Road Riders vs. MTB Riders / Leadville

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I didn’t realize how many current and former World Tour Pro Riders competed at Leadville 100 this past weekend, until I saw this article over at Cyclingtips.    Of course I knew Joe Dombrowski finished 2nd to Todd, but there are lots of other riders that I had no idea that they came.

It is hard not to be shell-shocked after finishing Leadville.  I was destroyed last year, but I had a pretty terrible day. I say that, but I’m not sure that you can have a great day when the majority of a 6-8 hour race is above 10000 feet and sometimes much higher.  From the responses in the Cyclingtips article, most of the pro guys felt pretty much the same way as I do.

Way back in the day, in the 90’s, when the World MTB Championships were going to be held in Canada, there was a rumor going around that a few of the Tour de France guys, ie. World Tour riders, were planning on coming over and going to try to smear everyone.  The name that was mentioned the most was Steve Bauer, who is from Canada.

I remember talking to Thomas Frischknecht about it and Thomas told me he would buy them plane tickets.  He said that it just made him look that much better when he beat the best road riders.  I had to agree.  We talked about talking up a pool to buy as many road riders as possible tickets, just so we looked better.

Here’s the deal.  The guys racing MTB full-time are really good athletes.  Some as good as the top level road riders.  A random road rider isn’t going to cross over to MTB racing and beat the best MTB riders.  It just isn’t possible.  There are way too many places where mistakes will be made by the road riders.  All those mistakes will prohibit the road rider winning.

I guess this applies to Peter Sagan and the MTB race at the Olympic games.  I’d have to say he really doesn’t have a chance to win.  I hope he does a Peter Sagan and proves me wrong, but I don’t think that will happen.  I’d guess he finishes somewhere between 5-10, maybe 15th.  The top riders in MTB racing can go just as fast as Peter for an hour 15.  That is too short for him.He hasn’t paid his dues. A little over a month of preparation for a race of this status just isn’t enough.

I used to get asked all the time which discipline of the sport was harder, road or MTB.  I’d always answer MTB racing.  I used to get a ton of shit from it.  But when your are racing off-road, it is mainly you against the course.  The other riders just happen to be there.  Now that the UCI races are so short, that has changed some, but when the races are approaching 3 hours or longer, you need to do your race and not someone else’s. Leadville doesn’t quite fit into that since there is so much drafting, but in general, you can’t ride other guys pace off-road.  It usually works against you.

I didn’t make it to the Leadville in time to see Todd win.  I rode from Silverthorne to Leadville on trails.  It was only 50 miles, but took me 4 hours.  I was super tired and was thinking that I was really glad I didn’t have to do another 50 miles that day.

I was there to see the Eriksen’s finish on their tandem and Matt Gilhausen, Tradewind Energy, tried to break the elusive 9 hour mark to get the big belt buckle.  I made it just in time.  They both finished within 10 minutes of the 9 hour witching hour, Matt just making it by 4 minutes or so.  It was a big accomplishment.  Matt was super done, which everyone is after Leadville.  He best statement was – “I’ve trained my ass off the last year and only rode 1 mph faster than I did last year.”  He says that, and it seems true, but riding one mph faster is a huge difference in bike racing.  Kent and Katie won the tandem category by a huge margin.  They are really great together on that.

I went up to Matt’s rental house after to catch up with all the Kansas guys.  Brian Jensen was there.  I hadn’t seen him since he moved out to Colorado.  He rode up Columbine early in the morning, before the race got there.  He said it seemed worse than he remembered.  I never could have made it to Leadville that early to go with him.

Today is Trudi’s birthday.  We’re going to head down to Arvada today to hang with Vincent for a day or so.  I hope the thicker air feels better.  My knee is so swollen that I couldn’t ride yesterday.  But it seems like it isn’t infected, at least yet, so that is a good thing.

Update on Kris.  He just called me.  He is in the hospital at KU med in Kansas City.   They admitted him last night. He has 6 broken ribs, broken collarbone, scapula and a collapsed lung, so a chest tube sticking out of his ribs.  He says it is weird that he is in so much more pain now that they are pumping him full of oral and injectable pain killers than he was yesterday walking around Topeka.  That must be a mental thing, right?

I need to get back home it seems.

Matt crossing the finish line in Leadville on Saturday.

