The 2009 race featured large sections of the course that could not be ridden by most racers, and long sections where the riders stirred up enough dust to coat not just their clothes and bikes, but probably their lungs as well.
Stephen “Esteban” Roberts of Rico and Paul Reich of Telluride traveled to Leadville for the second stage in the five-event Leadman competition. Just two weeks before, the two successfully covered the 26.2 miles of the Leadville Heavy Marathon along some of the same trails the bike race would cover. Trading trail shoes for mountain bikes was a favorable move for Roberts, while Reich got acquainted with the sport in his first mountain-bike race of his career.
Roberts covered the 50-mile course in 4: 37: 47, finishing tenth overall out of 358 finishers, and averaging 10.8 miles per hour. Roberts rode strongly in the top 20 most of the day, despite mechanical problems that prevented him from using more than nine of his gears. After the race, Roberts commented, “This was a very dusty year with more difficult trail conditions. I walked more this year by far due to the broken-up trail.” (Roberts finished last year’s race in 5:02). Other veteran riders agreed, including one racer from San Diego who has been to all of the Silver Rush races, who said of this one: “I’ve never seen it so dusty,” adding that “the trail was in terrible shape in so many sections.”
Despite finishing in the top ten overall, Roberts was relegated to fourth place in the 40-49 age division. A lot of very fast and fairly old riders showed up this year!
Reich started cautiously, eating dust at the back of the pack during the first seven uphill miles. At 14 miles his left cleat broke and he spent the next 36 miles riding with his left foot just resting on the pedal, and not securely clipped in. Nevertheless, the broken cleat did not slow him down too much, and Reich rode well, finishing in 106th place in a time of 5: 35: 10, an average of 8.9 miles per hour. Meanwhile, the race was won by Len Zanni, in 4:00:08, a teammate of Lance Armstrong’s in last year’s 12 hours of Snowmass.
Both Roberts and Reich now look forward to the next big challenge – sticking to Lance Armstrong’s wheel in the upcoming Leadville 100 bike race. They return to Leadville on August 15 to compete with hundreds of other racers in the Leadville 100. Joining them from Telluride will be Daniel Murray, a former top 10 finisher in the event. The following day, Reich and Roberts will compete in the penultimate stage of the Leadman competition – a mere 10K run! And in late August, it’s on to the Leadville 100 Mile Run, or “The Race Across the Sky.”
Glenn Steckler from Telluride was also in Leadville last weekend, competing in the Silver Rush 50 run (held over the same course as the bike race, the following day). Steckler finished sixth overall (out of 142 runners) with a time of 7:42:50 and in third place in the 40-49 year old men's race.