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Leadville Qualifier #2 Set for California

Riders cruise one of the many trails at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort in the Sierra Nevada.

The second race in the three-race Leadville Qualifying Series rolls out of Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort Sunday, and with it high expectations of riders looking ahead to Colorado.

Much of the 61-mile course runs above the north shore of Lake Tahoe in California’s Sierra Nevada, and once all is said and done 100 of the approximately 350 participants will have a chance at an even more difficult day on the bike — the Leadville Trail 100 high in the Colorado Rockies.

And while the Lake Tahoe Trail 100K is attracting riders from all over Northern California with various goals and ambitions, a fair share are gunning for a spot up in Leadville come Aug. 13.

“The people I’ve met out on the course really want to qualify for Leadville,” said Andy Buckley, director of Resort Skier Services at Northstar, who, by the way, is registered for Leadville.

• July 24, 2011
• Two 30-mile loops
• Total Elevation Gain: 7,083ft
• Low Elevation: 6,209ft
• Max Elevation: 7,297ft
• Fire/Jeep Road = 77 percent
• Singletrack = 20 percent
• Paved = 3 percent

But before the Rockies riders must contend with the Sierra. While the Tahoe Trail 100 may not pack Leadville-like 12,000-foot elevations, there will be some 7,000 feet of total climbing come Sunday. And before the naysayers knock Leadville and the qualifiers as more road bike than mountain bike races, Buckley said the Tahoe Trail course with 77 percent Jeep track and the balance singletrack isn’t one to underestimate.

“I think it will become known for its incredible beauty and challenge. You’re either going up or going down,” Buckley said. “We’ve added a pretty good chunk of singletrack and some of the doubletrack rides like singletrack.”

That said, the Leadville qualifying courses weren’t designed to ride like the Breckenridge 100, where most of the day is spent on tough singletrack. The idea is to make the races accessible to fit roadies or triathletes who may be taking on their first mountain bike race — essentially a hard-ass entry-style race, as Leadville Trail 100 champ Dave Wiens said in a previous interview.

“There’s this whole spectrum of, I guess, technical challenge within these mountain bike races that’s exposing more people to it,” Wiens said. “At the end of the day it’s just bike racing, and for the people who’ve been doing that for a long time they know how much fun it is.”

Wiens is also the technical adviser for the Leadville Qualifying Series courses, and Buckley said developing the Tahoe Trail 100 has been a joint effort.

“We looked to Dave for course perspective” as it relates to Leadville, Buckley said. “Dave looked to us for the knowledge of Tahoe.”

A week after the Tahoe Trail 100, the Crested Butte Alpine Odyssey wraps up the qualifying series. The Crested Butte course is likewise more Jeep road than singletrack trail — about 80-20, according to Andrew Cesati, Mountain Sports Division manager at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. The “roads,” however, will whack the lungs as riders will bag the 12,085-foot Gunsight Pass. The 62-miles will pack in more than 10,700 feet of climbing with the lowest elevation on the course 8,850 feet.

The first race in the series — the Wilmington Whiteface 100k — saw about 165 racers challenge the rocks and roots of Upstate New York on June 19.

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