Rider Passes Away During Leadville 100 Race

Aug 18, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  
Photo by Ergon Bike

A rider has passed away during the Leadville 100 Trail race this weekend.

The rider has not been identified but it seems they lost their life on a descent either from a crash or a medical condition. The death was announced at the awards ceremony on Sunday and athletes shared a moment of silence to commemorate the rider's passing.

Life Time, the organizers behind the event, released the following statement. "The entire Leadville family is deeply saddened by the passing of an athlete. This athlete embodied the spirit of Leadville and our thoughts and sympathies are with their loved ones at this difficult time.”

The Colorado Sun reports that Lake County Sheriff’s Office has so far declined to comment out of respect for the rider's family but said that more details could be released later today.

This is the second death at the event in its 38-year history. The only previous death happened in 2015 when 55-year-old Scott Ellis suffered an apparent heart attack while climbing the Powerline section 80 miles into the race.

We have reached out to Life Time for more information about the incident.

Our thoughts are with the rider's family and friends and anyone affected by this tragic incident.


  • 155 0
 Condolences to the family of the rider. Best wishes from the PB community.
  • 29 0
 I remember flying down the St. Kevins descent and coming across the scene with the first responders and emergency vehicles who were flagging people to slow down. I could tell something wasn't right. The worst part of this was that it was near the very end of the last descent in the race before heading back into town. RIP
  • 3 0
 Yeah I saw emergency vehicles headed up St. Kevin's as I was descending as well. There were a few rescue persons with someone off the trail (road) on the left side.

There was also a rider-car head on collision for someone coming down Columbine but I saw on Twitter that the person's sister-in-law said they were broken but alive.
  • 3 0
 @runhankrun: Oh man that's terrible. Cars trying to go up Columbine during the race while there's already two-way traffic sounds like a recipe for disaster. I'm just surprised there's not more rider-to-rider collisions on that section.
  • 15 0
 Oh man sorry to hear, thoughts and prayers out to their family and friends.
  • 14 3
 Heart felt condolences to the family and friends of the rider. But if there is any solace in this, it is that the rider died doing what they love, they died following their passion - mountain biking.
  • 25 10
 Don't take this personally, as I know you mean well with your words. But saying people "died doing what they loved" really bothers me. It's really just a way to make us people who are at an arms length from the situation feel better about it. Let us gloss over it and act as if this person's death is somehow not as tragic as it would have otherwise been.

The truth is no one actually dies while doing what they love, because regardless of the sport they are participating in they don't want to die. Yet we see people say this all the time in situations like this. Like if someone dies while skydiving they didn't die doing what they love. Yes they died while skydiving, but the reality is that likely spent their last moments on earth panicked and scared.

Same goes for this person, however it actually happened. They died in the middle of a mountain bike race but in reality they suffered an injury or medical event that likely lead to a somewhat painful or agonizing death. Its not like they just drifted off the trail straight into heaven.
  • 5 1
 @sino428: ... and the people who were present when this person died also suffered, so yeah, it's a lame thing to say.

Dying sucks no matter who you are and no matter how it goes down.

It might be appropriate to talk about a person's life in fond terms; assuming you actually know them, such as saying they had a good life doing "X, Y, Z"
  • 2 1
 @sino428: Very well stated.
  • 2 1
 @sino428: Agreed. My grandfather loved to sail, and he drowned in a sailing accident. It did not really give me any consolation either at the time, or now, decades later.
  • 20 0
 @sino428: This is also your opinion, no different than @bradwin2

Because of COVID I had to provide hospice care at home for my mother while she died of cancer. Western cultures hide dying in hospitals. You don’t have to take the personal responsibility of what amounts to starving someone to death before the cancer causes a more painful death from organ failure. This is an awful way to die, slow and agonizing

As I climbed into my local trails a couple weeks ago there was a rider who had died on the climb in, blanket over him and what turned out to be the coroner’s van coming up behind me. My first thought? That is a good death. Maybe some moments of panic and pain, and a horrible tragedy for the family, but there are far worse ways to go.

I’ll take death on a mountain bike every time, doing what I love, and my family knows it.

My thoughts and condolences to the family and loved ones of the Leadville rider. The MTB community mourns your loss, and celebrates your life.
  • 3 1
 @sino428: very truth , no one says that about a drug overdose
  • 3 0
 @norcal101: I feel the same as you man
  • 3 7
flag sino428 (Aug 19, 2021 at 8:17) (Below Threshold)
 @norcal101: Your post is exactly what I am talking about.

"Maybe some moments of panic and pain, and a horrible tragedy for the family, but there are far worse ways to go".

You've glossed over the fact that this person likely died a terrible death, and his family is devastated, so that you can feel less bad about the situation. And sure, if all things were equal most of us would rather die out on a mountain than suffering of cancer, but these are not choices that happen in a vacuum.

Your profile says you are 40 years old. So my question would be would you rather die tomorrow while out on a mountain bike ride or 25 years from now from cancer some other disease? You'd rather give up another 25 years of life with your family (watching your kids grow up if you have them), to die on a mountain now, than possibly suffer later?

That's the shit people don't think about when they say something like "that's a good death". You have no idea what that person's situation was that you saw dead out there. Good death? What if they had small children who will now grow up without a parent? What if they were the caretaker for a family member? Still a good death?
  • 4 1
 @sino428: I did a 50k running race in Virginia a few years back and performed CPR on a racer who collapsed (and ultimately died) in the race.

