100
The man who started it all, Leadville's Ken Choubler is always at the start and stoked to lead out the racers for another edition of high-altitude racing in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Leadville Trail 100
Close to 2,000 racers are strung out on 6th street from downtown Leadville once the race gets underway.

Leadville Trail 100
Joe Dombrowski leads Todd Wells and Jeremiah Bishop up the Sugarloaf climb in the early stages of the race. At this point the trio had already established a significant gap over the rest of the field.

Leadville Trail 100
While the Sugarloaf climb is actually the second significant climb, it's the first chance for racers to see just how big the surrounding mountains really are.

Leadville Trail 100
British National Champion, Sally Bigham established a significant gap early in the race on her way to taking a third win.

Leadville Trail 100
Dave Ochs of Crested Butte, Colorado can not only hang with the best of them at the Leadville 100, he was also the mastermind behind the first ever Fatbike World Championships that went down in Crested Butte earlier this year.

Leadville Trail 100
Women's third place racer and Leadville 100 veteran, Jenni Smith held a solid pace from start to finish to take home another respectable podium finish.

Leadville Trail 100
The dirt roads and paved sections of the Leadville 100 often bring out aspects of mountain biking not typically seen at a pure cross-country race, and it's common to see mountain bikers in a paceline to take advantage of the drafting opportunities provided in many of the wide open sections.

Leadville Trail 100
Another thing the race is known for are its impressive views that come with riding along the base of the Collegiate Mountain Range which is home to the highest density of Colorado's fourteen thousand foot mountains.

Leadville Trail 100
Second-placed women's racer, Lorenza Morfin opted for some nice blue ear muffs to stay warm early in the race.

Leadville Trail 100
For some of Colorado's local cyclists, the race is as much an opportunity for fun as it is a really long bike ride.

Leadville Trail 100
After racers complete the Columbine climb which is the race's highest point at over 12,000 feet, racers make a u-turn and ride against the grain of oncoming traffic because the race is an out-and-back style course. Fortunately, the leaders have a race moto riding ahead to notify oncoming racers.

Leadville Trail 100
After 50+ miles of racing, the top three trio of Wells, Bishop, and Dombrowski were still riding wheel to wheel.

Leadville Trail 100
The main racer support pit zone is located at Twin Lakes, which is at the base of the Colombine climb seen in the background. Many of the top pros take road-style musset feeds as they speed through.

Leadville Trail 100
Todd Wells put his stamp of authority on the race with his third victory.

Leadville Trail 100
The thrill of victory...

Leadville Trail 100
..and the agony of defeat.

Leadville Trail 100
The numbers don't lie, and race rookie, Joe Dombroski just turned in one of the fastest ever times for this race.

Leadville Trail 100
Sally Bigham was quite exhausted upon taking her third Leadville 100 win.

Leadville Trail 100
Men's podium (l-r) with Joe Dombroski, Todd Wells, and Jeremiah Bishop.

Leadville Trail 100
As they say, "We Love Leadville, Great Living at 10,000 feet!".


