In the small former mining town of Leadville, Colorado, a new rush occurred this past Saturday as more than 1400 participants took part in the Leadville Trail 100-mile mountain bike race. Among those attempting to lay claim was Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, who was racing his first Leadville and only his second every 100-mile race. JHK had repeated this past July as US Marathon nation champion; however that race only covers approximately 50 miles.
Riding or racing Leadville100 is no small feat. Starting at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies, participants do an out-and-back loop. Along the way they and climb to the course high point of 12,500 before descending back down to the ridgeline before climbing back up to the finish line in Leadville. So in the early morning hours as the sun was rising, “the race across the sky” began.
JHK was part of an early group of riders that yo-yoed between five and ten top contenders over the course of the initial 40 miles, pacing each other across the windy barren ridgeline, two miles in the sky. Once the course made its first big pitch upwards, riders began to settle into their own pace and the group dissolved. Feeling in his element, JHK found himself alone at the front with one rider nipping at his rear wheel. Together they struggled to keep pedaling on the steep loose pitch to the top of the course’s highest elevation. Finding himself as the lead rider to the top of the Columbine Mine turn around point, Jeremy then used this descending prowess to open up a small gap, as both riders began their return leg to the finish.
Their game of cat and mouse continued for the next 30 miles, at which point JHK realized he was outmatched by his more seasoned competition, who had logged years of long distance road racing, compared to JHK’s shorter cross-country exploits. With just ten miles remaining, JHK watched his claim for gold, turn into a silver rush. And the competitor who beat him, none other than Trek-sponsored and Tour de France podium finisher Levi Leipheimer, who was also racing his first Leadville100. Another silver lining to the day’s race, was that JHK did manage to better the course record set by another Trek co-patriot, Lance Armstrong, by 3 minutes after almost six-and-a-half hours for racing. Reflecting back upon the day’s events, JHK commented, “even though I didn't win - I was so happy with my race. I turned in a performance that was incredibly personally satisfying and was the best that I could have possibly done. I was very happy to learn that both Levi and I bested Lance Armstrong's course record, which was one of my goals when I set out to compete in this race this year.”
One of the factors, that keeps people racing Leadville is the award for everyone, pro or amateur that finishes the race under nine hours. A big shinny belt buckle. Standing before the media and finishers during the awards presentation, JHK had these remarks. “After finishing this event, I can see why it's become something so special to so many people - it's an amazing feeling to test your limits so thoroughly, and I am so impressed with all the riders who even finished that course.”
After some much needed rest, JHK will turn his attention to World Cup finals in Windham, NY in two weeks time, along with the rest of the Subaru-Trek squad. Followed immediately thereafter by the mountain bike world championships at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada.
Stay tuned for more news as the 2010 Subaru-Trek team races around the globe.