Lance Armstrong finished the Leadville 100 mountain bike race this past Sunday in record-shattering time, dethroning local six-time champ Dave Wiens. Then, again in record time, criticism started rolling in from various corners of the bike racing community.
Armstrong's most high-profile critic was USA Today cycling columnist Sal Ruibal. In what read as a half-joking Sunday evening post to his blog, he wondered aloud why a sponsored professional—especially one from Texas—was sandbagging in a local mountain bike race (about one-third of finishers were Coloradans)? And hadn't two pro riders for Trek—Matt Shriver and Travis Brown—given Armstrong a road race-style lead-out, pushing the pace upwards of 20mph during the opening dirt road portions?
What's clear, barring all other considerations, is that Armstrong was the strongest rider in Sunday's race. He swiftly rode away from a small pack of leaders at the beginning of the final, grueling climb to 12,600 feet elevation at Columbine Mine, and reached a turning point there: wait for the others, or solo the final 60 to 65 miles? A cold, 40-degree rain convinced him that pushing the pace in a solo effort was the best option. "I wanted to ride hard because I was starting to freeze," Armstrong said later.
In the end, he finished nearly half an hour ahead of the 2nd place Wiens, blasting through the non-technical 100-mile course in a time of 6:28.50. Wiens, who beat Armstrong last year and pro cyclist Floyd Landis in 2007, took the loss in stride. Shortly after he crossed the finish line, a reporter asked Wiens how it felt to come in second. "Well," quipped the Colorado native, "he is Lance Armstrong." —Peter Koch
Check out video of Lance's ride here.