Matt crossing the finish line in Leadville on Saturday.

Floyd's sign in front of his house in Leadville.  I don't think he has a license yet.

Floyd’s sign in front of his house in Leadville. I don’t think he has a license yet.

Matt was on the couch after the race.  I'm not sure he ever got up again.

Matt was on the couch after the race. I’m not sure he ever got up again.

Trudi, Michelle Jensen and Tucker waiting at the Leadville finish.

Trudi, Michelle Jensen and Tucker waiting at the Leadville finish.

This bear was hanging out at the house in Leadville.  We kept the dogs inside.

This bear was hanging out at the house in Leadville. We kept the dogs inside.

Tucker was interested in this huge fire hydrant outside the Starbucks in Silverthorne.  It cracks me up.

Tucker was interested in this huge fire hydrant outside the Starbucks in Silverthorne. It cracks me up.


26 thoughts on “Road Riders vs. MTB Riders / Leadville

  1. John S.

    Peter Sagan is a wildcard, though, as a former junior world champion in MTB. No, he doesn’t race MTB full-time, but his bike handling skills are among the best in the pro peloton.

  2. Tom Purvis

    Regarding your brother’s injuries and his surprise at being able to function for a day after the wreck:

    Couple years ago I crashed my moto out in the Utah desert (San Rafael Swell). Luckily I was with a friend, and we slowly got back to camp. I was able to ride my moto, even on some fairly technical descending. I was hurting, but functional. Rode home 8 hours to CO as passenger staying fairly still. Knew I was hurt badly, but able to tolerate the pain with a total of three advil which was the pain stuff we had. Got home in the evening and went to bed.

    In the morning as I was getting things done around the house, I started having severe and painful spasms. After the third or fourth one I decided to go to the hospital, mainly to get pain pills and muscle relaxers.

    Short story long, they checked me in after x-rays showed a punctured lung. MRI showed that I had six broken ribs, two in two places. I was in the hospital for three nights. I was on serious pain meds, because without them the spasms would become convulsive.

    Now relating this to your brother. My theory about why I was OK for almost 24 hours was that I was still relatively relaxed. Once my body started reacting to the pain, I think spasms caused my broken rib ends to move around, causing the lung to get scratched and the pain to increase exponentially, which caused more spasms.

    Don’t know if Kris had any spasms, but certainly it could be that broken bone ends started moving around cutting flesh after the time went by.

  3. numnuts

    I’ll have agree to some regards, but there are exceptions. We had a winter mtb race this past winter and a bunch of roadies came out and kicked the field. There was one that is on the silberprocycling team that beat out a pro mtb rider here. Many pro mtbers in town do lots and lots of road, plus trainer. Lots of trainer. Too much for my liking, I like training outside. What’s the point of being inside like a hamster ?
    The top mtb racers mostly just to stick to road now. And, then pickup the technical stuff 1-2 weeks prior to a mtb race.
    One of the reasons I quit mtb 100milers and stage races, the road riding was getting horribly boring.
    I like change and challenges, mtbing offers that. But, when racing its mostly all about cadence and wattage.
    I think Lance and Floyd Landis started off mtbing back in the day.
    Jeremiah Bishop is one great rider and so is Tinker. Its amazing how long they have lasted in the sport as many die a hard death at year 4 of competing. They say it takes around 10000 hours to build an athlete, but so little time they have to survive on the world stage.
    Mtbing is tough for sure – there is the technical aspects then there is the physical aspects of fitness. Its definitely a tough sport. glad to see its in the Olympics though..

    In regards to Frischknecht, what ever happened to him. Seemed to drop off the face of the earth after La Ruta (2007?)… he’s a great rider as well.

  4. numnuts

    on a side note, my ex gf spent the day with Floyd’s parents back in around 2008 at one of the hundred milers … kind of incredible that he came from a Mennonite back ground and took up racing.

  5. numnuts

    I think Steve Bauer’s son is in the Olympics this year as well, if I’m not mistaken? one should also note Pierre Harvey, he’s well known around town as he used to xc ski and race in the summer…

  6. barb

    Sagan is good, but consider his competition: Nino Schurter and Julien Absalon. Maybe youth will triumph over age, since Absalon is 35 and Schurter is 30. Arbitrary variables at best — in any case, it should be really interesting, especially since the race won’t be held at altitude.

