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What you need to know about the LeadBoat Challenge

Colorado's two biggest bike races - the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and SBT GRVL - are happening back-to-back. For about 120 riders, that means an epic weekend of racing is on tap.

This weekend is bound to write a long, dusty, and sore chapter in the history of U.S. bike racing.

Two of the country’s biggest off-road races — the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and SBT GRVL — are happening on back-to-back dates, August 14 and 15. With 1,600 MTB racers registered to tackle Leadville on Saturday, and 3,000 racing gravel in Steamboat Springs on Sunday, cyclists traveling at high speeds will be spread throughout Colorado’s high country.

And a handful of riders are taking on a challenge that encompasses both events.

Enter, the LeadBoat Challenge.

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

In 2020, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race was moved from its usual date to one a week later to accommodate the city’s annual Boom Days festival. This pushed it to the day before SBT GRVL, which was less than ideal for each event.

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

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

Before both events were canceled in 2020, LeadBoat was organized as an invite-only event, with 50 slots — half of which went to male and female pros and the other half to qualified applicants.

For 2021, the challenge was open to anyone.

According to Seymour, there will be anywhere between 115 and 150 riders racing the combined LeadBoat Challenge. Among the group are a smattering of top riders from the worlds of gravel and MTB racing. Amity Rockwell, Alison Tetrick, Kaysee Armstrong, Peter Stetina, Isabel King, Alex Howes, Payson McElveen, Lachlan Morton, Sarah Sturm, and Eddie Anderson are just some of the riders who have committed to the two-day challenge.

Here’s a logistical breakdown:

Leadville Trail 100 MTB

  • Distance/elevation: 104 miles, approx 13,000ft of climbing
  • Aid: five aid stations, crews allowed at three locations
  • Start: waves
  • Categories: overall, age group, tandem, singlespeed, non-binary, 1000-year belt buckle, 2000-year belt buckle
  • Prize purse: none

SBT GRVL Black

  • Distance/elevation: 144 miles, approx 9,400ft of climbing (100 miles of gravel)
  • Aid: six
  • Start: mass
  • Categories: overall, age group, singlespeed, three timed KOM/QOM segments
  • Prize purse: $22,000, split between top five men and women

While LeadBoat is technically an unofficial competition, organizers from both races will be working behind the scenes to give participants a legitimately supported experience. Belt buckles and finisher jackets from Leadville will be transported to Steamboat Springs since Leadville finishers will miss Sunday’s awards ceremony. And SBT GRVL staff will pull LeadBoat participants’ registration packets so that they don’t have to worry about checking in when they arrive after Saturday’s MTB race.

Aside from a shot at SBT’s prize purse, the only award for LeadBoat is bragging rights, but regardless of medals and podiums, LeadBoat finishers will carve a new chapter into the history of the races. And they will definitely need a massage and a beer or two afterwards.