I have been more anxious over this race than any race lately. I was able to pre-ride some of the course a month earlier.
Janie and I got an early start Saturday morning and left our condo in Copper Mountain and arrived at Leadville around 5:00am with the car thermometer reading 35 degrees . I was able it get a killer place about 100 feet from the start line, right in the middle of road. Within 40 minutes the bikes where back 2 blocks. Since its a mass start, it is advantageous to place you bike early. The starting line was like a huge twister game with an obstacle course with over 500 bikes laying on the road.
Ken’s shot gun went off promptly at 6:30am. And all 1500 of us started the downhill coast out of town. It was suppose to be neutral start and I was tying to keep a buffer around me but there we guys aways coming from behind, sprinting to the front. It was a just like the moving packs at the RMR crits except there were a 1000 riders who don't frequently ride in packs. I was glad to have on my winter gloves and booties.
We crossed the railroad tracks and made the sharp right hand turn on to the dirt. The pace was fast and I looked at my heart rate and it was very high, 170's. The climb up to St Kevins was fast wild mass of riders climbing up a loose rocky jeep trail. Guys were passing on the left, some were starting to walk on the right, what an experience. The trails makes a sharp left at mile 7 and the grade eases off a bit. In this transition to an easier grade my chain was caught between my granny gear and 2nd chain ring. I dismounted and wasn't sure what the problem exactly was. I run with my bike a few hundred feet to find a place on the side of the trail to fix it.
It was rush hour traffic of anxious races. I noticed that I was missing 1 of the 4 chainring bolts on my granny gear and the other 3 bolts were loose which is how my chain got jammed in between. I couldn't pull it out so I had loosen the remaining 3 bolts. It seems like an eternity getting bolts loose and tight again with large awkward tool. Got if fixed and started climbing again, then after a few minutes of climbing I noticed I was missing my sunglasses. I debated going back or use Janie's glasses when I meet her in 3 hours. I opted to go back to my repair site and retrieve the glasses. After wasting about 15 minutes I was back on trail. The rush hour traffic of riders had not stopped. I was a little nervous about riding the next 90 miles with a missing chain ring bolt so I made sure I didn't shift with much tension on the granny ring the rest of the day.
The Sugarloft climb was next and I found a good rhythm. The top came quick and the Powerline descent was next. The trail was still a jeep road with a dominate single track line. Faster riders would pass on really hairly sections. This woman, I will call Peppie Long Socks, because she was wearing long pink socks. She was yelling at men to let her pass so I let get a head of me and I followed her down the Powerline. Peppie was a good decenter but not a fast climber. I would tag team her several times throughout the day.
Made it to Pipeline aid station where I had drop bag. I ate a pickle and dropped off my leg-arm warmer and booties. From here on was new territory because my preride a month earlier ended at the pipeline aid station. I had 10:30 cutoff at Twin Lakes which was my next task. The trail followed mainy dirt roads in the foothills of the Leadville valley. There was a nice tight section of single track in the sage brush that lasted a couple miles. We made our way to some well graded gravel roads where I was able to draft off a guy for about 20 minutes. The nice thing with a lot of mountain bikers is they get the concept of drafting and pace work. This dude just pulled the whole time at a nice pace until almost got to the top and then he was spent. I crested the final hill into the Twin Lakes feed section, which I should just call the the Twin Lakes Zoo. There were people everywhere lining both sides of the trail for about 1/2 mile. I had no idea where the offical check in tent was but I has made it with 15 minutes to spare. I grabbed some water melon and water and I was out of there. It was at this point that Levi and Jeremy passed me returning to the finish line. They were a flying.
Janie was at the next crew stop which was only a couple miles away at the base of the Columbine Climb. Tinker passed me just I meet Janie. I ditched my camel back with Janie and choose to go light with just 2 water bottles for the next monster climb. This next climb is the mother of all climbs. It starts at 9,300 ft and climbs to 12,509 in 8 miles. The first 5 miles is nice wide dirt road that winds it way through dense trees. By this time the bulk of the 8-9 hour guys were coming down the road at blazing speeds. I keep riding a steady pace.
As we reached the tree line around 10,500 feet the road became rougher and looser. The first steep section was a "hike-a-bike" section. The little hiking section was a welcome change for my over pedaled legs. The funniest thing happen next, and it doesn't take much to be funny have 5 hours of riding. There were a couple a guys that had a barbeque set up roasting hot dogs. There was a sign on the side of the road that read "Free Hot Dogs and Beer". They were dressed in suits and had the hot dogs and beer on a silver platter. I passed on the beer, of course. and took a bit of the hot dog and the mustard tasted really good.
The road turned to the left and slowly the summit was in view with a trail of what looked like a line of ants marching up the mountain. It was a death march, everyone off their bikes hiking up a steep rocky jeep road. I was able to ride short sections but it was difficult to pass the hikers with a steady stream of descending rides on the left side of the road. I kept looking at my altimeter wondering if if 12,700 was ever going to come. I got the attention of a camera crew and starting to tell them I was riding on the only self made, garage build carbon frame. Time will tell if I make the cut on the movie that is released in November.
I finished in 11:50 and earned the buckle. Glad its over!