Cyclers in the Sky

The Vail Daily News calls Lance Armstrong “arguably the best cycler of all time.” The occasion: the former maillot jaune‘s performance in the Leadville 100 on Sunday, where he finished second (by 1:56) to defending champion Dave Wiens. The winner broke his old record in the 100-mile tour of the Colorado Rockies (AKA “The Race Across the Sky”) by 13 minutes; the second-place Armstrong broke the old record by 11 minutes. Meantime, the third place finisher was 33 minutes back. Among our responses: Holy crap.

(Lest we forget: This is the second year in a row Wiens has schooled a Tour de France champion. Last August, he beat the bloodied, bowed, but not forgotten Floyd Landis. )

Beyond yesterday’s results, the Vail Daily News story makes it sound like Wiens and Armstrong were having some fun out there:

For the first half of the race, a herd of competitors remained close as well. But as the lead pack, which included both Armstrong and Wiens, was nearing the half way point, in which competitors faced a steep ascent up to the highest elevation of the course at Columbine Mine (12,600 ft.), the two cycling champions began to separate themselves from everyone else.

“It seemed the pace was slow. So, I just accelerated a little, and no one stayed with us,” Armstrong said.

Wiens and Armstrong were separated by a mere two feet coming down the descent, nearly five minutes ahead of the herd they left behind.

“It was probably about 35 miles just the two of us,” Wiens said.

The two took turns drafting and pushed each other to a quick pace.

There was no let up in either rider as Wiens and Armstrong both chose to stay on their bikes through a steep, technical ascent in an area towards the end of the race that competitors normally push their bikes up.

“I would have never have done that,” Wiens said of scaling the area called Power Lines. “ … That was Lance’s idea.”

It was soon after that ascent that Wiens felt that his hope for winning was slowly vanishing the longer that Armstrong stayed with him.

“If Lance and I come into town together, there is no way I win that race,” he said.

Fortunately for Wiens, he soon didn’t have to worry about that, as Armstrong’s seemingly endless stamina finally ran out.

After a crash by Armstrong a few miles later, the race was all but over.

“Just not thinking,” Armstrong said of the crash, “too much speed going into a corner.”

Even after accomplishing an Armstrong-like feet of consecutive wins, Wiens was careful about comparing himself to arguably the best cycler of all time.

“The guy I raced today isn’t the same guy that won the Tours,” Wiens said, acknowledging that Armstrong has been retired since 2005. “So, I don’t put myself in that category.”

OK–the mountain “cyclers” are now finished with Leadville. Next weekend, the runners do the trail. We know one person whom we could imagine giving that a try.

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