Mineral Belt Mayhem

The third race in the Leadville Winter Bike series - the Mineral Belt Mayhem. On paper, it seemed pretty straight forward - one big lap around town on the Mineral Belt Trail with a few miles of groomed singletrack thrown in for fun. Logistically simple as well - starting and finishing right down town on Harrison Ave. Except for one minor detail - the Leadville Skijoring... Yep. A sport I've never heart of - horses pulling skiers through an obstacle course at full gallop - had completely taken over the down town area. Nick and I watched a little - just the small jumps, not the big course - and it was pretty cool. Lots of standing around waiting for five seconds of action as the horse came tearing past. And I think most people were hoping for carnage at the end of every jump... At registration, we found out that the finish would be us at full sprint down the skijoring course....

I didn't warm up as much as I normally do. The warm and mild temperatures of the day were quickly giving way to the freezing dark and the roads were getting icy. Nick almost wiped out hard while we were pedaling and that was enough. No sense in ending the race before it started! I took a few more laps up and down the skijoring snow, looking for the smooth lines and the ways to cross the horse area. Didn't know how important that would be later.... 

There was a "neutral" start to escort us to the isolation and groomed snow of the Mineral Belt. Knowing how much important being in the front group would be, I worked hard to stay there. And as expected, when the car pulled off and we hit snow, things got interesting. The leading men all sprinted away. One of the Leadville locals pulled along side me and looked to ride away like she'd done at the start of the second race. I wasn't having it this time. I took a few chances on the not quite as packed lines and powered away, propelling myself into the fading light. I knew I was in the lead, but figured she was just behind me. I couldn't let up, not with the thought of her right behind me. The starting climb was long - almost four miles, gaining over 500 feet. It was just long enough to start getting demoralizing as each bend revealed lights higher on the hill. Then finally - below us, far down in the valley. Time to start descending! 

The descent on the Mineral Belt was long enough to nearly give me the chills. Then we were climbing again. I knew it wasn't far until the singletrack section. I still had no clue what my gap was to second. I just wanted to get to the singletrack clear of anyone so I could ride my own course through the trees. Mission accomplished - I was a few hundred yards behind the guy in front of me and well clear of the lights behind me. And wow - this was my first taste of sustained groomed singletrack and I can see why the Cloud City Wheelers were so excited to get the groomer. It was awesome - a real trail winding through the trees, twisting and turning at every opportunity. Keeping speed was a challenge as I had to slow for many of the tight corners to avoid washing out in the snow or hitting a tree. I couldn't tell if the lights behind me were getting closer or not - I couldn't tell where anyone was in relation to me, the trail twisted so much. 

And then we were back on the Mineral Belt for the final push to the finish. Another long sustained climb to the top of Harrison Ave, with me just focusing on the lights ahead of me and trying not to look back. At the turn into Harrison, the guy in front of me paused, not seeing the little arrow directing us to the right. I told him we needed to turn and kept pedaling. Only to find him sprinting past me as we crested the hill... Well then. Given that he'd not been the most polite when he passed me - barely making the pass then slowing just before he pulled in to the track and sprinting when I repassed him to prevent me from getting around, I wasn't going to go down without a fight. Or at least a sprint to the finish. Happy I'd studied the lines in the skijoring course, I tucked in behind him. When I found my opening and sprinted around, he couldn't match the acceleration. 

Turned out I hadn't need to keep running like a scared rabbit on that last climb. I had a decent gap to second place. But I hadn't known that at the time and it's always better to keep pushing hard then wonder "what if." Huge thanks to Cycles of Life for hosting us this time and to Melanzana for providing the awards. Love the hoodie! My Exposure Lights Diablo and Six Pack performed flawlessly, lighting up the night. While I didn't have hot apples and cinnamon in my bottle, Skratch Labs definitely kept me hydrated in the dry two mile high air. Looking forward to the final race in the series on April 18th - but first... 

True Grit in St George! 

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