  7. channel_zero

    Now that the UCI races are so short, that has changed some,

    Some? Shorter events on fast track, golf courses really, with a few technical features positioned/designed for broadcast.

    The starts still matter. The front couple of rows have a huge advantage.

  8. CurtloDude

    Have you watched the UCI races on I’ve watched the last 2 years. And I dunno, but the courses look far from golf courses to me. In fact, I keep reading about the XC race bikes coming out the last few years are slacker, with more suspension, and dropper posts, specifically because the courses are rougher and rougher. Short, maybe, but certainly not easier or fast track. The Olympics course looks like a joke, but the world cup? I’d say they are plenty brutal. I do believe a decade ago, the courses were looking pretty smooth. You’d see near bald treaded tires and whatnot. I love watching the world cup mtb’s on redbull. They really are so well produced, you feel like you are right there.

  9. Danny E

    Lance Armstrong did a NORBA race in 1999 after winning the tour. He was supposedly there to put a place between Steve Larson and Travis Brown, so Trek rider Travis Brown could take the championship.

    It’s worth noting that Lance is a pretty solid mountain biker, but after the race Lance mentions that it was the hardest two hours of his life.

    ”This is a real hard sport,” he said. ”Nothing in the Tour de France compares to this. It was much harder than I expected. It’s only a two-hour race, but it was the hardest two hours of my life. I have a lot of respect for these guys.”

    Steve, were you at this race?

  10. CurtloDude

    I remember seeing Floyd at norba races many times. Didn’t think much of it at the time, he was just another rider to watch. I mean, even Bob Roll did a few years on the mtb scene. He didn’t win if I recall, but he did okay. I love Sagan, but Nino? Abasalon? I think the best he could hope for, absolute best, is 3rd. And that’s a miracle. I think Steve is about right 5-10 maybe. Those guys are so fast, and I don’t mean leg speed, but over the rough stuff, it’s like they are floating on air. No matter though, I can’t wait to watch it Sunday, and the ladies Saturday, that will be a great race too.

  11. Andrew Ross

    Getting a chest tube is literally getting your chest cavity cut open, and a garden hose stuck in; to drain fluids, and to reinfllate the lung. So, yeah, today he’s in a lot more pain. The thing about rib fractures? It only hurts when you breathe.

  12. Taman

    Thomas Frischknecht name was on the result sheet of the Three Peaks CX race in Great Britian a couple years ago.

  13. joseph christian

    Thoughts on the womens winner getting 14th overall? 55 seconds behind Ted King?!?!?

  14. numbnuts

    an interesting thing to note though – after a while do races get watered down? La Ruta for example, used to be a brutal race, but they watered down day 2 and 3 so its not so brutal anymore… I guess to attract bigger crowds? Hopefully the NUEmtb races (100 milers) don’t go this route… love those races!

  15. Doug Campbell

    I thought of this exact race as well where Lance managed to hand it to most of us MTBers! Yep, Steve Tilford was there as I distinctly recall Lance getting called up right next to me, Tilford and others, 3rd or 4th row perhaps. The irony is that I finished somewhere mid pack-ish yet ended up in Doping control along with Travis Brown and Roland Green. I insisted they were wasting their time with me…

  16. Steve Tilford Post author

    Danny- Yeah, I was there. I wrote an article for Mountain Bike Magazine about it. Saying I’d been getting shit my whole career saying MTB racing was harder than road racing, then Lance coming to Mt. Snow and the finish picture is him laying on the ground saying it was the hardest thing he’d ever done. They even changed the course to make it an easier descent for him. It worked out for Travis, not for Steve Larsen. Or Lance really.

  17. Steve Tilford Post author

    Joseph-Thoughts? That chick hauls ass. I started up Powerline last year with her, all cramped up. She beat me by 20 minutes in the end I think. Some of that time I wasn’t moving. ????

  18. Steve Tilford Post author

    Doug-I believe they decided to call Lance up 15th, even though he didn’t have any points. I was there, next to Carl Swenson, who was next to Lance. With about a minute before the start, Carl just pulls it out and starts peeing, splashing on Lance’s shoe. I said something like “Carl, you’re making us look like barbarians.” I think he was used to it from ski racing.


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