I first rode into Leadville at the end of a century ride that included Independence Pass. After the decent from the summit it was a long, barely uphill climb the last 25-30 miles into Leadville. I was ready to get off the bike. Barely into town our route turned left and took us to the high school to camp out. I didn’t see much of Leadville and wasn’t impressed with what I did see. But, if the town wasn’t much to look at, the surrounding peaks were something to see. After a hot shower we walked to a Mexican restaurant a couple blocks away. The next morning we rode out of Leadville, partly on a bike path, and really didn’t see much more of the city.
A couple days later, after riding the last 2 legs of the route for the Copper Triangle, and into Frisco for a rest day, we passed through Leadville again on our way to Salida. This time we rode ride through the historic center of Leadville, and I was struck by it’s charm. What is now Leadville has been around in one form or another since gold was discovered in the 1860s, and silver in the late 1870s. Landmarks include the Delaware Hotel, opened in 1886 and open for business today, and the Tabor Opera House, billed as “the largest and best, west of the Mississippi” when it opened in 1879. I thought I wouldn’t mind visiting Leadville again.
After finishing CRMBT ’08 in Gunnison, Bruce and I headed back towards Frisco to spend Saturday night before heading home on Sunday. On the way we stopped in Leadville for dinner. While in Salida a fellow rider had mentioned dinner in Leadville at a place called Quincy’s. Quincy’s Steakhouse is a one-of-a-kind place that serves filet mignon Sunday-Thursday, and prime rib on Friday and Saturday. That’s it for entrees. You have a choice of how much meat you want, and you get a baked potato, bread, and a salad. We thought “when in Leadville..” and gave it a shot. The food was great, and the ambience was memorable.
After dinner we walked down the main drag and found ourselves at the finish of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. The course was 50 miles out and back on dirt roads and tracks, turning around at the highest point, 12,600’, with over 12,000’ of climbing on the day. Riders were coming across the finish line covered in mud, dead-tired, needing help just to get their camelbaks off. Finishers in under 9 hours receive a gold and silver trophy belt buckle, and if they get in under 12 hours, they get a silver belt buckle. We watched as the crowd cheered a couple riders pushing towards the finish line as the clock raced toward 12 hours. Two brave souls crossed the finish with about 30 seconds to spare.
We learned later that Lance Armstrong had ridden this race and finished in 2nd place. He rode neck and neck with the eventual winner, David Wiens of Gunnison, CO, until he told Wiens with about 10 miles to go “I’m done, go”. For Wiens this was his sixth straight Leadville 100 victory. In 2007 he beat Floyd Landis, and now Lance. He’s got some stories to tell his grandkids.
I guess first impressions can be deceiving. If I had never been to Leadville the 2nd or 3rd times I would never have known what a fascinating, charming place it is. Now I’m looking forward to seeing it again this summer.