Monday, August 24, 2009


Ok, you'll find out soon enough this post has nothing to do with Lance. I agreed to come to a booksigning at The Book Mine in Leadville, mainly so I could join in the excitement surrounding this year's bike race. At the time, both Lance and Levi were going to be there along with a humongous crowd of bicycle enthusiasts. This seemed like a great place for an author with a book about bicycling. And, the bookstore was at the corner of the start/finish line.
Plan A called for me to drop off my display stuff on Friday afternoon, then wander about town and have dinner and drop into a few drinking establishments to mingle. My booksigning was scheduled for noon to whenever-the-crowd-drops, so I could also absorb the excitment of the morning crowd. This seemed like way too much fun.
Plan B came into play when I couldn't find a room in Leadville and the closest I could get was in Buena Vista, about 35 miles south. Scratch the after-dinner beers. Matter of fact, scratch the dinner in Leadville. In truth, the only part of Plan A that moved to B was dropping off my display stuff. Check-in time in Buena Vista was 3pm. Leadville was cold and rainy and not too many folks were out-and-about, so I went down the mountain much earlier than planned. Once there, I stayed. It was about ten degrees warmer and no rain. I ate at Quincy's and had a beer with dinner.
I really hadn't planned to drive up and see the start, but I awoke early, dressed, and drove to Leadville. My mountain bike was in the Tribute, in case I had to park so far away from the bookstore that walking would be a chore. However, I found a spot about four blocks from the start. As I locked the car and started walking, I saw a rider frantically opening his car and dragging out a rain jacket. Due to his actions I asked how long to the start, and he said "five minutes." Oh! I upped my leisurely pace and ran a block, getting to the start line with a minute to spare. Just enough time to drag out my camera, get a photo spot (but behind two rows of folks), and snap as the leaders rolled out. Unfortunately, my camera focused on the back of the heads in the first row, so while Lance and Dave and the whole front line are in the picture, they are all blurred. Phooey.
Race started, we had about six hours to kill before an estimated return. It was 38 degrees and damp. After all 1400 riders had departed I wandered by the bookstore, which had opened early. Carol, the owner, had an urn of free coffee and some folks were taking advantage of it, as did I. Long story short: I sold three books before 7am.
Emboldened by this early success, I hung around inside the bookstore talking to patrons. Around 9am I went for breakfast and dawdled as much as I could. It was still cold and wet and I had minimal cold weather clothing (enough, as long as I didn't stay out too long). Around this time the racers were encountering a bit of sleet. Since I didn't have a motel room to return to, I went back to the book store, and just stayed for another five hours.
Early talk had been that with optimal weather and racing conditions, the winning time might beat six hours. With the rain, sleet, and cold I expected six and a quarter, but Lance came across in 6:28, about a half an hour ahead of six time winner Dave Wiens. I had a great view of the finish, if somewhat distant, right out of the bookstore front door. Again, I took a picture of Lance finishing, but even with the telephoto plus enlarging on the computer, all you see is the fuzzy microphone thrust in his face.
So, I can say I was there, I saw Lance, and the beginning and end of the race. If anyone is considering going next year here is your Plan: Reserve a room early; be at the top of the first rise so you can catch the leaders plus the long peloton of racers and the town in your picture; then get in your car and drive to the Columbine climb, or one of the other mid-race viewing spots;then drive back for the finish. All of the locals tell me bad weather and the Leadville races go together. Be prepared for the worst.

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