Cycling Events: Leadville 100

What Would You Say To Lance?

Lance Armstrong at Leadville 100Phil Schweizer at Leadville 100
Lance Armstrong and Phil Schweizer at Leadville 100

Lance and Phil at Leadville

This last weekend I completed my 8th Leadville Trail 100. After years of rumors, Lance Armstrong showed up this year to ride. His appearance catapulted the event into the stratosphere of cycling events. The thought on everyone’s mind—how seriously will Lance take this event? If he shows up prepared, can he beat six-time champion Dave Weins? Last year Floyd Landis showed up. He came ready to race. He couldn’t beat Weins, but together they pushed the course record below seven hours. The speculation added to the already substantial excitement of the event.

But beyond the buzz of the Leadville riders’ community was the personal kick that few amateur riders will ever get. For the rest of our lives, we will be able to say, “I raced against Lance Armstrong.”

Several years of good finishes earned me a preferred start position with the top 100. As usual, I lined up six minutes before the start. Two minutes later, Lance took his spot in the front row next to Weins. The first three miles of the course drops slightly in elevation as we head out on a smooth black top with a police escort. During this section there is some jockeying for position, but with the police car at 30 mph the pack stays pretty much as people lined up. At three miles, the course turns onto a wide, rolling dirt road that has numerous potholes, rocks, ruts, and other surprises. This is where the action starts.

The pack is huge; everyone wants to move up in the next three-mile section so they don’t get bottle-necked when they hit the two-track climb at mile six. Things can happen fast and furious. There can also be sudden lulls as the pack of 1,000 riders compresses from behind and releases in front.

As we crested a small rise, the pack suddenly slowed. I saw a smooth line in the rough on the extreme right and bolted for it. After 40-yards of sprinting, I moved from about 150th into a 10 rider group at the lead. We were just a mile from the two-track climb where the big jam always happens. I was warmed up and feeling fantastic about my position. For once I wouldn’t get caught in the jam.
Sweet. It doesn’t get any better then this, I thought.  Or does it?

I looked to my left and there was the man in the yellow and black LiveStrong jersey. I was literally rubbing elbows with the legend. We were mixing it up. This was better than a dream; more unbelievable than a movie. As I held on, there was a compulsion building within me: I have to say something to him. It’s not like you get a chance like this every day. But what to say—that’s the question I wrestled with. Must not sound stupid. A little friendly trash talk maybe? Naw, he’d leave me in his wake. A compliment? Sure don’t want to sound like a goofy kid meeting his hero.

Finally my voice bypassed the brain and I blurted, “Lance, thanks for coming and racing with us.” A quick glance from the man and a “Sure thing” came my way. Like that, the encounter was over, but I was feeling way cool. The legend didn’t think I was from Mars.

Another mile and we hit the two-track. By then I had dropped a few places but still in outstanding position. Suddenly, the guy in front of me slipped on a rut and went down. I nailed him and the guy behind me nailed me, jacking my rear wheel. Instant jam up. Colorful language flew. I pulled my rear wheel off to figure out why it wouldn't roll. A quick fix and I was back where I started-- in 150th place. Well that’s racing. From extreme high to extreme low in seconds. But I’ll always be grateful that I had my fifteen seconds of fame, just me and Lance, exchanging pleasantries and racing bikes.

When it was all said and done...
- Dave Weins beat Lance Armstrong by almost two minutes, finishing on a flat tire.
- Both Weins and Armstrong smashed the course record, with Weins coming in at 6:45.
- Phil Schweizer finished in 53rd overall, fourth in the 50+ class, with a PR of 8:20.

By: Phil Schweizer, Koobi Founder and Owner