Spoke Talk: Leadville is worth it | SteamboatToday.com

Spoke Talk: Leadville is worth it

Leadville is an amazing place full of quirks, oddities, beautiful mountains and challenging races. It possesses a character unlike most places.

The first time I visited, I was living in Vail with five college buddies while we prolonged entry into the real world and were loving every dirtbag adventure we had. After the snow melted, we began heading farther away from the swankiness — ending up in Leadville on one of those.

I remember hearing about some 100-mile mountain bike race. 100 miles? Here? With no oxygen? That is impossible.

I read further about the race during lunch, while one of my friends tried to convince me that Dave Matthews was dining right behind us. Not sure what I thought was stranger, a 100-mile mountain bike race in this place or Dave Matthews having lunch behind us.

That was in 1999, four years after the first LT100 MTB, which drew 150 entrants. This year, it will be close to 2,000.

You can gain entry by qualifying for the race from another race, entering and winning a lottery position or paying $2,500 straight up.

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There is a fair amount of controversy regarding these entry policies among athletes and the ease of "buying" your way in as opposed to "earning" your way in. However you choose to get in, it unarguably stimulates the local economy, so kudos to all.

For two years, I tried to get in by riding the Silver Rush 50. First year, no go. Second year, got it.

Those two summers and my days spent in Leadville opened my eyes to what a fascinating place it is. There were super athletes on $10,000 bikes cruising by skateboard punk rock dudes smoking cigarettes.

There was a pug on the roof of the house next to High Mountain Pies (I still have the picture) barking incessantly. There was a Lamborghini parked by a rusted-out Chevy pickup. It was bizarre and a complete clash of lifestyles. I loved it more every time I went.

As we all know, I won't be a skateboard punk rock dude or a super athlete with a $10,000 bike when I head to Leadville for the race, which I'm fine with. I'm fine with it, because I'm in my favorite mountain town, besides the one I live in.

Hopefully, that pug is still around, and maybe, just maybe, Dave is down the street having lunch again. Two things are guaranteed though — the mountains will be inviting, and the adventure will be as real as the town itself.

Try and put it on the list; it's worth it.

Jon Kowalsky is managing broker at The Steamboat Group, a Routt County Riders board member and race director for The Bear, a fatbike adventure north of Steamboat. Routt County Riders is the local source for grassroots advocacy and information for all types of cycling. Find the group at facebook.com/rcriders, routtcoun tyriders.org, or email rcriders@routtcoun tyriders.org.

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