Steamboat Springs Dan Smilkstein said returning to the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race is never the intention, at least not upon crossing the finish line.
“Every year, it’s a hard thing. You finish and you go, ‘God, why did I do that?’” he said. “But then you start thinking about how you can go faster.”
Time and time again — 10 times actually — Smilkstein has talked himself into showing back up at the starting line for the epic Colorado race. This year, he finished it for the 10th time, earning a belt buckle from the race for having racked up 1,000 miles of the competition.
He finished in 9 hours, 9 minutes and 43 seconds. He came in slightly short of his goal of breaking 9 hours but did tack on a few extra miles with one wrong turn on the course.
That mishap didn’t prevent Smilkstein, 62, from winning his age group.
“I was faster than I was when I first raced it 19 years ago,” he said. “It was really good and went really well.”
Smilkstein has had a front-row seat for the race’s growth. He said when he first rode, there were fewer than 150 riders. This year, about 1,700 rolled across the starting line, the field packed with adventure-minded riders from around the globe.
“It’s just become an absolutely epic event,” he said.
It was enough to leave Smilkstein happy with his finish, exhausted by his ride and already contemplating his next trip.
“I think I’m going to wait until I’m 70,” he said. “I’ve won my age group in my 40s, 50s and 60s. I’ll go back when I’m in my 70s. If I tried it every year, I don’t think I’d last that long.”
Smilkstein was joined in the race by a few Steamboat riders. Nathan Bradley finished in 9:03:51, Brian Heit in 10:09:09 and Bryce Daviess in 10:15:54.
Katie Lindquist and Kent Eriksen rode on a tandem and finished in 8:45:28, second place among tandem competitors.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com