Locals ready to take on Lance in Leadville 100
August 9, 2008
LEADVILLE, Colo. ” It’s a bar story that could get plenty of mileage: Boasting about beating Lance Armstrong on two wheels.
Among other things, that is what is at stake for some battle-tested locals entering Saturday’s Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. Although, when asked about that scenario Thursday, 25-year-old Aspenite Max Taam said he was only hoping to improve on his 2007 finish.
It’s a typical Taam response, considering the local ski patroller’s penchant for modesty.
Case in point: Last year Taam said he was only hoping to finish when he entered his first Race Across the Sky. He ended up fourth overall behind five-time defending champion Dave Wiens, former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis and Vail adventure racer Mike Kloser, who, along with Wiens, is in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
Afterward, Wiens told Taam that he foresaw him winning the race one day. Taam said he doesn’t believe that day will be today, however.
“It’s just great to have fast competition,” said Taam, who went on a few training rides with Armstrong and fellow locals Kevin Willson and Ted McBlane in the weeks leading up to the race. “I always hope for the best competition as possible.”
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All Taam would say about Armstrong’s fitness was that the seven-time Tour de France winner looks “really strong” and that “he’s going to do really well.”
“I don’t know what his particular goal is,” Taam said. “Hopefully, I’ll be up there, but I’m not expecting to be that high. I surprised myself last year.”
Willson, who won in Leadville in 2000, said he doesn’t harbor any grand visions of beating the great Armstrong, or even Taam for that matter.
“This is the least I’ve ever rode in my whole life before doing it,” said the 50year-old transplant from England who owns both Wienerstube restaurants in Basalt and Aspen and the Woody Creek Tavern. “I just want to finish it. I was doing good with my training up until July 4, then I was so busy I took a whole week off. I’ve never done that.”
While Armstrong said in an interview with The Associated Press that he doesn’t expect to win today, Willson said that he fully expected Armstrong to be a worthy foe for Wiens, just as Landis was last year.
“Obviously, he’s doing this to win,” he said. “Before, when he signed up, I thought he was just doing it for fun. But as far as I can see, he’s certainly in good shape to win it.”
With Landis pushing him, Wiens turned in his strongest 100 performance to date last year, breaking the course record by nearly seven minutes. His time of 6 hours, 58 minutes and 47 seconds marked the first time anyone had finished the race in under seven hours.
Willson did say, when it came to handicapping the race, that experience is key. It’s one of the reasons he feels confident he’ll be able to finish the race, despite his limited training.
“It’s a super tough race,” he said. “I heard that after he did it, Floyd said that it was tougher than any stage of the Tour de France. … I certainly know the course. I know where the aid stations are, I know how to do the nutrition, what to eat, what not to eat. All of that is a great advantage. I think even Max learned a lot from me last year.”
“I know the course so much better now, just in terms of knowing every nook and cranny,” he said. “It also helps to just sort of know how the race plays out. I feel like I raced a pretty smart race last year, but I know that I lost most of my time on the last quarter of the race. I think I can definitely improve on that.”