What you need to know about the LeadBoat Challenge

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This weekend is destined to write a long, dusty and painful chapter in the history of American cycling.

Two of the nation’s biggest off-road races – the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and the SBT GRVL – take place back to back, on August 14 and 15. With 1,600 ATV racers registered to take on Leadville on Saturday, and 3,000 gravel races in Steamboat Springs on Sunday, the high-speed cyclists will be spread across the Colorado high country.

And a handful of runners take on a challenge that spans both events.

Enter, the LeadBoat Challenge.

Read also: How a scheduling puzzle helped the Leadville 100 and SBT GRVL launch “LeadBoat”

In 2020, the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race has been moved from its usual date to a week later to host the city’s annual Boom Days festival. This pushed him on the eve of SBT GRVL which was far from ideal for every event.

Race organizers were concerned that back-to-back dates would force endurance cyclists to choose between events. However, when Kimo Seymour, Life Time’s senior vice president for events and media, joked that organizers should seize the opportunity to create some sort of stage race, the LeadBoat challenge was born.

“We figured out we had this problem,” Seymour said. VeloNews.I joked that we should make a deal where people could do Unbound Gravel in June and then come back and do Leadville and Steamboat the same weekend. Smarter heads prevailed and brought it down to LeadBoat.

Before both events were canceled in 2020, LeadBoat was run as an invitation-only event, with 50 locations – half of which went to male and female professionals and the other half to qualified applicants.

For 2021, the challenge was open to everyone.

According to Seymour, there will be between 115 and 150 runners participating in the Combined LeadBoat Challenge. Among the group are a handful of top runners from the gravel and mountain bike racing worlds. Amity Rockwell, Alison Tetrick, Kaysee Armstrong, Peter Stetina, Isabel King, Alex Howes, Payson McElveen, Lachlan Morton, Sarah Sturm and Eddie Anderson are just a few of the runners who entered the two-day challenge.

Here is a logistics breakdown:

Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike:

Distance / altitude: 104 miles, approximately 13,000 feet of vertical drop

Help: five first-aid stations, crews authorized in three places

Start: waves

Categories: global, age range, tandem, singlespeed, non-binary, 1000 year belt buckle, 2000 year belt buckle

Prize purse: nothing

SBT GRVL Black:

Distance / altitude: 144 miles, approximately 9,400 feet of climb (100 miles of gravel)

Help: six

Start: Mass

Categories: overall, age group, singlespeed, three timed KOM / QOM segments

Prize purse: $ 22,000, split between the top five men and women

While LeadBoat is technically an unofficial competition, the organizers of both races will be working behind the scenes to provide participants with a legitimately supported experience. Leadville’s belt buckles and finishing vests will be transported to Steamboat Springs as the Leadville finishes will miss Sunday’s awards ceremony. And SBT GRVL staff will be removing registration records from LeadBoat participants so they don’t have to worry about checking in when they arrive after Saturday’s ATV race.

Aside from a hit in the SBT purse, the only prize for LeadBoat is bragging rights, but no matter what medals and podiums, LeadBoat finishers will usher in a new chapter in racing history. And they’ll definitely need a massage and a beer or two afterwards.

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