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.