Those of you who follow RideFatbikes.com regularly know that Twenty2 Cycles and Ben Welnak (one of the owners) are held in high regard here, in part due to the fact that Twenty2 Cycles makes some great fatbikes, expanding the ever-increasing offerings in the fatbike world, and in part due to their advocacy and sponsorship of the Triple F. So when we heard that Ben one the Leadville Mahem (the 2nd of 3 races in the Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Race series, we were excited to get the word out.
Ben’s blog, The Front Range Chronicles, is a good read, and can be found here. The article below is a guest post from Ben Welnak, and is a copy of the same article from his blog. If you like the article, be sure to check out the rest of the great stories on his site.
SUNDAY, MARCH 4, 2012
Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Race #3 – Mineral Belt Mayhem
|a lot of snow on the drive up to Leadville|
I rolled into town around noon and took a little time to get all my clothes laid out and bike ready to rock.
|i know…triple crank with no front der…oops, didn’t order enough and the one went on a customer’s bike. I’ll get that ordered up, but for tonight I’ll be rolling a 1 x 9|
Once I was comfortable with everything and it was ready to go, I headed down the street to the City on a Hill Coffee Shop to eat, hang out, and get some work done while I waited for the race.
On the way over I took my time and checked out the skijoring. It sure is something else!
|the Leadville, CO main street (the race finishes on this street!)|
Around 5:30, I started packing up my stuff at the coffee shop and headed over to the race sign up at the Cycles of Life Bike Shop . $20 later I got ready to roll. My legs were feeling a little sore, so i took a good amount of time warming up to get ready for the cyclocross-like 12ish mile, 1hour+ effort (the time varies a good bit from year to year depending on the snow conditions).
|just happened to get Number 22 to go on the Twenty2 Cycles Bully.. a good sign perhaps|
It was good to get back. After a hiatus from last year’s race, it felt good to be back, waiting in the coffee shop, looking out the window at like 1,000 people lining the streets. A lot has changed in those two years, wow. I’m definitely a different person than the last Mineral Belt Mayhem.
So, the race…
|We’re all ready to go.|
|Headed away from the shop down the main drag, Harrison Ave, on to 8th Street|
It started off with a neutral rollout from the shop down the snow packed street. Then once we hit 8th street, a cop continued to lead us out until we hit the Mineral Belt Trail just on the edge of town. The total starting pack was probably around 50 (waiting on the results as of writing this to get the actual numbers).
The Mineral Belt Trail is a 12 mile all-season trail designed for bikes and walkers. In the winter it’s a nicely groomed cross country ski trail for both classic and skate skiing. It was packed for the race, but there is only so much packing will do with a lot of new snow.
The cop pulled off as we approached the start of the trail and the race was on. Throughout the rollout, I wanted to stay near the front so I could take a stab at pushing the pace early on and see where I could take it. It was all good as I looked over and saw a couple people and the rest of the pack not too far behind. I didn’t want to be “that guy” by blowing apart the rollout, so I let off to not go crazy.
The race was on and you could hear the changing gears. I pushed the pedals, hit the trail first, and hopped up over the little ridge of snow. Crap…the chain jumped off. I had to stop and get it back on. I was now suddenly in chase mode only 1 minute into the race. Not good.
I hopped back on and put my head down. It didn’t take long to catch up to a lot of the people on regular mountain bikes because the snow was soft and it was hard to navigate. The leaders were not far up ahead, so I knew that if I could keep it steady that I could put it on over the last couple mile uphill section.
The snow didn’t get much harder. There was a small section on the right of the skate ski deck and a sliver of space next to the classic tracks that were enough to carry some float. But once you tried to venture out from those spots and pass, it was like hitting peanut butter. The tires would just punch through and drag.
Five of us continued up the initial climb in the lead. It was strung out maybe 30-45 seconds from the leader back to me at 5th. I stuck on the wheel of a guy on a 29er knowing that he’d probably fall off the pace, taking advantage of the extra packed tire tread. It’s just too hard to maintain a good pace, going up an incline on “skinny” tires, so it was only inevitable. I tried to pass him a couple times, but when I swung out to go by, the soft snow sucked me in. It wasn’t worth trying to put so much into it so early on. I got tired of following him though, so I finally just punched it and grinded through the slow snow.
The leaders weren’t getting out any further, so I just maintained a good pace and focused on catching the next guy. I got him and we see-sawed for a bit before I started pushing the pace and moving the Bully faster. We reached a downhill section and I let it rip with the second place rider in my sights.
After closing the gap on the second place rider on this section, I passed him on a short road crossing and the race was on to catch first.
I kept him in my sights, which was around 30 seconds up-I would continually pick sections that I saw him pass and then countdown, just to know where I stood. Knowing that the last couple mile would be a tough gradual uphill, I anticipated that he’d get tired given the pace he was pushing. After we popped out of a sweet downhill section through the trees, the 1st place rider was closer than I thought. He seemed to struggle through a rough patch of snow leading up to the Highway 24 crossing and I knew it wouldn’t be long. I hit a short road crossing and sprinted for about 20 seconds until I caught and passed him.
The last section was pretty loose and had some deeper snow. There was one spot that I decided to jump off and run. I took a quick look back and saw two lights – the third place guy was catching second. I looked back a couple minutes later and saw him pass. At that point, I stood up and pushed to the end of the trail. Once I heard the cowbells of the volunteers at the right turn onto Harrison, I knew it was done. I just pushed over the hill and got to sprint it home on the snowpacked Harrison Avenue for a 1st place finish.
I love the end of this race – racing down through the center of Leadville at night with a good gang of people hanging at the bike shop.
A good group of people hung around after the race, both at the shop, as well as the mexican restaurant next door. We were waiting to see how others were doing. Some people were have some big issues with the snow and took 2-3 hours to finish. As of right now, the results aren’t posted yet, but I will update this post when they are.
The Leadville Winter Mountain Bike races never disappoint. It’s a great chance to get out and gain a little race training, have a post race Oskar Blues beer, and meet some cool people.
Thanks to the Cloud City Wheelers for the opportunity to race in the dead of winter above 10,000 feet of elevation. Thanks to Cycles of Life for hosting this race. Groomed race course, cheap entry, plenty of schwag, free beer, and cool people – can’t really ask for much more.
The Twenty2 Cycles Steel Bully handled the course well. The “mountain bike-like” geometry really is fun. It allowed me to really rip the downhills with quick handling and was very balanced when I was slowly going up the hills. I really dig the sturdiness when I stand and put the power to the pedals. I know that I should feel this way, since I am an owner in the company, but I can’t argue with the result.
I won’t be hitting up the last race of the series on April 7th because I have some bigger and longer fish to fry – April 7th is AntiEpic day. So, it’s a bittersweet end to my Leadville races for the year. It’ll be a year until the next, but it also means that spring is right around the corner.