Lance Armstrong returned to the Leadville 100 mtb bike race and simply crushed both his competition and the course. Not only did he set a course record by seventeen minutes(6:28), but he beat his nearest competitor by over twenty eight minutes(6:57). If there was ever any doubt that Lance could ride a mountain bike, no one is expressing any concerns after Saturday's race.
While many have claimed that Lance's amazing second place in last year's Leadville 100 was the impetus for his comeback, at the Tour this year, his coach, Chris Carmichael told me that Lance let Chris know about his comeback on July 22nd of 2008, over three weeks before the Leadville race. Regardless of the date and reason for Lance's comeback, the fact remains, the man is back and he is flying.
Lance used his new digs in Aspen as a training base for the Leadville 100; he was very clear in his goals for the race, win and set a new course record. Last year, he was a close second to David Wiens who set the then course record of six hours, forty five minutes(6:45). This year, Wiens was there to defend his title as was racing legend Tinker Juarez and a strong contingent of strong riders from Aspen and the Colorado front range.
There was pre-race talk that Lance would use pacers, much like in a running race on the track, to attempt to set the course record, but a cold rain which forced Wiens to stop and put on a jacket and a mechanical for Tinker Juarez saw Lance go solo for the last 60 miles of the 100 mile event.
This is a high-altitude race like no other. It starts at 10,000', climbs to a high point of over 12,000' and never drops below 9000'. Not only does a competitor need to be acclimated to the altitude, but any weather, like a good old Rocky Mountain thunderstorm, at this height almost certainly means that it will be cold.
Lance's next race is on some skinnier tires. He will lead Team Astana in the Tour of Ireland which starts on Friday.