MENTIONS: @RkyMtnSrfr


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44 Comments

  • + 22
 The fitness of the guys and girls that compete in this race is insane. Just doing a normal trail ride at that elevation is draining; racing for 100 miles is a whole other story.
  • + 2
 I remember when Lance Armstrong raced this. I was so impressed with his strength and endurance. Yet the doping scandal was a bit of a letdown. Keep cycling clean.
  • + 2
 @AJayTCP: Lance also came in second to Dave Wiens in 2008.
  • + 4
 The day after Leadville, Wells started the Breck Epic (6 days, 240 miles), and after 2 days, he's clearly in the lead. Freaky.
  • + 3
 @sevensixtwo: Much Respect to Dave Wiens 6x Leadville 100 Champion.
  • + 21
 The only PB photo series where all the bikes are on the ground.
  • + 4
 by the time my slow ass came through catching decent air on the water bars most everyone and the photographers had gone home.
  • + 17
 PB's photographer deserves a raise!
  • + 14
 Holy moose knuckle!
  • + 8
 Like to read about this race because I used to live there, but was the stab at Lance completely necessary?
  • + 8
 While it may seem like a low blow, that statement really does highlight how elite of athletes this guys really are. Todd wells would have beat Lance by 10 minutes in 2009. That's absurd.
  • + 20
 It puts their performance into perspective for me. Besides. Lance deserves all the low blows coming his way. Not because he doped back then ( they all did it back then it seems) but because of how he dealt with people who blew the whistle on him.
  • + 2
 @Dustfarter: Yes, absolute c*ckgobbler. The time and effort he spent messing up the lives of others was insane. GOAT? Maybe. GDOAT? Yes. (the "D" is for douchebag)
  • + 3
 BTW Leadville rocks. Did the Silver Rush 50 one year and it was awesome. Felt more like a group ride than a competition as everyone was just suffering together trying to get through it. Then again I wasn't exactly part of the peloton, the pace these riders can set at that elevation for that length of time is awe inspiring!
  • + 4
 Kind of agree @parks1225... no reason to mention the guy at all... not because he doesnt deserve the low blows, but because its got nothing to do with anything... i also would never as a journalist say that any rider is "unquestionably clean"... thats what we learned from the whole Lance thing... you cant say who did what, the press played a big part in creating myths around the riders being clean or not, and that finally, its a mistake to put these guys on pedestals and make them into paladins in the first place... I like jeremiah, and he is cool and all, but i wouldnt put my hand in the fire for him or any rider... ask phil ligett and paul sherwin how that turned out, those guys are a joke for 100% of the clean US athletes of that era... just my .02, but i would leave lance out of it, and i would abstain from proclaiming certain riders clean or not...
  • + 1
 Agree, it was nice to see the old hood.
  • + 2
 I can understand how the comparison may have come off negatively, but that was not the intent. Instead, it was more paying respect Smile In his day, Lance was the gold standard of professional cycling. In 2009 he was definitely on form, fresh off a top 10 at the Tour despite a rash of bad luck, and was coming back to win the Leadville 100 with a vengeance (he got 2nd in 2008, which probably lit a fire under him). That's why I think his 09 time was significant as much as how Jeremiah, Joe and Todd all surpassed the time of one of the most dominating cyclist or our lifetime.
I also get how it can be seen as not worth bringing up, and that nobody is 100 percent not keeping a secret- fair enough. Although, Jeremiah has always been very transparent and outspoken about racing clean.
I hope you guys like the post and photos!
  • + 0
 @Questlove967: Lance also rode alone for much of that race. Riding with two other guys for a good portion of the race means that Wells' energy demands were much lower as they were able to share the workload.
  • + 1
 @LeDuke: Not exactly, Lance had a hired gun in the form of Matt Shriver riding on the front and absolutely burying himself for the first half of his 09 race, and Wiens was in the mix too. I gotta get to work shooting so no time to dig through those old photos. The difference wasn't that much in regards to who was pulling and drafting and off the front solo between the two races as both lead groups took turns pulling and split up in roughly the same areas of the race- it's how the race plays out nearly every year but with different names. For sure though, the benefits of drafting in a group are very significant at the Leadville100.
  • + 1
 @RkyMtnSrfr: Matt Shriver, while fast, is not even close to the level of Joe Dombrowski or Jeremiah Bishop.
  • + 3
 I appreciated the comparison to the 2009 times but wondered if there have been any course changes? Or any other conditions that could have changed that could have made the course faster now than 7 years ago? I also wondered how anybody could claim "unquestionably" that's like say NEVER or ALWAYS...
  • + 1
 Conditions: Drafting off of two others as opposed to riding solo. All three people at the front of the race benefited; the first guy pulling goes faster with less effort than if he was riding solo as the riders behind him serve to break up the negative pressure "wake" he'd normally create. The 2nd and 3rd rider are able to draft him and use much less power to go the same speed, and are able to recover a bit. Then they are able to pull harder AND faster during their turns at the front. End result, all three go significantly faster while each individual has a lesser workload overall.
  • + 3
 Another dude who is 40 and still crushing it! I swear the fastest XC dudes are 35-50 it seems! What is this Black Magic?
  • + 1
 Such a lame racecourse though, almost all fire roads. The Breck Epic is happening right now but probably won't get any coverage even though they do rides that are actually rad.
  • + 3
 leadville 100 is wack, go team krunkshox
  • + 1
 What is the normal altitude acclimatization routine for these athletes? Especially for those who live and train at sea level?
  • + 1
 I can tell you it is longer than Thursday afternoon. 12k+ is no joke Frown
  • + 2
 I'm not sure I can finish a road Century (mentally first).
  • + 2
 Please ban the aerobars!
  • + 3
 Anything over about 10mph is when aerodynamics play the biggest role in drag, second after rolling resistance. They present a minimal weight penalty with a huge gain over long distances, plus you change your body position a little bit and use different muscles. The leaders really need aerobars more than anyone though, just because they don't get to take advantage of a large pace line. I agree though, they look out of place on a mountain bike.
  • + 0
 It's not a TT, they're not even legal in mass start road races anymore. They certainly shouldn't be on a MTB, they should have banned them after they showed up last year.
  • + 1
 Not to mention, its super lame.
  • + 1
 All of the above. But also, those guys are so damn fast that there's not really any use making fun of them.
  • + 1
 oopsie double post
  • + 1
 oof
  • + 0
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