Race Across the Sky (Leadville documentary) Review

Last night I caught the one-night-only screening of Race Across the Sky, a film about the 2009 Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. The 2009 race featured a battle between big guns, Lance Armstrong (everyone knows who Lance is) and Dave Wiens (a mountain bike legend and 6-time Leadville winner who beat Lance in 2008). The movie also follows the journey of several amateur cyclists with unique stories. The movie is not rated, but I thought it was suitable for children (would rate it PG).

The movie was bittersweet for me – I loved it, but I’m afraid it will now reduce my chances of ever getting in to Leadville. Why? How? Here’s a little history on Leadville and my history (or lack thereof) with Leadville:

Each summer Leadville, Colorado, a city rich with mining and Wild West history, is host to a number of challenging endurance events. The town is 10,152 feet above sea level, so endurance events take on the added challenge of dealing with altitude. One of the events, the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, is so popular that racers enter a lottery in January to secure one of the 750-1200 available starting line spots for the August race. The ride starts at 9,200 feet, with the highest point at the famed Columbine Mine aid station at 12,600 feet, and covers over 12,000 feet of climbing over the 100 mile course.

Leadville buckle

The goal of Leadville is to get a “buckle”. Racers that finish in under 12 hours get a silver commemorative belt buckle. Those finishing in under 9 hours get a gold & silver buckle. Many consider Leadville the toughest race in the U.S., so these buckles are literally & figuratively “worth their weight in gold”.

But to race, you must win the lotter. The lottery works like this:

  1. You send in your registration and a check for $240 before Jan. 31.
  2. Then sometime in February you are notified if you ”got in”
  3. If you do get in, your fee is not returnable and you can’t transfer your entry to anyone else (so you better be committed).
  4. Preference in the lottery is given to people that have competed in past Leadville’s (with those completing 5 or more times getting a guaranteed spot). The rest of the selection criteria is a mystery – unless you’re a 6-time Tour de France winner.

So this gets back to why the movie was “bittersweet”. I’m now more motivated than ever to earn a Leadville buckle, but I’m also afraid there will now be 10,000+ entering the lottery every year since the race is now part of popular culture.

So here is my plan:

  • Sign up for Leadville – probably as part of a team since “rumors” say that improves your chances in the lottery. All team members ride the 100 miles (its not a relay), but as a team you all get in, or no one gets in.
  • Get a new mountain bike designed/built specifically for Leadville (maybe a 29er hardtail?)
  • Race the Mas o Menos 100K mountain bike race in Big Bend, TX in February.
  • Ask for your help. How can you help? If you are reading this, take 2 minutes to send an email to Ken (the Leadville promoter) saying that you support my entry for 2010 (template below).

To: Lt100@leadvilletrail100.com

Subject: I support Ben Cooper’s entry for the 2010 Leadville 100 MTB

Ben’s obvious passion and dedication to doing this race has moved me enough to take the time to send an email on his behalf. I hope that Ben get’s in to the 2010 race because I look forward to reading about his training, the race and the “Leadville” experience on his blog https://texastailwind.wordpress.com


With any luck in 9 months I’ll be suffering on a mountain bike for 12 hours at 12,000 feet!

5 responses to “Race Across the Sky (Leadville documentary) Review

  1. I did the Leadville race this year in 11:05, it was quite a struggle making the Columbine climb. My word of advice is to put in lots of base miles in January thru May, then focus on intensity training, you’ll need it for the relentless climbs. If you can show up in Colorado 3 weeks before the race and acclimate you’ll do much better, I couldn’t do this and suffered immensely due to the high altitude. Good luck!

  2. Have you looked at doing the Ouachita Challenge in Arkansas or another NUE race prior to Leadville? Oauchita is a pretty gnarly trail and though it is not much altitude, you will get a good, hard 65 mile ride in the Arkansas hills. Good luck!

  3. There is one other way to influence the Spirits of the Lottery. Volunteer. Volunteers for other Leadville events get preferential treatment (still no guarantee). This tactic, of course is of no value unless you have already volunteered, so a lofty promise of volunteering next year will not likely be of much help (be careful here….Ken Chlouber is an experienced politician and can spot pandering in a heartbeat… you could end up in the dumpster for your misguided attempts to influence!). If you do volunteer, I highly recommend the graveyard shift at the 100 mile Run. May Queen aid station inbound after runners have been out there for over 24 hours is a sight and an experience. The organizers will love you for this, and you will never forget the experience.

  4. Have you done the race before? The course looks extremely boring to me. 100 miles of fire roads isn’t my idea of an exciting mountain bike ride no matter how “extreme” it is.

  5. Pingback: Leadville 2010 . . . all I can do now is wait « Texas Tailwind

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