My 2011 Leadville Trail 100 Experience

In August of 2011 I raced my first Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike event. I was lucky enough to get past the lottery system in February, and spent most of the rest of the spring and summer preparing for the event. This is the story of my training leading up to the actual event and the details of the event itself.

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Bicycle Wheels

I’ve been pondering the idea of getting a second set of wheels for my bike for a while now. Since I’ve been occasionally racing, it is convenient to have a set of wheels with the the race tires and tubes already installed. I didn’t necessarily want to spend the bucks on a set of carbon fiber wheels, at least not yet, so I thought about getting a second Bontrager Race Lite wheel-set; these came with the bike and I’ve been really pleased with them. They are only 1660g for the set so I’m not saving a ton of weight if I upgrade.

Luckily the folks at Bike Barn suggested a different approach. They pointed me to the Bontrager Race wheel-set, which are only 139g heavier than the Race Lite version, coupled with the Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase tires. These should prove to be a great and resilient wheel-set for training and long century rides.

Unfortunately the wheels did not come with rim tape properly installed (whoops!) so after a couple of flats this morning I had to go back and have them fix it. They were gracious enough to do it immediately so I should be all set for my next ride.

Memorial Park Criterium, Week 6

Tonight I raced in my second bicycle criterium at the crit series held every Wednesday night in Memorial Park. This was week 6 of the series this summer and the first chance I had to race; I had been out during week 4 but I forgot my cycling license that day so I just watched.

I had a long 45 minute warmup before the race started; in retrospect that was way too long of a warmup. The race started out with the girls being given a warmup and then a prime lap and the guys were asked not to pass the girls until their prime lap was over. This gave us 2 laps at a comfortable pace of 23 to 24 mph that made for a great warmup all on its own. As soon as the race began in earnest the speeds kicked up to 28 mph and I only made it about 3/4 of the way through that lap before I was dropped.


Originally uploaded by dcgibbons

I tried the auto-lap feature of my heart rate monitor and tried hard to ignore it completely during the race, for better or worse. Looking back at the data afterwards gives me a pretty clear idea of what I can maintain in at a casual pace, a fast solo pace, and a fast group pace. There’s a lot of room left for improvement just to be able to keep up with the main pack, but that is really not a surprise at all.

The Memorial Park picnic loop is a great circuit for the race. The circuit is long enough that if you aren’t in the main pack you will have room to ride without being constantly lapped. Most of the corners in the circuit are fast and easy, with only two requiring a great deal of care. We didn’t have any wrecks in this weeks’ race, but I understand that here have been plenty this season, but that’s somewhat to be expected of aggressive criterium racing.

I will say that the Madone 5.2 Pro I’m riding now corners like it is on rails and it is just an amazingly bike for building confidence – at least until the first time I go down.

Bear Creek Criterium

Today was the annual Bear Creek Criterium. This is a short 0.8 mile flat loop through the middle of a heavily forested park. The course is non-technical, with really only one corner that requires any skill and the rest being wide open.

I entered and raced, in what was my very first cycling event, as a category 5 rider. In USAF rules male riders start as category 5 until they have ridden in 10 events at which point they are upgraded to category 4. From category 4 on up everything is based upon points, so you have to start placing well to advance.

I had been previously warned that on your first race you will almost certainly be dropped and sure enough that happened to me. The race started well and the first two laps I stayed near the front or middle of the pack. On the third lap I ran out of juice and had to slow my pace and I fell behind the main group.

In hindsight, looking down at my heart rate monitor was probably not the best idea. Once I saw my heart rate was at 184 I began to focus on that; I likely could have gone further had I not known what the rate was.

The speeds while I was with the main group varied between 24 and 28 MPH. Once I dropped off I kept my pace at 20 MPH through most of the race. That pace still managed to get me lapped 4 times total before the end of the race, though. But, I finished!

It was a blast and I can’t wait to do it again, but only after spending a lot of time working on speed drills!

Zooming at the Bear Creek Criterium
see more pics of the criterium

Sugar Land Criterium

Today was the Sugar Land Criterium bicycle races in Sugar Land Town Square. This event was hosted by Sugar Cycles, a bike store local to the Sugar Land area.

The course was a 1 mile loop through the town square itself. It was a very technical course, but luckily I don’t believe there were any crashes during the entire day.

We watched the men’s category 4/5, men’s category 3/4, women’s and junior’s open, and then the men’s pro / 1 / 2 / 3 races. The final event was the most amazing to watch as the skill levels within that group were amazing similar and the pack kept closely together throughout most of the race. In the other races there were large separations between groups as the skill differences in riders were so vast.

It was a great event, and the folks at Sugar Cycles did a great job in organizing it.

Lori took some pictures of the event, and they can be found at