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Gravel

Sarah Sturm, Pete Stetina win the LeadBoat Challenge

Some 100 racers did Leadville on Saturday followed by SBT GRVL Sunday. The lowest cumulative times won the LeadBoat Challenge.

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Two high-altitude Colorado races. One quasi-informal competition. Sarah Sturm (Specialized-Rapha) and Pete Stetina won the first soon-to-be annual LeadBoat Challenge, a lowest cumulative time contest including the Leadville 100 MTB on Saturday and STB GRVL on Sunday.

Unlike a normal stage race, however, where everyone in the race is doing all the stages, for LeadBoat only about 100 people were doing both events.

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Colin Strickland, who like Ted King and Ian Boswell was ‘only’ doing SBT GRVL, joked about the one-day racers being “shameless fresh-leggers.”

Stetina finished fourth at Leadville and third at SBT to take the first-ever men’s LeadBoat title — and the embroidered jean jacket to go with the top podium spot.

“I was rough the first three hours,” Stetina said of racing SBT GRVL the day after Leadville. “Every time I stood up — lactate. Then I slowly came around and used every ProTour trick I knew of hiding and sniveling on the wheel to survive. Finsty [Russel Finsterwald] was hitting me all day for the LeadBoat title, because he was just three minutes behind Payson [McElveen] and me.”

McElveen suffered some wheel issues that removed him from the lead group.

“It was really unfortunate that Payson had wheel issues that took him out of contention,” Stetina said.

LeadBoat men’s podium: Pete Stetina, Russell Finsterwald second, Payson McElveen third, Alex Howes fourth.   Photo: Ben Delaney 

In the women’s race, fourth-place LeadBoater Kaysee Armstrong (Liv Racing) said the event was a crazy idea.

“I have never been emotional at finish before, so that was cool,” Armstrong said. “You go through so much. Leadville is something that people train for all year. So we did that, and then we were like, let’s travel to Steamboat, not sleep, and then do SBT GTRVL.”

Armstrong said the top four women who ended up on the LeadBoat podium didn’t ride together at Leadville, but all ended up together at SBT GRVL.

“Finishing together you have the mutual emotions, and we also picked up some other ladies who didn’t do Leadville but were also emotional about Steamboat,” she said.

Winner Sarah Sturm said that when she first heard about the concept, so thought she had to do it “because it was so crazy sounding.”

“I had done each of those back-to-back weekends in 2019,” she said. “This is kind of a sweet way to one up it.”

Sturm said SBT GRVL felt hard, like she needed another hour to warm up, but that she felt confident in that she had 18 minutes on her closest competitor, Melisa Rollins.

Will she do it again next year?

“I really want to say no, but I probably will.”

LeadBoat women’s podium: Sarah Sturm, Melisa Rollins second, Jasmin Duehring third, Kaysee Armstrong fourth, Kristen Legan fifth. Photo: Ben Delaney

Ryan Cross, marketing manger for Leadville owner Life Time, said LeadBoat was “definitely a success.”

“We saw some of the top off-road cyclists in the nation competing in two of the biggest events in the county. It was really cool to watch the dynamic; it seemed like they were going all out yesterday and really suffering today. Alex Howes proved that you can recover and show up and win a huge national-level race the next day.”

At the finish in Steamboat, Stetina was appreciating the title but still wondering how it was perceived.

“It is really cool to win the inaugural LeadBoat,” he said. “I don’t think anyone quite knows if it’s more prestigious or less than winning Leadville or Steamboat. But it’s important to me. I’m just going to call it the bad ass award or the dumb ass award. It’s somewhere in the middle.”