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This weekend, nearly three hundred athletes descended upon Leadville for the sold-out Stages Cycling Leadville Stage Race, the final qualifier event before the 2021 Leadville Trail 100 MTB. An approachable alternative to the single-day Leadville Trail 100, the Leadville Stage Race offers riders the chance to tackle the entire length of the LT100 MTB broken up over 3 days. Each night, athletes congregate for group meals, awards, and live music. With small field sizes, shorter days and off the bike experiences built in, the Leadville Stage Race is one of the most unique and revered events on the Leadville Race Series calendar.
Riders got a chance to see each individual day of the LT100 MTB course up close and personal and preview some new course changes that are being implemented for 2021. The crux of the course, Columbine, might be .75 miles lower, but it’s still just as hard with a little added elevation on the traverse over. Topping out over 12,400’ isn’t ever easy, but these riders gave it their all.
Reports of Powerline and Sugarloaf being in rough shape (and they were!) were the talk of the weekend but despite some additional chunky spots here and there, riders were pleased with how things looked. Many athletes reported personal best times on Powerline despite the conditions, crediting the smaller field size compared to the LT100 MTB and grippy, moist dirt on day 3.
There was no doubt as to who the top male and female riders were this weekend, with Alex Wild and Rachel Beck taking home dominant overall wins in both categories.
“It was a great weekend to test gear and pacing for the Leadville Trail 100 in two weeks time. It was awesome to see the Leadville family again with so many people pushing their limits and seeing all the hard work pay off. Can’t wait to be back in 2 weeks.” – Alex Wild (Orange Seal/Specialized)
In the fight for the podium spots, it came down to the final day’s racing as places 2nd through 4th were separated by a small margin in both the men’s and women’s field. In the men’s race, an untimely mechanical at the top of the Powerline climb forced 19 year old Toby Hassett out of contention and off the podium while Jimmy Smith and Nicholas Jenkins sprinted it out for 2nd and 3rd overall, separated by a mere 4 seconds. While Toby Hassett fell out of contention for a podium today, he’ll be a rider to watch in the future.
“Going into the final climb, I knew I had 5 seconds on Nick and I just had to hold him off. He attacked over the top and I matched his effort, we went into the muddy two track to the finish where I just took the most direct line. I smashed through the mud puddles and outsprinted him for 2nd.” – Jimmy Smith (Specialized/Rapha)
In the women’s field, Shaneis Kehoe and Mary Dannelley put in huge last-day efforts to fight for the 2nd and 3rd positions, separated by less than a minute over the course of 3 days of racing. Coming up the final climb, Mary had Shaneis in her sights and finished strong to hold onto her 2nd place overall. Rachel Beck put together a clean race, confidently cleaning Powerline and extending her winning margin to nearly 40 minutes leaving her mark in dominant fashion in the 2021 Leadville Stage Race.
“Today was my son George’s 19th birthday and since he was racing too, my whole family came out to watch us for stage 3. George is going off to college in the fall so it was really special that we got to race together in Leadville. It’s very motivating to know that he’s ahead of me and working with some really good riders at the front. The best part of my race was cleaning Powerline! With the conditions, it made for a clean climb and I’m super excited to have cleaned it for the first time.”
Results from the 2021 Stages Cycling Leadville Stage Race can be viewed here.