The Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race Takes Place Today

One of the most demanding mountain bike races in North America takes place today in Leadville, Colorado, where some of the top riders in the world will compete in the legendary Leadville 100 MTB. The race features a course that offers plenty of difficult climbs made all the more challenging due to the altitude at which the event takes place.

The Leadville 100 MTB was first held back in 1994 and over the years grew in popularity amongst the hardcore mountain biking community. The event, which was the subject of a 2010 documentary film entitled “Race Across The Sky,” gained a much wider audience in 2008 when seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong decided to compete. Armstrong came in second behind six-time defending champ Dave Wiens, but returned in 2009 to avenge the loss, crushing the old course record in the process. His participation in the Leadville 100 led to other pro riders joining the race in 2010 and 2011 and what was once a great event for amateur riders has now grown into a much larger affair.

The starting line for the course is located in downtown Leadville, which sits at an altitude of 10,200 feet. From there, riders will begin a 50-mile out and back ride that features over 14,000 total feet of climbing, going as high as 12,424 feet. It is a grueling test of endurance and skill that requires as much mental strength as it does physical. Fast pro riders will finish the race in around six and a half hours, but most riders will come in much later than that.

If mountain biking isn’t your thing and you’d rather hit the trail on foot, next week Leadville plays host to the Leadville Trail 100 Run, a 100-mile long ultra-marathon that is even more grueling than the bike ride. Personally, I’ll stick with the bike.

[Photo courtesy Leadville 100 MTB]

Race Across The Sky 2010” from Citizen Pictures on Vimeo.

24-Hours of Moab mountain bike race begins today

Ever wonder what it would be like to ride a mountain bike across a scenic, but challenging, course for 24 hours straight? Me neither! But that’s exactly what competitors in the 24-Hours of Moab mountain bike race are preparing to do when the event gets underway today at noon local time in Moab, Utah. As you can probably deduce from the name, the ride won’t end until noon tomorrow, after a very long, and grueling, day in the saddle for the riders.

Racers are allowed to compete in three categories, riding as an individual or part of a two or four person relay team. If they are part of a team, they’ll be allowed to switch out from time to time and get some much needed rest. The individuals will have it the toughest however, riding solo while trying to accumulate as many laps as possible before the 24 hour cut off.

The course is a challenging one for sure. Consisting mostly of old jeep trails, the route winds its way through the scenic backcountry that Utah is so famous for, ensuring that the riders will at least have something beautiful to look at along the way. Not that they’ll have time to notice however, as some of the bigger drops will have them rushing down hills at over 40 mph, as they carefully pick their lines hoping to avoid danger along the way. The entire route is just 15 miles in length, and the top riders will be able to finish laps in under an hour, but the more than 1360 feet of vertical gain on each lap will have their legs crying out for mercy. Especially when it is the middle of the night and they’ve already been riding for more than 12 hours straight.

The race has been going on for 15 years now, and during that time it has earned itself a reputation as one of the top endurance mountain biking events in the world. This year, there will be more than $20,000 in cash, and another $15,000 in prizes, up for grabs, although for most of the riders it is all about the fun and camaraderie of the event.

[Photo credit: Xavi Fane]

Mountain biking from Canada to Mexico

The 2745 mile long Tour Divide mountain bike race got underway last Friday, with 42 riders setting out from Banff in Alberta, Canada on a 3+ week long odyssey along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route that will end when they reach the border of Mexico at Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

The race requires the competitors to be completely self sufficient while out on the trail, carrying all of their food, water, and gear with them, although they are allowed to stop in towns along the way for resupply. The region is quite remote however, and riders will go more than 100 miles between resupply points at times. They are also responsible for their own navigation, as the trail is not always well marked, and there are no official course markers.

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the longest unpaved bike path in the world. The trail winds its way through Alberta and British Columbia in Canada, as well as Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico here in the States. The quality of the trail varies greatly as well, ranging from old backcountry roads to narrow, barely maintained, single track. Riders that complete the course will have climbed more than 200,000 feet over its length from start to finish.

The race is expected to take roughly three weeks to complete, with most riders averagng about 16 hours per day in the saddle. Over that time, they’ll face muscle crushing climbs, pass through wilderness thick with mountain lions and grizzly bears, and deal with weather that can change for the worse at a moments notice. And since the race lacks entry fees or prizes of any kind, the riders will be doing it just for the adventure.