I’ve gotten several questions from racers asking about walking vs. riding the Columbine Mine section of the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. I’ve told them that walking the steepest sections of the climb may not hurt your overall race time and may help.
How can walking during a mountain bike race make you faster?
Doing any ultra-distance race that takes some 9 to 12 hours for 86-percent of the field, is a balancing act for the majority of riders. Many of these races, Leadville included, have cut-off times at various aid stations. You have to be fast enough to make the cut-offs early in the race without that speed costing you so much that you blow up later in the race.
The 2009 race was an unplanned lesson in walking for me. I ended up walking more the Columbine Mine section that I had done in past years. There was really no choice because the road was rock and rutted, there were riders coming down the mountain at high speeds (using the left side of the road), and everyone in front of me was walking. There was no easy way to pass people without spending loads of energy and risking a crash. So I walked and pushed my bike.
When faster walkers wanted by, I happily let them go. If people were trying to ride through that mess, I gave them as much room as possible. When others were grumbling about walking, I just kept thinking…most speed, least cost. It paid off.
Below is a chart that summarizes my past five races:
Twin Lakes I
Twin Lakes II
Turn around at top of hill
Turn around bottom of hill by old building
Added 1mi to course, single-track, TWI, PII affected
The top line for each year is the split time, the bottom line is accumulated total through that aid station.
Though I walked more of the mine in 2009 than the previous year, I was at higher intensity for less time on that climb. I think that helped me cut half an hour off the back end of the race because I was able to ride a faster average speed coming from Pipeline II to the finish line.
If you are forced, or choose to, walk some of the steep sections at high altitude; perhaps it will work in your favor?