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Mountain bikers conquer Columbine on August 9, 2014. Durango's Todd Wells won the race in 6:16:27.     Photo: Peter McBride

Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race

Leadville, Colorado

I participated in the Leadville 100 MTB a few years ago and vividly recall Columbine Mine, the 12,424-foot turnaround point for the race, some 50 miles south of Colorado's highest incorporated city. As you climb Columbine, you get to see everyone ahead of you ripping down. And as you descend, you see the agony you just endured on the faces of everyone behind you.

I wanted to capture this parade of suffering but also highlight its beauty. Because it all plays out above tree line, a helicopter was the best option to show scale. My friend Tom, a Leadville veteran and pilot, was the perfect man for the job. Some acrobatic flying was needed to keep prop wash off the riders and the helicopter airborne at nearly 13,000 feet with the door open—but it made for an exciting way to watch the race. 

TOOLS: Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 1/1000 second, f/9, ISO 1000

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