Ten men to watch at the Leadville Trail 100

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The Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race returns on Saturday with an increasingly deeper field and the same 13,000,000 feet of relentless climbing.

This year, the 105-mile race is the fourth event in the Life Time Grand Prix series and has therefore brought even more runners to the starting line.

Read also: Life Time Grand Prix mid-series update: Mountain bikers win

In the men’s pro peloton, riders will line up with various goals for the day – from racing for points in the Lifetime Grand Prix to winning the LeadBoat Challenge to setting course records.

Defending champion Keegan Swenson is one rider who might be able to do all three. The 28-year-old will be back this weekend with another win on his mind and looks tough to beat, but with a close race in the Grand Prix there will be dozens of riders chomping at the bit behind him.

Here are ten men to watch.

Keegan Swenson – Swenson is the defending champion from Leadville and arguably the best runner in the country right now. He dominates the Grand Prix series after winning Sea Otter and Crusher in the Tushar and finishing second at Unbound, and the Santa Cruz HTSQD rider just defended the US National Championship title a few weeks ago. Not only is he good at this race, he enjoys it – a winning combination.

“I love Leadville, it’s become one of my favorite races,” he said. “The out and back style makes it really unique and super cool in its own way. Also, I really like the different running tactics at over 10,000 feet in elevation. You have to be really smart with your efforts up there .

Russell Finsterwald — The Specialized rider had an incredible 2022 season, finishing second at Sea Otter, winning the Rule of Three and just missing out on the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder podium by five days. He has spent countless hours and miles training for the Grand Prix and being in Colorado Springs for the past two months will have helped prepare him for the high altitude showdown at Leadville where he placed sixth. last year.

Lachlan Morton— Morton is good in this race. He was second behind Swenson in 2021 and third on the podium in 2019. Having recently won the Telluride 100 (arguably much tougher than Leadville), Morton posted on social media that “a fire of competition has ignited. kinda sparked in me a few weeks ago and I’m running with it. It will undoubtedly bring the flames to Leadville.

Payson McElveen — McElveen has what he calls a “solid history with Leadville”, although he has never been on the podium. Last year, he came close to fourth place. Plagued by bad luck at the start of this season, McElveen has shown a consistent return to racing with great results at Unbound and Crusher in the Tushar. He’s bubbling with excitement about racing his new Allied BC40 mountain bike, which he’s trimmed down to an incredibly lean 22-pound race weight.

Howard Grott— Only one person on this list has won Leadville three times, and he has won them back to back. The former pro Grotts won the 2017-19 editions of the race before hanging up his full-time racing kit. Last year he was third. This year, Grotts has regained an almost full racing schedule and is once again posting impressive results.

ColePaton – Paton is a bit of a wildcard for Leadville, as this will be his first appearance in the race, but he has a few things going for him. First, he lives and trains in Durango with other high altitude legends. Second, at the Mid South, he showed he had the engine and the tactical know-how to win a 100-mile race. And three, he’s a mountain biker. And, they win.

John Gaston — Gaston may not be a household name for cycling fans, but the Colorado athlete is a local legend. Gaston is arguably the best “skimo” ski mountaineering racer in the country and competes on the world stage in the winter. In the summer he tears up the road and trails near his home in Aspen, where he recently won the Snowmass 50. Gaston has the motor – and the altitude acclimatization – for Leadville, no doubt.

Alex Sauvage Wild is coming off of the overall and three stage wins at the Leadville Stage Race so he is well prepared for Saturday. He was 10th in the race last year and is having a pretty good run in the Grand Prix after finishing third at Sea Otter.

Alexei Vermuelen — Vermuelen has a lot to gain from succeeding in Leadville this year; he is currently only two points behind Finsterwald in the Grand Prix. He opted out of the national mountain bike championships in July to focus on long efforts at altitude. The BWR San Diego champ has a good history at Leadville – last year he was ninth in a super-stacked field.

Matt beers — the South African had a wild ride in the United States earlier this summer, lining up at BWR San Diego, Gravel Locos and Rule of Three. He finished second in BWR and Rule of Three. Now he’s back for LeadBoat, and if the altitude isn’t too much of an issue, Leadville should suit his masterful marathon ways.

Four more to watch (because it’s too hard to choose just ten): EF Education’s Alex Howes, Olympic cross-country skier Simi Hamilton, national marathon champion Stephan Davoust and new dad Pete Stetina

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