RDC’s “FitChick” earns age-group third at the “Race Across the Sky”.
August 9, 2014. Approximately 2,000 racers converged on the small historic Colorado mining town of Leadville, essentially doubling it’s normal population of roughly 2,500, to compete in the 21st edition of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. In 2009, the race became known as the “Race Across the Sky“, after a short movie with that name was released chronicling Lance Armstrong’s win of the event and his improbable setting of a new course record that year. The 103 mile course takes riders from a starting elevation of approximately 10,152 feet to the Columbine’s elevation of 12,424 ft, where riders are turned around to head back to Leadville. Leadville never seems to hold much attraction to the typical National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series mountain bike racer, in part due to it’s reputation as a minimally-technical “roadie” course that is held at altitude. Despite this, the Leadville 100 has attracted many super-stars of our sport to contest it’s peaks over the years, so much so that the race has evolved to iconic state, virtually on every endurance riders bucket-list.
Rare Disease Cycling rider Selene Yeager threw her hat in the ring for this year’s event on the brand new not-yet-in-production 2015 Specialized ERA, a women’s specific full suspension 29er.
“I’ll confess that I’ve never really had any interest in doing Leadville.” recalls Yeager about past thoughts of including Leadville as a race in her season. “I just didn’t really believe the hype. It also has a bit of a reputation as a “roadie course,” so I didn’t think it would be interesting. Plus it’s an out and back, which never really appeals to me. So yeah. Leadville. Whatever.”
“I was wrong. Really wrong.” confesses Yeager. “Leadville is actually all that it’s hyped to be and maybe then some—brutally hard, amazingly beautiful, very humbling, a bit of a road race, more of a mountain bike race than you think, and the kind of experience that seeps under your skin and becomes a little part of you.”
“It’s the only race I’ve ever done that has a downhill start, which is as sketchy as it sounds, and always leads to a crash or two that can take you out before you even start.” remembers Yeager about her start. “Survive that, and before you know it, you’re onto the first climb and the day is on in earnest.”
Despite disciplined pacing, Selene feeling as though the climbs were endless, started to come unglued at around mile 85. “I was convinced I had blown my sub-9 goal and as everything started to hurt and shut down, I wasn’t sure I cared.” recalls Yeager of that dark final hour. This is around the point where Selene found Rebecca Rusch, Specialized Bicycle sponsored athlete and her 2013 Brazil Ride partner. “She rolled up and I was transported back to Brazil where we’d pushed so far beyond our limits day after day.” recounts Yeager. “Suddenly 7 or 8 more miles seemed easy. We hit the pavement and I could see it… the red carpet and the finish line. I wanted nothing more than to hit that red carpet and be done.”
Yeager finished the brutal day in eight hours and thirty nine minutes, good enough for 3rd place in her 40-49 age group for women, the age group of most of the top women finishers.
When later asked about how the new women’s specific Specialized ERA performed, “It was awesome. Very light and responsive.” Yeager remembers about the bike. “It’s women’s specific geometry. More like a Fate than an Epic.”.
The ERA, which comes with a Brain equipped version of the new inverted Rock Shox RS1 suspension fork, is apparently very good on small-bump compliance. “I LOVED it. Very, very supple.” exclaimed Yeager about the fork. “Reacts perfectly to the ground without transfering any unwanted feedback into the rider.”
Despite being extremely prepared for the event and riding an awesome bike during it, Yeager was completely spent at the finish. “I stopped dead and slumped over my bars as depleted as I’ve ever felt…and as satisfied too.” said Yeager. “I did it. I finished the race and got the big belt buckle.”