The idea of spending over eight straight hours perched on the saddle of a mountain bike is one that does not appeal to most of us, but for Drs. Erik Dorf and Greg Poulter, both of Breckenridge, and Poulter’s physician’s assistant, Cameron Youngblood, all of whom work together at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics, it’s a fun way to spend a Saturday. The three men got an early start this morning to join close to 2,000 others in the 20th annual Leadville 100 MTB race.
The famous 100-mile race kicked off at 6:30 a.m., at an elevation of 10,152 feet. The course climbs as high as 12,423 feet. All three hope to cross the finish line within eight or nine hours. Of the three, only Poulter, 40, a spinal surgeon, has raced the event before.
“Last year it was a big unknown,” he said. “My big concern was wether or not I’d finish. It’s a little more relaxed (this year) because I know what to expect.”
Youngblood echoed Poulter’s sentiments from last year. “My first goal is to finish,” he said.
For Poulter and Youngblood, cycling has been life changing.
“I didn’t own my first road bike until three years ago,” Poulter said. And in that time he’s credited cycling with helping him to lose close to 55 pounds. “Now cycling is more a way of life.”
Youngblood, 41, tells a similar story, with even more dramatic results. “I was way out of shape and super overweight.” Through cycling he said he went from weighing 220 pounds, a few years ago, to his current 140. Poulter was part of his inspiration to take part in the Leadville 100. “Working with Greg, you hear so much about it.”
All three men used road biking as their primary means of training for the big mountain bike race. They all qualified for the Leadville 100 by competing in the Silver Rush 50 earlier in the year.
Dorf, 43, a surgeon who specializes in arm and shoulder injuries, and whom Youngblood described as by far the fittest of the three, has had his sights set on the event for a number of years.
“I’ve been waiting 20 years to do this race,” he said.
He first got in to cycling after tearing his ACL in college. Cycling became part of his rehab and then, as a pre-med student, he raced for the University of Colorado. He heard about the race in its early years. “I was thinking, ‘That’s impossible.’ It seemed completely out of this world,” he said.
Intrigued by the endurance aspect he decided to finally give it a try this year.
And he feels ready. Earlier in the year Dorf finished first in the Grand Fondo open division of the Mount Evans Hill Climb road race.
That racing is potentially hazardous to the men’s ability to work as surgeons appears to be less of concern for Poulter and Dorf.
“I probably should have more (concern) than I do, but you have to live your life,” Poulter said.
“I don’t ride on the downhills as aggressively as I could,” Dorf said. “Going downhill is fun but the ground is unforgiving.”
The Leadville 100 MTB has become so popular that participants can enter only by finishing a qualifying race or through a lottery system.
All three men believe it’s their dedication to training that will get them across the finish line on Saturday.
Poulter said it best: “There’s no amount of attitude that will get you across the finish line, if you haven’t put in the time and training.”