Wiens edges Armstrong in Leadville 100
LEADVILLE, Colorado Fans lined the intersection of 6th St. and Harrison Ave. in downtown Leadville before the sun even fully rose, all awaiting what was billed to be an epic battle between David Wiens and Lance Armstrong.The two cycling legends didnt disappoint, as they went wheel-to-wheel for nearly the entire race, causing everyone, including Wiens, to wonder whether the five-time defending champion could hang with the seven-time Tour champion.I never even considered that I would win, Wiens said just after finishing. When youre riding with Lance and you cant shake him, and he cant shake you, youre not going to win that race. At least, I didnt think so.But with just less than 10 miles from the finish line, Armstrong pulled up and all but conceded the race to Wiens.We climbed up till Turquoise Lake and as soon as we hit the dirt, he said, Im done, go, Wiens said, still stunned nearly an hour later.At the end, I realized that I was totally cooked, Armstrong said. … He said, Come on, and I just said, No, I cant.Though both riders finished more than 33 minutes ahead of third place, it was Wiens who rode over the finish line with an arm raised.Going into this week was surreal, Wiens said. … It was Leadville, and Im a guy from Colorado, and, oh, theres Lance Armstrong. … It feels good.Wiens finished the 100-mile race in six hours, 45 minutes and 45 seconds to capture his sixth-straight title and break his previous race record by more than 13 minutes.Armstrong finished just under two minutes back at 6:47:41.Manuel Prado (7:20:49), of California, rounded out the podium in third.Those guys were really strong, and I had to fight hard to go where I did, Prado said of the two top finishers. … It is just a mental challenge trying to stay in it.The race seemed destined for a one-on-one showdown from the moment the riders set out at 6:30 a.m.Next to one another at the starting line, Armstrong and Wiens rode within shouting distance of each other for the next 90 miles.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 Lances 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 didnt have to worry about that, as Armstrongs 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.Though the main attraction lived up to its billing in the 15th running of this race, the top female finisher came as much more of a surprise… at least, to her.I am just shocked, Susan Williams of Littleton said after crossing the finish line in 8:40:55. I just wanted to get under 10:30. I just cant believe how this turned out.It was Williams first time riding in the Leadville 100, and she knew little of what toexpect but stayed focused on what she though her strengths were.Going up Columbine helped, she said. Longer Climbs was my advantage.Saturdays start in Leadville, showed why Wiens considers the Race Across the Sky to be the peoples race. Amateur riders, both male and female, young and old, started in the same place as a cycling legend.It is great that [Armstrong] came out and did this race and raced with all the people, Wiens said. I appreciate that. He’s a class act out there, it was fun.Asked if Wiens would want a rematch of Saturdays battle, he hesitated.Um… I want to fire the shotgun next year, he said, referring to the gun used to signal the start to the race.However, Armstrong hinted at a possible return next year to Cloud City. … I would love to be back, he said.And, without a doubt, the rest of the few hundred people standing around the finish line would love that as well.Bryce Evans can be reached at (970) 668-4634 or at email@example.com.