What is all the Leadville hype about? For starters, the start and finish of the race are in the heart of Leadville, Colorado at 10,200’. More than 90 percent of the race is on dirt or double track roads featuring steep climbs and serious descents. There is a seven-mile climb to the 50-mile turnaround at 12,600′ and an approximate 14,000’ elevation gain. Whew! That’s exhausting just thinking about it!
Not only is the race tough, but it’s gained national attention due to Colorado cyclist, Dave Wiens winning the event six years in a row. Levi Leipheimer won in 2010 and Specialized racer, Rebecca Rusch, has finished first in the last four races — 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. For non professional athletes, what are successful race strategies to help conquer this demon of a race?
1. Plan Right! Sure, getting your bike parts in order, lubing your chain, checking your tires are all good to do to prepare before the race. But, what happens out on the course? Crazy stuff can happen out there! Be sure to carry an extra tube or C02 with you, have extras in your drop bag along with some tires , bike nutrition, and extra clothing. Lube is good to carry on hand too if the course is dry. Not sure if a certain bike part will hold up? Have an extra one handy with some bike tools in your drop bag to keep you in the race.
2. Fuel Right! Proper nutrition leading into a race is critical. Yet, staying properly hydrated and taking in appropriate levels of protein and carbs during your race will not only help keep your energy up, but it will help keep your mind fresh and alert for those technical sections. Consider stocking up with bars, gels, and an assortment of nutrition requirements to have in your jersey and in your drop bags. Also, consider how you are getting your fluids: bottles or hydration pack? It’s important to plan your water intake between aid stations so if you think it will be a while between them, opt for a hydration pack.
3. Pace Yourself! While the nerves are high and the muscles and energy are fresh, it’s easy at the start of the race to get after it and go out too hard and too fast. Keep in mind, the more you spike your heart rate at the beginning of the race, the less you have available to pull from at the end of the race. The trick to finishing this race is to ride a steady ride keeping your heart rate in check and knowing when to back off. Use your cycling computer to keep yourself in check.
4. Get Your Mental Game On! Check in with your mental attitude, preparation, and willingness to “get after it.” The level of digging deep and mental suffering for this race exceeds that of training rides or even shorter (60 miles or so) races. Be prepared with mantras or mini goals to keep yourself going with the going gets tough.
There you have it! Success strategies to get you to the finish of the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race. Good luck to all racers at the Leadville 100 this weekend!