Leadville is my favorite race for three reasons:
- The belt buckles. If you finish in under 12 hours, you get a belt buckle and a sweatshirt with your name and time on it. Personally, I'd prefer the sweatshirt without my name and time on it, because the name and time are dorky in a Hey, look at me, I'm kind of a mediocre jock way. Still, it's a trophy that you can earn. In most races where you finish in 352nd place out of 630 riders, there's no reward. You lose. And for the fast, fast guys who train year-round wearing heart monitors but aren't quite fast enough to vie for overall victory, they can win a bigger belt buckle by finishing in under 9 hours. My friend Elden even hired a personal trainer so that he can break the 9-hour barrier. It's a simple strategy, but as far as I know Leadville is the only race that offers goal-oriented rewards for the masses. I don't even know where my belt buckles are from previous races, and no one really cares whether I finish, but when I'm training for the race, I need that buckle. I don't even wear belts, let alone big ugly buckles. They don't go well with my stretch pants.
- It's a big event. Leadville is about 20 miles from Vail, but it's basically an abandoned mining town (they used to mine lead there). It struggles to make it as a resort town. Riders have to be there the morning before the race, so the town fills up with giddy cyclists wanting to eat pasta and drink beer and chit-chat. And this year, Lance Armstrong signed up for the race but had to drop out, probably because Floyd Landis also signed up for the race. The three of us account for the last 8 Tour de France victories.
- The unrivaled support. When you're struggling like a little camper, volunteers try to buck you up. There's an odd sense that you'll let people down if you don't finish.
So here are my goals. I want to weigh no more than 170 pounds by race time. I want to be in good enough shape so that if I ride well under good conditions, I can finish in under 12 hours.