Photo Credit: 303Photo
Riders in the 2011 Leadville MTB Trail 100 were greeted with sunshine and moderate temperatures at the 6:30am start. 303Cycling began covering the Race Across the Sky in 2010 (got a belt buckle back in the 90's) and we noticed a difference in this year's start. While there were notable absences - no helicopters filming, no Tour riders, and Dave Weins not on a bike - there was real excitement as the the top riders flew past us up the hill on 6th St in a neutral yet very aggressive start. If this was a strategy, it worked for Todd Wells who finished the day in first and with the second fastest course time ever as well as Rebeca Rusch who beat her course record by over 15 minutes.
Our favorite spot to photograph is the bottom of Powerline and we headed there next. It's an hour into the race and riders have just completed their first climb and major decent. It's all smiles as they head to Pipeline not even thinking about the ascent back up in a few hours. Most notable was Rebecca Rusch's position behind a handful of other women riders and the uncertainty of her getting to the front. Spectators were out in full force again this year and in spite of the very dusty conditions many stayed to keep the course lined with cheering for the top riders to the last.
We caught the leaders after Columbine on their way back to Powerline. Todd Wells was solo and in the lead but with less than a minute on Austria's Alban Lakata and around 6 minutes on Alex Grant in 3rd. Heading into the final climb Wells seemed to be ahead of Levi Leipheimer's course record from the year before. We headed to the finish to catch the exciting conclusion to the race.
Photo Credit: 303Photo
While Weins didn't race he was there to congratulate and aid his team mate Alban Lakata. We spoke to the crew of former World Champion Bart Brentjens who would end up 6th after who said he made his way from as far back as 22nd after getting caught in traffic early on. The international presence is evidence of how well known and popular the race has become. With 1900 riders more than just World Champions are getting caught in traffic. We spoke to participants much closer to the 12 hour time than 6 and a half who felt it has just gotten too big. We also met some volunteers who came in from NY state in hopes of getting in for 2012. Unlike years past volunteering does not reserve you a spot but merely gets you better consideration.
The race ran on time and smoothly under the new management. In the years to come, we will look to see how they will handle the numbers and the desire of many participants to keep all of the Leadville traditions that have made it the race it is today.
Top 5 Men
1. Todd Wells, in 6:23:38 DURANGO CO
2. Alban Lakata, in 6:27:57 LIENZ AK AUSTRIA
3. Alex Grant, in 6:35:32 SALT LAKE CITY UT
4. Jay Henry, in 6:38:31 AVON CO
5. Jeremiah Bishop, in 6:43:34 HARRISONBURG VA
Top 5 Women
1. Rebecca Rusch, in 7:31:46 KETCHUM ID
2. Gretchen Reeves, in 7:35:38 AVON CO
3. Pua Mata, in 7:37:50 ANAHEIM HILLS CA
4. Jennifer Smith, in 7:39:14 GUNNISON CO
5. Tammy Jacques, in 8:02:30 STEAMBOAT SPRINGS CO