Leadville was always the epicenter of the core endurance mountain biking race scene, but when Lance Armstrong started competing—and winning—the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race, a hundred-mile (161-kilometer), high-altitude sufferfest, it became the showcase race of mountain biking pain. The course is so hard that even the mighty Armstrong was humbled the first time he raced it (in 2008), when Colorado local and six-time champion Dave Wiens beat him by two minutes. But Armstrong broke the course record in 2009 and will be back to defend his crown in 2010.
Plenty of mere mortals take on the race, too, but don’t expect to be on Armstrong's wheel. The course gains 12,612 vertical feet (3,844 meters), with several heart-busting 3,000-foot (914-meter) climbs and a highpoint at nearly 13,000 feet (42,651 meters). At that altitude, not only does it become tough to breathe, legs also grow dead and sluggish. And don’t think the race is just for the guys—last year’s women’s winner, Rebecca Rusch, finished in an impressive 8 hours, 15 minutes. If pedaling is not your thing, there’s the Leadville Trail 100 run.
Need to Know: Register by January for the 2011 race. Entrants are then chosen by lottery. For information, go to leadvilleraceseries.com/run/leadvilletrail100.
- Nat Geo Expeditions