Skip to content

Dispatches from Columbine — Unheralded Leadville

By Dave Wiens

Find race-day success when you prepare for these lesser-known sections of the course.

Sometimes the more notorious sections of a course steal all the headlines, but it’s often the sleeper sections that can make or break your day.

Whenever I train for a race, I’ll break down the types of riding that the course will require. I then make sure to prepare for each one of these elements so that on race day, regardless of what the course throws at me, I know I can have confidence in my training.

When people talk about the Leadville Trail 100 MTB course, the names they often drop are Powerline, Columbine, St. Kevins and Sugarloaf. And while the descent of Powerline grabs its share of attention, most of the angst seems directed at the five major climbs: outbound it’s St. Kevins, Sugarloaf and Columbine. Inbound, it’s Powerline and the Turquoise Lake pavement.

Consider this: about 50 miles of the course consists of the five major climbs and descents, as well as the punishing Boulevard section and the start of the race. That leaves another 50-or-so miles that consist of flats and all variety of short climbs (some mellow, some steep, some punchy). There is certainly some coasting within this 50 miles, but not much. The premium here is on pedaling the flats, pedaling up shorter climbs and punching over short steep hills.

As you can see, there’s so much more to the course than climbing. Recognize this and prepare just as much for the other elements, and you’ll be more likely to excel and to achieve your race-day goals.

The Flats
The flats are the LT100’s dirty little secret. There are a lot of of flats and flat-ish riding along this course and sometimes it’s into a headwind, especially inbound. If you can motor on the flats, you’ll simply be faster and more efficient start to finish. If you are unprepared for the flat riding, it will take it’s toll physically and mentally and you’ll bleed precious minutes throughout the day. Be certain that riding flats is part of your training program.

Rollers and Short, Punchy Climbs
These are another little talked about but prominent part of the LT100 course. There are around 30 other climbs in the course that are not part of the well-known roster of spirit killers, but that cumulatively can change a sub nine-hour ride into a 10- to 11-hour day in the saddle. The longest of these is just a few minutes total and most or less than a minute. Be sure that shorter hills, both steep and gentle, are part of your training plan.

The stronger you are on every section and at every type of riding, the better you’ll be for those well-known climbs. How well will you be able to climb Columbine or Powerline if the 20 miles of non-descript flats, rollers and punchy climbs prior to those climbs kick your butt? It’s all related and it all adds up. As much as possible, you should be prepared for everything.

Train hard on the flats and on all kinds of shorter climbs, too. On race day, you’ll be glad you did, you’ll be motivated, confident and dropping people on those less talked about sections, never to be seen again.

Enjoy the training!

Back To Top