One of the most hyped-up mountain bike races of the season takes place on Saturday, and we're not talking about the Olympics. (After all, according to Phil Liggett, dirt riding doesn't even deserve a place at the London table.) Nearly 2,000 professional and amateur racers will line up tomorrow in a small, high-altitude town in central Colorado for the 104-mile Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race.
Though not a sanctioned event, the Leadville 100 has gained caché in recent years thanks to the participation of notable racers, including Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, and six-time winner Dave Wiens. Levi Leipheimer set the course record of 6:16:37 in 2010, and last year's race was dominated by Specialized racers Todd Wells and Rebecca Rusch, who scalped her own women's course record by a quarter of an hour to finish in 7:31:46.
The LT100 is contested on mostly smooth fire roads, making it the perfect mountain bike race for roadies (just ask Levi, Lance, and Floyd). And while there are arguably more difficult one-day races out there think: NUE Series races, such as last weekend's Pierre's Hole 100, Leadville's altitude makes it a crusher. Starting in town at 10,200 feet, the course peaks at the 12,640-foot Columbine mine and scales over 12,000 vertical feet on the day. Following his record-setting run, Leipheimer said: "That was just ridiculous. I don't know if I've ever suffered that much before." Considering he took 12th at a little three-week race in France the month previous, that's saying something.
The 2011 winner, Todd Wells, won't be at the start to defend his title—he's opted for that piddly race in London instead. But Specialized is sending an equally strong team, spearheaded by Rusch, who will be looking for her third consecutive win, and Wells' teammate Christoph Sauser, the reigning marathon world champion and winner of this year's Absa Cape Epic. Other contenders include last year's runner-up, Austrian Alban Lakata, and the Cannondale Factory Racing duo of Jeremiah Bishop and Alex Grant, who placed third in 2011. Oh, six-time winner Dave Wiens, 48, is back after a one-year hiatus, and before you call him old make sure that he doesn't crush you (Alban, Alex, and Christoph included).
One person you won't see is Phil Liggett on the mike. He'll be at home whingeing and purposefully not watching the Olympic race.