It is obviously a consolation for the living to say, "he died doing what he loved". I believe this is true (for Graham) as he had competed in the event for multiple years and was active in his local running group.

For me, I really struggled with sadness and depression in coping with the fact that someone died in an event that is optional and arguably frivolous. I'm sure that Graham didn't wake up that morning knowing it was going to be this last day but it does help me to put into context that if I died doing something that brought me great joy; my family (I hope) would feel comforted in this fact and my kids would know that they can pursue their passions as well.

However, I will NEVER be climbing Everest. That's dumb.
  • 5 0
 @sino428: Actually I have to disagree. We all die and we often don't have a ton of control over how and when. I hope when I die its not after months of being too sick to do anything I want and in pain. I would also say that if you do things where the risk is higher either of accidental trauma or of not getting quick medical attention if you have a rapid onset life threatening medical condition its something to keep in mind. Personally I prefer to do solo hiking trips or mountain biking or other activities that have risk than to live not doing them out of concern for the risk. I am not in a hurry to die, but I know I will, and doing something I love up to that time is my goal.
  • 2 3
 @acrowe: you completely missed the point of my post. It had nothing to do with the risk/reward of participating in a sport itself.
  • 3 1
 @norcal101: every death is tough. I’ve watched people die of cancer and the death itself is slow, painful, and awful, but at least most cancer patients know it’s coming and they get to say goodbye to their friends and family. Someone who dies suddenly may have a less painful death, but I’ve seen friends and family devastated by an unexpected death when they didn’t get to say their last goodbyes or feel horrible that they hadn’t talked in a while, so it’s dying sucks either way.
  • 9 0
 When I was young my parents hated that I was a rock climber and that I spent a great deal of time alone in the woods hiking, riding, etc. I told them that if something bad happened to me, even something really horrible like getting eaten alive by a wild animal, that I would have gone out going full speed ahead, fighting as hard as I could to make it through whatever bad situation I'd gotten myself into. And in my heart of hearts, I never felt more full of life than when I was in those moments when I wasn't sure I was going to live through it. I'm sorry for the guys family that checked out in the race, but now that I'm in my mid 60s I'm more sure then ever that's the way to go. Full speed, not wasting away in some hospice or hospital, relishing your life, even as it's being snatched away.
  • 1 0
 I dig it but not sure your parents would share that sentiment. I’ve lived to the ripe old age of almost 50 now and I put my parents through some stuff. Pretty sure they’re stoked I’m still around. So am I - most of the time lol.
  • 4 0
 “When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” Much love mystery rider. Till you line up again, rest now for your race is over.
  • 3 0
 Bib, big shout out and love to the rider's family and friends; and also to the organizers and the people who were with this rider. It's traumatic for everyone involved. Big love.
  • 3 1
 This reminds me of a podcast I listened to a year or two ago with the guys from Trainerroad after they did Leadville. Their very very competent rider felt like it was one of the most dangerous races he's ever done and that's coming from someone who's raced EWS rounds at Northstar.
  • 1 1
 What did he think made it dangerous?
Didn't look too bad from the Rapha video of the roadies racing it
  • 4 0
 @pommie-shredder: The whole thing is an out and back so as you climb people are coming down at 40 mph. It's just the speed and mixed traffic.
  • 5 2
 @pommie-shredder: It’s a really long race at a really high altitude. You get worn out, no oxygen. It can take its toll on a rider. You get exhausted, make bad decisions. And if you’re an older guy (over 50) — better make sure the ticker is in good shape.
  • 3 0
 @pommie-shredder: Haven't done that race, but it looks like a lot of gravel roads up and down.
I think racing downhill on gravel roads is some of the most dangerous riding there is because you have poor traction while at really high speeds, often for significant periods.
Riding 60 kph on a gravel road almost always goes well, but if something unforeseen were to happen, such as a sudden turn or an oncoming vehicle, you have very limited margins of safety and if something goes wrong you travel at speeds where it easily goes very wrong.
The danger is also quite specific to racing on these roads. In normal riding conditions, the speeds are usually kept sensible.
It's not difficult, but it is dangerous.
  • 5 3
 Soooo...this picture at the top. Is this an actual part of the trail? What is that? Looks sketchy and I'm sure I'd at least hurt myself if I had to ride on it. Sorry to hear and thoughts/prayers to the family and friends.
  • 22 0
 It's just a generic scenery shot taken from this piece: www.pinkbike.com/news/living-the-legend-topeak-ergon-racing-team-at-the-leadville-trail-100-mtb-2015.html . We don't have many Leadville photos that don't have people in them.
  • 1 0
 I don't remember that exact place but I think it's an old mining ruin that you ride by on the Southernmost climb to the turnaround point. The great majority of the ride is on good quality jeep roads with only some very short stretches of single track. That's why the winning times are so fast. There are several big high speed descents where it would be easy to get into difficulty, though. My condolences to the fallen riders loved ones.
  • 3 0
 That's not a trail feature, that's a mine loadout (haul ore out of ground onto structure, drop it into cart or truck depending on era). The Leadville area is perforated with mine workings, even downtown.
  • 4 0
 It's mostly pretty mellow doubletrack from my understanding but that's exactly what makes it dangerous because of the super high speeds. There's tons of awesome alpine adventures in the area though.
  • 3 0
 RIP and condolences to the rider's family and friends.
  • 3 0
 Heck. Condolences to the racer's family and friends.
  • 1 0
 Condolences to the family, now have great ride in the sky.
  • 1 0
 Never mind - posted too soon.
  • 1 0
 RIP Rider
  • 1 0
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