Sunset over Mt. Massive in Leadville, Colorado. Photo: Brian Boger
I maintain that the Lifetime Series Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race ("The Race Across the Sky") is still America's hardest. First there's the altitude. Leadville, CO is America's highest incorporated town sitting at 10,192 feet where the race starts and ends. The course summits Columbine Mine at 12,600 feet altitude. Beyond the lack of oxygen, the racers face heat, cold, sun, rain, and even snow through the 104 mile course that also includes the dreaded Carter and Power Line climbs in the Rocky Mountain front range. Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis and more recent champions like Alex Howes and Lachlan Morton are among the famous cyclists who've competed at Leadville. We started our Leadville experience in 2021 when Chris Meacham, Chris Baccash, and Jason Wood raced for our team resulting in our film Mountains We Climb.
Steve Schwarz at the start of the Red Corral. Photo: Simon Eisenbach
Their success whetted an appetite in our club racers Rob Beighley (Buckingham/Solebury Club), and Steve Schwarz (Doylestown), and Bike Works partner Kirk Palermo (Doylestown) to take on the challenge. All of them have significant racing and mountain bike experience. Chris Meacham (Perkasie) had unfinished business at Leadville. In 2021, he completed the race just 14 minutes over the benchmark finishing time of 9 hours. He had his heart set on returning to surpass that mark and earn the coveted "big belt buckle" that denotes that success. Our journey to the 2023 event started at the 2022 Wilmington Whiteface 100, a qualifier race for Leadville. Chris earned his 2023 entry there while the others got a taste of what was to come racing in the Adirondacks.
Chris Meacham racing towards Powerline. Photo: Simon Eisenbach
Surpass we did. Chris Meacham completed the race in 8:46 with teammate Steve Schwarz also earning the big belt buckle in his first Leadville attempt. Kirk Palermo and Rob Beighley both completed the course well in advance of the 12 hour cut-off, earning their completion belt buckles. It was exciting for those of us who accompanied them out here to Colorado to support them on the course at the aid stations along the way: feeding and resupplying the racers, tracking their time goals along the way, and making sure they were safe. Anyone out there with the guts, grit, and determination to take on Leadville 2024?
Our 2023 Bike Works p/b Fred Beans racers and support crew for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race. Photo: Simon Eisenbach