20 Leadville 100s for Aspenite John Callahan | AspenTimes.com

20 Leadville 100s for Aspenite John Callahan

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Two thousand miles on a mountain bike.

Over 20 years.

Ten races over 20 years and 2,000 miles.

Aspen's John Callahan, former Olympic cross country ski racer and Nordic coach, completed the 20th annual Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race last weekend.

And he completed it for the 20th time.

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Callahan and two other mountain bikers were honored last weekend as the only three riders to have completed all 20 of the Leadville 100 MTBs.

Todd Murray, a police officer from Colorado Springs, and Ricky MacDonald, a Denver fireman, were recognized along with Aspen's Callahan.

"It started in '94 when I got a call from Roger Marolt," Callahan said. "He told me about a really cool mountain bike race … 100 miles in Leadville."

The concept was novel, to say the least.

"None of us had ever heard of a 100-mile mountain bike race," Callahan said. "So, we said, 'Let's do it.'"

And they did.

"Roger and I were the last two to roll off the line (in the first Leadville 100 MTB)," Callahan said.

But they didn't stay there.

They moved into the top 20 by passing people mile after mile.

"We had no idea of what to expect. Everything was new," Callahan said.

The event quickly became a tradition for Callahan, who kept going back to Leadville every year.

"It kept me training; kept me busy," he said of his summer routine.

"I never thought about doing 10 or 20," he said.

But the years and the races ticked by.

Equipment, of course, changed dramatically from the first race in 1994.

Records, of course, fell with regularity as cycling's biggest names took the Leadville 100 challenge.

Lance Armstrong set the record. Levi Leipheimer broke Armstrong's record.

Austrian Alban Lakata broke the course record again this year, finishing in 6 hours, 4 minutes, 1.8 seconds. It was his second consecutive Leadville 100 title.

Swiss rider Christoph Sauser was second, a minute back.

Olympian Todd Wells, of Durango, finished third. Wells recently was selected for the U.S. Mountain Bike Team headed for the World Championships.

"We had to go hard at the end. My lungs are really burning," Lakata told the Summit Daily News at the finish line of the race.

"We always work together. It?s important," he said. "Alone, it would not be possible."

Wells slowed late in the race.

"At power line, I reached my limit," Wells said. "I knew things weren't going to be good there, but I was hoping."

Lakata credited the efforts of the other two riders for his win.

He beat Leipheimer's previous Leadville course record by almost 12 minutes.

The course "was in perfect condition," he said

Sally Bigham, Lakata's fellow Topek Ergon rider, was the first female finisher in 7:17:01.86, also a course record.

Rebecca Rusch held the previous record of 7:28:06.

Alison Powers, a former ski racer turned bicycle racer, finished second among women in 7:21:57. Rusch was third with 7:35:27.

The morning temperatures were near freezing as nearly 2,000 cyclists rolled out of downtown Leadville.

"People were bundled up. It was slow to warm up," said six-time Leadville 100 winner and Topek Ergon team manager Dave Wiens, of Gunnison.

Murray led the threesome of 20-time racers. He finished in 8:10:47.

Callahan completed his 20th mission at the Leadville 100 MTB in 9:40:31.

Callahan was a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1990-94.

He competed in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France.

dstrode@aspentimes.com