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Durango cyclists ready for Leadville 100

McElveen, Grotts among the favorites
Sofia Gomez Villafane, pictured winning the Garmin Unbound Gravel 200-mile race earlier this season in Kansas, will compete Saturday in the Leadville 100. Villafane currently leads the Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda. (Courtesy Life Time)

The Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race will take place Saturday, and it will be an important race for many cyclists from Durango who have been competing in Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda.

The Stages Cycling Leadville Trail 100 MTB will be the fourth event out of six in this year’s Grand Prix.

Currently, Fort Lewis College graduate Sofia Gomez Villafane sits in first for the women’s division followed by Haley Smith, just two points behind. Another Durango cyclist, Sarah Sturm, is in third place in the overall standings. Emily Newsom, who won’t be at Leadville but who recently raced in the Tour de France Femmes, sits in fourth place.

On the men’s side, Keegan Swenson sits in first place for the men’s division, 15 points in front of Russell Finserwald with Alexey Vermeulen in third. Swenson also won the USA pro mountain bike cross-country national title recently for the third straight year, edging Durangoan Christopher Blevins.

Payson McElveen, pictured racing in the Garmin Unbound Gravel 200-mile race this summer in Kansas, will be one of the favorites at this weekend’s Leadville 100. (Courtesy Life Time)

Payson McElveen of Durango is always a favorite at Leadville, and a short video was just released about his journey to come back from injury earlier this season. In March, McElveen took the heaviest fall he has ever taken, breaking his clavicle and hand. These injuries forced him to miss the Sea Otter Classic, but he bounced back and scored a ninth-place finish at Unbound Gravel 200 in Kansas. At the most recent race on the tour, the Crusher in the Tushar, Cole Paton led the Durango contingent with a second-place finish, finishing behind Swenson, while McElveen finished fifth and Howard Grotts finished eighth. Sturm finished third in the women’s race.

McElveen is 13th in the overall standings, one spot behind Paton. Grotts, one of only two cyclists that have won the Leadville 100 three times in a row, is in 21st place in the men’s standings while Stephen Davoust is in 23rd.

Grotts finished third at Leadville last year, one spot ahead of McElveen.

The Leadville 100 touts itself as “the race of all races,” featuring 100 miles “across the high-altitude, extreme terrain of the Colorado Rockies.”

The mountain bike race starts at 10,152 feet and climbs all the way up to 12,424 feet.

The following week on Aug. 20, the Leadville Trail 100 Run will take place.

Leadville’s 100-mile run started in 1983 and was one of the original ultramarathons in the United States. The Leadville 100 mountain bike race started a few years later in 1994 and has since become one of the best known marathon mountain biking events.