What began as a bravado-fueled conversation on New Year’s Eve 2014, finally came to fruition on August 15th for six members of your Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs who participated in the infamous Leadville LT100 “Race Across the Sky.”
Since 1994, this race has long been billed as the toughest 1-day MTB race in North America. A true test of the marathon athlete’s fitness and mental fortitude, this event attracts racers from all over the world, including many professionals (Christoph Sauser, Jeremiah Bishop, Todd Wells, Annika Langvad, Sally Bigham, Katerina Nash and Rebecca Rusch) looking to test themselves on a unique out and back race course.
The LT100 is a one hundred and three mile (165km) MTB race across the high-altitude, extreme terrain of the Colorado Rockies. Starting in the mountain town of Leadville at 10,152 feet and climbing to 12,424 feet, racers accumulate almost 11,000 feet (3,300m) of climbing through the day within a 12 hour time limit. The shotgun goes off at 6:30 pm to announce the end of the race.
This year’s Leadville LT 100 was billed as the largest edition to date with 1649 racers starting the race at 6:30am on Saturday morning. Conditions were hot and dusty and 12 hours later 1437 of those who started had finished the race.
To say this race is tough, is a complete understatement. Racers faced many challenges over the course of the day, including the treacherous high-speed Powerline descent and the “HC” Columbine Mountain climb which takes the racers above the tree line with an average 8% grade (some sections in excess of 16%) on loose, rocky and rutted terrain. Adding to the challenge is the fact that what you climbed on the out-bound first half of the race, you descend on the way back… and vice-versa.
For more than a year our Team has been training hard and also participated in several pre-Leadville qualification races in preparation for this event. Given the magnitude of this event, for many of the racers this became a complete family affair with spouses and partners taking on the all important role of Support Crew. Such is the difficulty of this race, that it is inconceivable that anyone could finish it without the contributions of a solid crew.
Our Support Crew:
It is thanks to this dedicated crew that our Team did so well. Not only were they instrumental in the success of our squad at Leadville, but each and every one of them have been massively supportive of our racers over the past year plus of effort. We are greatly indebted to their collective sacrifices and non-wavering enthusiasm during this entire journey.
- Peter Kraiker (Crew Chief & Team Photographer)
- Monica Cranwell (Pit Crew / Feeder)
- Helga Trudeau (Pit Crew / Feeder)
- David Post (Pit Crew)
- Diane Thurston (Pit Crew)
- Liam Thurston (Spotter)
- Olivia Thurston (Spotter / Cheerleader)
Our Racers & Results:
Going into this race, we had a solid collection of six veterans from our MTB Squad, many of whom have been riding and racing together for many years. And while mountain bike racing is an individual endeavour, the opportunity to train, travel and race as a Team, made this event a unique experience for all.
- Michael Cranwell, 09:04:47, 27th of 255 (M50-59) & 285th out of 1649 who started
- Jouko Haappanen, 09:40:09, 56th of 255 (M50-59) & 455th out of 1649 who started
- Mark Thurston, 10:37:42, 309th of 570 (M40-49) & 776th out of 1649 who started
- Andrea Bowker, 11:21:39, 31st of 58 (F40-49) & 1077th out of 1649 who started
- Robin Kay, 11:25:28, 33rd of 58 (F40-49) & 1099th out of 1649 who started
- Barry Cox, 11:58:20, 527th of 570 (M40-49) & 1321st out of 1649 who started
Our Racers’s thoughts about the Leadville LT100
Given the size and challenges presented to out racers at this event, we thought is would be interesting to have a few words from some of our Team about what they experienced.
“…was the hardest day I've ever experienced on the bike. At the crewing area at Twin Lakes there were Peter, Monica and Helga cheering and looking after my every need (if only I knew what those were). On the long climb up Columbine I saw all of our team - Michael, Jouko, Mark, Robin and Barry - with a big smile and cheer of encouragement even as they were all suffering their own private hells. Pushing my bike for what felt like forever up Powerline and to the Sugarloaf summit really told me what "dig deep" meant as it was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I was never so happy to see a hill when I came out onto the paved climb to St Kevin's - where I was lucky enough to ride with Robin for awhile before we left the aid station and she flew down the last descent before the finish. Because that climb meant we were getting so close to the end! Such a hard day, and I'm so glad it's over and so proud to have finished. And I reserve my biggest hugs and kisses for Peter who has put up with an awful lot over the last year preparing for this event and was so supportive throughout.”
“One seriously hard race. I was thinking I would set a pace similar to Whiteface but couldn't. I stuck to my plan of keeping my HR below 85% as much as possible and I think I found the right pace, although I did have to step things up a bit towards the end. No mechanical issues at all. I picked the right clothes for the temperature. The only issue was a blister on my left foot. The downhills were good and the "ready/attack position" was on full display. It was just a tough race but I gave it my all and am happy with my finish.”
“By far, this was the most difficult and toughest thing I’ve ever done on a bike… or just about anything else for that matter. I think the only thing that even comes close was the mental and physical challenge of learning to walk again after shattering my left knee-cap so many years again. I pushed hard the entire race, but was very careful not to go too deep and burn too many matches. I know I left absolutely on the race course and literally needed to be helped off my bike by Monica and Peter after sprinting the last hill up to the finish line.
The greatest thing about this event is that I got to share and experience it with such an amazing and dedicated group of individuals.”
Jouko Haapanen & Robin Kay
Jouko has been keeping a Blog about his travels to this race with Robin. Here is his entry following the race. Jouko is also the owner of Georgetown Volkswagen… and is a longtime sponsor and supporter of our Race Program.
“The level of support every rider needs for this race is on a level unlike any I've been at in a support role. Besides what it takes to get there (the year of prep, qualification, all the lead up plus travel logistics) the actual day of the race requires a level of patience and focus on what the racers are about to do or are in the midst of doing. It starts early and it's intense. Then it's full on and despite what anyone might say there's no time to relax. We crew made the mistake of listening to the organizers to have a coffee and take our time only to find that we were a looonnnggg walk away from the feed zone. That was really our only mistake, and it only impacted us as we carried all the supplies for about 2 miles to get to a spot we could feed. Once there we were part of the team and locked into what we were doing…”
“I am a Leadville 100 finisher. Hardest I have ever pushed myself. I truly went to some dark places during this race but always pulled myself back. Great to have the kids running behind me at the finish, Helga with a hug and some great friends to experience it all with. 2 days later and my legs are toast... But who gives a sh!t, I got my belt buckle!!!”
Thanks to all who helped to support this event for our Race Team... what will 2016 bring? Good question... and our answer is that we already have a second group targeting the Leadville LT100, 2016 Race.