Alban Lakata came back to the Leadville Trail 100 race with unfinished business and a mind to not only win, but to set a new course record.
Win it he did, 2:27 over second place Christoph Sauser, in 6:32. Jeremiah Bishop took third in 6:41.
In the women’s race, Rebecca Rusch won in her usual fashion, fighting her way up from fourth with her persistence and attrition to beat her previous course record with a time of 7:28. Sally Bigham was second in 7:34, followed by Pua Mata in 7:38.
The men’s podium led the majority of the race, despite a mixup that caused the leaders to be directed off course, losing approximately six minutes, according to race organizers.
A handful of riders at the lead of the race fell victim to misguiding course markers that sent riders down a different route. Race organizers believe the markers were moved as a malicious act performed by someone unhappy with the presence of the race in the small town. A race volunteer directed the lead moto and the race leaders down the altered route.
The organizers chased down the leaders in a pickup, informing them of the mistake. Some riders turned around while others jumped a creek and cut through to get back on course. According to race organizers, the maximum time riders lost was six minutes.
Bigham was also delayed by the misdirection and lost a fair amount of time, as well as motivation. Mata also rode off course and lost less time than Bigham. Rusch did not get caught up in the mixup.
“That detour to Colombine, it took the whole racing spirit out of the front group,” said Sauser.
“We started looking at each other thinking we should build a camp fire!” added Bishop, laughing.
The loss of time over the course of the race didn’t appear to change the standings, but it did take the wind out of racers’ sails. “I’ve flown all the way here, so I thought I might as well finish, but it took me a long time to get my motivation back (after getting back on course),” said Bigham.
Despite the inconvenience, those caught in the tangle still led the entire return leg of the out-and-back course, riding together until the final quarter of the race, when Sauser began to drop off. He managed to come back for second.
Sauser had been looking forward to attending the Leadville Trail 100 and it didn’t disappoint. “It’s the biggest race in North America. Every year everyone is talking about it… I knew it was going to be hard, but I never thought it was going to be that hard. It was a learning curve for me today.”
Rusch’s new record was especially impressive given the strong winds and tacky dirt after the previous night’s rain storm. “It did feel a little soft, so there were some areas that you wondered ‘do I have a flat tire?'” said Rusch. “But on the flip side the descending and the cornering was really great and you could open it up more than in training this week… so maybe it evened out a little bit.
“It was really windy today so I’m super surprised that I broke my record. It felt like there was a headwind in every direction and you were trying to make yourself as small as you can.”
For Bigham, the course was great but the altitude gave her serious anxiety. “There was a lot less climbing than I expected,” said Bigham. “For me the altitude was a big problem… I had nose bleeds, headaches, insomnia, loos of appetite.”
Despite his win, Lakata still has unfinished business with the race. “It was a race on my to-win list,” said Lakata, “but I also wanted to beat the course record, but not this time so I’ll have to come back again… It’s an off-road race and it’s not good that a roadie has the course record in this race.”
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