Things I Learned from the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race

Things I Learned from the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race

The following post is from Steel City Endurance athlete Mike Quigley. I (Coach Suzanne) helped prepare Mike for the Leadville 100 as his first ultra endurance mountain bike race, and my first experience helping someone prepare for a race of this grueling intensity.  Mike followed every bit of the training plan that I prepared for him, and by his finishing time, I think the plan was successful!

Incidentally, this is the year that Dave Weins and Lance Armstrong battled it out for 1st place. As thrilling as that was for me at the time, 99% of my energy that day was spent crewing for Mike, with one other friend using 2 way radios along the course.

After Mike finished the race in 11 hours, 31 minutes, earning a silver buckle, I asked him if he’d be willing to document some of the things that he learned in preparation and execution of the race. Mike’s race report is one of the most comprehensive things I have since read about the race.

Thinking about doing Leadville 100 or done it already? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Cover photo credit: CNN

Things I learned from Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race

by Mike Quigley

The race:

Race start, 6:15am, Leadville, Colorado

Race start, 6:15am, Leadville, Colorado

The Starting Line

The race starts fast, don’t get caught up in the excitement. Go your own pace from the get go. Riding above your limit here will just get you in trouble later. Race smart!

Many mountain bike riders do not know how to ride in a pack very well. Keep alert during the crowded start.


On the way outbound…

St. Kevin’s

• The first climb (St. Kevin’s) will be as crowded as New York City in rush hour. Many people with good endurance but poor bike handling skills will fall all over this climb. It is not technical other than trying to avoid poor bike handlers. Singlespeeders will be walking this climb unless they get way out in front. Holding a track stand up a climb is a good skill to have here, practice.

• The decent from St. Kevins is fast and on pavement. Good descenders can pass dozens of people here.


• The climb up to the Powerline decent is wide open. There will be many places to pass or be passed by people. It is a fairly consistent grade and the top brings you to the Powerline Decent.

• I did not find the powerline decent nearly as technical as all the reports I read. As long as you look ahead of you, scope your line, and follow the tracks of other riders there is little to fear. My biggest problem here was trying to pass people with poor descending skills. Much of the decent has only one good line, making you wait behind the slower riders or ride very technical areas to get around them.

• The bottom of the powerline climb has a creek crossing. You have 2 choices, go through the creek or ride/walk over the “bridge” consisting of slippery planks. You will likely find the option of riding the creek will save you 20 seconds or so because there will be a line of people crossing the planks on foot. I would highly recommend giving up those 20 seconds and wait to cross on foot. Wet feet (and bearings) 20 or so miles into a 100 mile race is not a good idea if you ask me. You will be a crowd favorite if you ride the creek.