Is the Leadville 100 good for Leadville?

I love bikes. I love races. I love people who are serious about both.

So, it seems like the answer to the title’s question would be fairly predictable.

As someone who has only been in the cloud city for three years, I know I’m not the most qualified to have an opinion on this matter. I’m aware of some drama and backstory existing behind the L100 race series, though, to be honest, I don’t really know any details. Thus, I’m working off of loose anecdotal data and “observational synthesis,” a term I’ve coined to refer to basically any column-worthy thought which comes into my brain while training.

What I have noticed descend upon Leadville each year in the second and third weeks of August is:

  1. more expensive looking bikes
  2. more expensive looking sprinter vans
  3. more old dudes with shaved legs that are leaner and meaner than mine

Now, working beyond my jealousy of all three of those components — this isn’t a great week for me to practice contentment – I’ve come to this conclusion: the Leadville Race Series is quintessentially Leadville.

Which is to say, it might be good for the town … and it might also run itself into the ground in 10 years.

To understand my premise, you have to understand a little bit about the history of Leadville.

Mining began in California Gulch in 1859 after the discovery of gold. By 1872, California Gulch, now more known for being a staple training route for the Seder-Skier.com Factory Team, was yielding more than $2,500,000 annually (which is equivalent to $57,000,000 in 2021, and thanks to inflation $890,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in 2022.

Three years after Leadville was founded in 1877, at the peak of the Colorado silver boom, it was one of the world’s largest and richest silver camps.

One historian wrote, “The outpouring of the precious metal from Leadville transformed the struggling Centennial State into a veritable autocrat in the colony of states. As if by magic the rough frontier town of Denver became a metropolis; stately buildings arose on the site of shanties; crystal streams flowed through the arid plains and the desert blossomed and became fruitful. Poverty gave way to the annoyance of wealth and the fame of silver state spread throughout the world.”

The city reached a peak population of 60,000 in 1893. From there, boom and bust cycles around mining would characterize the town. It was known for its lawlessness. People exploited what it offered, took what they could, and left when it ran out.

I’m wondering if at the end of the ages, we will see this with the Leadville Race Series. Are $475 registration fees the same type of swindling we saw from “Chicken Bill” when the Little Pittsburg mine was sold to Horace Tabor, a man so rich he built a balcony window so his wife could look up 7th street and see her hubby walking home … and know that it was time to start dinner …?

I could be wrong, but if you’re willing to track with me, my conspiracy theory goes something like this: the race series is on an unsustainable trajectory.

The cost of competing — from the race fee (nothing to say of the lottery process), the cost of staying in town for multiple days (nothing to say of getting here from out of state …and shopping at the Leadville Safeway, which hands out medals to people leaving that read “I survived the Leadville Safeway!”), and the increasingly expensive ‘norms’ when it comes to the quality of the bike, the expectation to attend for weeks to ‘acclimatize’ (Life Time has brilliantly capitalized on this with their training camps and stage races, by the way) — might be pricing out except the ultra-elite. You know, the type that could throw down 2, 3, 4 grand just to say they drove their $120k van to Leadville and pedaled 105 miles one day.

Now, I’m a free-market guy. The demand is high and L100 race directors aren’t having problems getting people to sign up. If they want to do the race this way, all the power to them. Further, the thousands who do come provide a substantial boost to the economy. Plus, you guessed correctly if you assumed I of all people would never have a problem with an influx of runners and bikers to my home for the month of August! Lastly, I love races, I love people who foster great races, and I love expensive bikes, vans and the grizzled-faced, shaved-leg, long-lasting lung-burning endurance addicts who ride and drive them.

So, what’s the problem?

Jealously? Maybe a little. Concern? YES….no, yes, exactly. I’m pretty sure that is it!

I think I’m “concerned” that L100 has lost sight of its signature races’ original spirit. In 1994, it was all about trendsetters doing the Tom Ritchey thing, piecing together some rough-terrain off-road routes into a single day’s ride. Mountain biking’s wild-west feel — 90’s colored outfits and skinny steel top-tubes, overwhelmed tires and heavy frames trying to do battle with remote forest roads — is hard to find amidst the sea of S-Works frames (ok….I’m jealous….and definitely would love an S-Works anything….do they make S-Works socks? I could buy those…).

Today, athletes whose shiny steeds are custom-built for each of the 20 gravel races they compete in annually show up in Leadville on carbon jet packs worth as much as your car — or more — and rocket around the course in six hours … and then ride in Steamboat Springs the next day.

Again, our world progresses, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Again, I like being serious about training and racing, and if I could, I would own said bike …

My point is, I wonder if the trend continues — and this is the only types of athletes the race attracts — if it will eventually peak and then burst. Just like the mines.

I guess the best way for me to summarize my biggest, most profound “issue” is to say this: if a serious athlete with a strong desire to compete in a race they’re capable of doing well in finds it nearly impossible to do said race, that’s a problem. And I think Leadville has that problem. I think other events do, too. Whether I like it or not, though, my complaint might be just that … complaining. Ok, fair.

What’s the solution? I’m not totally sure. But, in a perfect world, the race would continue as one of the most elite events in the world, retaining it’s high-end talent, top-notch support and energetic finish-line atmosphere. Somewhere in-between the Keegan Swenson’s and the lycra-wearing Jeff Bezos, though, would be a corral with Joe-Six Pack and the Seder-Skier …. and it wouldn’t be in wave 32…I don’t want to walk up the first climb.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not possible.

Maybe we could get another race together. Perhaps a fall 100-miler that uses a different route … a combination of singletrack, mining roads, etc.

{Goes on bike ride to solve world’s problems; conveniently finishes today’s column in the process}

Alright, I have Crested Corona LeadBoat all planned out. For those who are curious, this would be a self-supported four-day mega-ride of the 1) Monarch Crest, 2) Corona Pass – there and back – 3) the entire Leadville 100 route and 4) the entire Steamboat Gravel route.

It’s a 0$ registration fe— there is no registration. And no fun t-shirt for finishers either.

I think we’ve struck gold.

Published by rsederquist

My name is Ryan Sederquist.  I am a man of many passions and dreams, and this website is the outlet for many of them. I am currently teaching 5th grade remotely in the Adams12 school district in Colorado. I have been an elementary music teacher in Alamosa, Colorado, as well as a 7-12 band director at Lake County High School in Leadville, Colorado. I am also in the final, final stages of acquiring my M.S. in Exercise Science from Adams State University. In 2018-2019, we spent a year in Presque Isle, Maine as I coached the UMPI Nordic ski team. I currently live in Leadville, Colorado with my wife Christie, a special education teacher, and our border collie-German shepherd mix, Ajee. Even though it is not my full-time job, ever since I was a child, I had the desire to do one of three things professionally - pro sports, writing about pro sports, or being a radio talk show host. This website is where I pretend to do the latter two, and when I'm out pretending to do the former, I listen to podcasts, think about topics, and pursue my wild dream of someday, at some event, in either running, biking, or skiing, wearing a team USA uniform. This website contains articles, podcasts, pictures, and journal entries that have to do with my passion and involvement in endurance sports. Our flagship project is the Seder Skier Podcast, which talks mostly about nordic skiing and attempts to interview influential individuals in the ski world. I also rant about the Big 4 sports, with a lean towards Minnesota teams (Vikings, Twins, Twolves, and MN Distance Running). I sometimes try to write Sports Illustrated like 'feature' articles about athletes as well. In addition to a focus on sports, you will find the occasional article or show that discusses the intersection of theology and society ...which is ...obviously everywhere. We place these in our Skieologians podcast. The heading at the top of my homepage reads, "Search for Truth. Play with purpose. Strive for success." It is the underlying theme for my coaching philosophy, which can be downloaded from this site. Basically, I'm always looking to search for the truth in my pursuit of knowledge, whether that is knowledge regarding the best methods for waxing skis, training a quarter miler, or defending my Christian apologetic. Searching implies a dedicated pursuit for knowledge, and that is what I'm about and what this site is about, even if it is simply for providing viewers with an accurate description of a product. Play with purpose has to do with living out our passions because they are fun. I ski because its fun. I play music and teach young kids because there is joy in it. This blog is about celebrating the joy and fun that inherently exists in the pursuit of excellence and in the activities themselves. Finally, strive for success is built on the principle that true success is the realization that we gave 100% effort to become the best that we could possible be. It requires 100% in preparation, competition, reflection, mental effort, etc. If something is worth doing, I believe it is worth doing with that level of effort. Someday, I hope to race the Visma Classics - the entire season, wear a Team USA singlet, and have a job that involves writing or talking about sports or theology all day. If you know of any body I can reach out to to help me accomplish these goals, please email me at sederquistrd@grizzlies.adams.edu

One thought on “Is the Leadville 100 good for Leadville?

  1. Equinox 24 Hour Ultra Ski
    What a freak show!
    Make one RSVP phone call. No preregistration so as to discourage racing sick or traveling in bad weather. Donate whatever you want.
    $1000 cash prize.
    What are these people thinking?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: