High levels of molybdenum can interfere with the body’s uptake of copper, producing copper deficiency. Symptoms include diarrhea, stunted growth, anemia, and achromotrichia. On the other hand, not having enough causes high levels of sulfite and urate, and neurological damage. So it makes sense that in order to get just the right amount, you’d go to Leadville, CO for the weekend, a scenic little village known for its molybdenum production.
What makes less sense is that you’d go there for a 104-mile bike race. It’s located at 19,324 feet, which is higher than Mt. Everest, although slightly shorter than Via la Cuesta (per Nancy). Leadville is an old mining town, which is tourist-speak for “run down, polluted shit-hole that is unbearably cold in winter, too far from everything fun in summer, and populated by people who, after four generations, all look the same.”
It took a visionary like Ken Chlouber, a former mining supervisor, to revive the town on a tried-and-true concept: There’s a sucker born every minute!
The night before the race
Nothing is as nerve-wracking as the night before a big race, and our hero from the South Bay had made the trek determined to succeed. He had prepared. He knew the course backwards and forwards. He had memorized every single rest stop, poop stop, waystation, halfway house, IV drip station, and custom coffin manufacturer. There would be no surprises.
He’d prepared all year to be the best HUB at the Leadville 100, the hand-up bitch to beat all hand-up bitches. It would be a huge responsibility keeping Mighty Mouse and Tree fueled for this epic race, but he’d grown a three-foot beard. He’d bought a crumpled cowboy hat. He was wearing an orange skirt. G$ was ready.
That’s “MISTER” Hand-up Bitch to you, pal
Leadville is an out and back course and has featured some of the finest cyclists in the world, men with stuff in their veins that doesn’t qualify as blood, but can’t properly be called ice water, either. Lance, Levi, and Floyd have all taken on this legendary course, and have set course records that have yet to be struck down by an appeals court, an arbitration panel, or a post-judgment ruling.
The race begins at 10,200 feet. This is twice as high as Denver, but only about one-hundredth as high as Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver in 1985, when I saw the Dead there. Arriving a week before the race to hone her altitude fitness, Mighty Mouse remarked, “Dog, I’m out of breath just climbing the stairs!”
G$, who was there to polish his HUB skills, turned to her that first evening and said, “Honey, I’m winded just brushing my teeth.”
The dawn of the day of the damned
Mighty Mouse knew she was in select company, as she lined up with only 3,000 cyclists, a fraction of the number who’d come out on the NPR the week before to see if Prez was really going to wear a lime green jersey and purple shorts (he did).
She was parked in the third starting corral, with 800 people in front, which, though daunting, wasn’t nearly as bad as Puddsy Osterknocker, who was in the 187th corral and had 2,999 wankers he’d have to pass. Or not.
At the start of the race a wanker on a purple bike with skinny tires, a month of razor stubble, triple that amount of B.O., and a big booger stuck to his mustache turned to Mighty Mouse and said “This is going to be an epic day!” She closed her eyes and prayed that she wouldn’t fall off a cliff, and if she did, that B.O. Boy wouldn’t fall anywhere near her.
Neutral start with a twist of lemon and a slice of battery acid
Mighty Mouse stared at her front wheel, body tensed, mind focused on the task at hand as an overwhelming feeling of excitement flooded through her, tingling her extremities and making her think of…never mind…that’s in the Fifty Shades of Leadville, a sequel coming next month for which you’ll have to pay.
The starting shotgun fired, a few birds fell from the sky, and they rolled out on a neutral start through Leadville. For each neutral pedal stroke of the neutral start, neutral wankers neutrally fought for every neutral millimeter of position, neutrally clawing, bumping, rubbing, headbutting, and threading impossible non-openings to gain any neutral advantage for the first climb.
Scrambling and gasping and pounding as hard as they could, the wankoton hit St. Keivens, and the gradual pace fit perfectly with Mighty Mouse’s grand plan, which was first not to die, and second, not to fall off the cliff with B.O. Boy. After climbing a few miles, she came onto pavement only to discover that Murphy’s Law of Bike Racing applies even in Leadville: The crazy/dangerous/stinky dude you’re most desperate to avoid in the 3,000-strong peloton is the wanker you’ll be with the entire race.
B.O. Boy’s preparation had been less than ideal, and he was hanging onto Mighty Mouse’s wheel making awful moaning sounds that frightened the small children lining the route. She decided to lose the stinker with a fast descent around Turquoise Lake, then pounded up Hagerman’s Pass to Sugerloaf Mountain to the top of Powerline. The climbs were standard 6% grade with a few puddles here and there, until you realize that six percent is enough to turn you into a melted marshmallow after four or five minutes of hard effort. B.O. Boy had found his second wind and sprunted off ahead, but never so far that the awful smell didn’t drift back to the followers.
More power to the engine, Mr. Scott!
Picture a 30% grade that’s about eleventy twelve miles long. Okay, there’s something wrong with you if you can picture that. Then picture the bottom part with hard packed sand, two foot ruts, sharp turns, and no consistent line unless you’re driving a bulldozer. Oh, and the top half is covered with jagged rocks, human skulls, tiger pits, and angry motorists with rifles. You’ve just pictured the Powerline climb.
It gets its picturesque name, oddly enough, from a power line. Those Leadvillains may be dumb, but they sure are stupid.
As Mighty Mouse overtook B.O. Boy, eyes tearing up from the effort, several of her co-workers began the first series of crashes, as they would get stuck in between ruts, while at the same time more skilled riders were rocketing down, more or less out of control (usually more), on both sides of the trail.
The carnage was awful to behold. Wankers flopping on their sides. Wankers flying over the handlebars into the ruts at speed. Wankers tipping over and cracking their noggins on the rocks. It was like the biggest fred ride in the history of the universe interspersed with some of the best, fastest, most skilled MTB riders in the galaxy. It was the NPR after a gravel truck spill, on steroids. (Uh, maybe not a great analogy).
Mighty Mouse let the wankers fold, picked a great line, and pounded her way down. On the downhill she careened around fallen riders, leaped tall trees, and generally got down in one piece. The last time she saw B.O. Boy he was begging a kid spectator for a drink from the kid’s coke can while the child frantically dialed 911.
If it’s called “Pipeline” then you can surf it
Mighty Mouse hit the pavement and sat for a few minutes while the smallish wankoton looked about, each rider hoping the other would stick his nose in the wind. No one wanted to pull.
Putting her exceptional NPR training to good use, she Went to the Front and began stomping the snot out of the limpish appendages hanging out of various male bib shorts. This got the paceline going, and they reached Twin Lakes in roughly 3 hours. To put this in perspective, a normal person would do the same route in three days, give or take a month.
At Twin Lakes, Mighty Mouse’s hand-up bitch churned to the fore, stepping on the heads and internal organs of other, less experienced HUB’s. Blowing into the feed zone at 20 mph it was first hard to spot G$ among the hundreds of screaming people all trying to find their rider. It seemed like half of them were there for B.O. Boy, but even the Army of Stink was no match for G$ in his full-on hand-up bitch mode.
With some HUB’s clinging to his beard, others latching onto his Stetson, he shook them loose with kicks, bites, and scratches as he refueled the mighty tank of the Mighty Mouse.
The Columbine beatdown
This 10-mile, 3,000-foot ascent up the face of one of the toughest climbs in the race, summiting at 12,500 feet, was destined to bring even the hardiest wankers to their bloodied, quivering knees.
Picture a gravel-covered Fernwood for five miles, and then the climb gets really nasty. It goes from gravel to loose rock, to even looser rock, and gets steeper as you climb higher before it ends in a rusty guillotine, under which your head is placed. The blade, dulled from the rust, simply hammers your head two or thirteen times until the agony in your temples makes a migraine look like headache relief. That’s what happens when you run your body through hell with no oxygen. That’s why people die on Everest. And that’s why you and I are reading about this in the comfort of our beanbag chair, smoking a doobie and ordering more pizza.
Mighty Mouse reached down to swig from her bottle, but hardly had the oxygen to swallow. Chewing her GU rubber thingies required so much oxygen for her jaw muscles that she had to do Lamaze just to get down a bite.
Obi-wan Kenobi tells the Jedi that The Force is with them
Just as the Lamaze breathing seemed as if it would induce delivery, Mighty Mouse looked up to see the Leadville founder, the Zen master of MTB, the karmic spirit of the greatest MTB race ever, the tantric sex god who invented the “Triple-hold Reverse Battering Ram,” Ken Chlouber himself, the man who knew so much about mountain biking that he wasn’t about to do this stupid race again, at treeline yelling “Dig deep! You’re tougher than you think you are! You can do more than you think you can!”
Mighty Mouse was so inspired she would have cried had she not been trying to keep from vomiting.
With the words of Chlouber ringing in her ears, Mighty Mouse was able to ride to the goat trail about 1/2-mile from the top of Columbine where she had to get off and walk. And so the death march began. If you think riding a bike to exhaustion is awful, wait ’til you have to follow it with a ten-minute bike push up a 300% grade paved with glass and dead people.
This marked the turnaround! The survivors had their numbers recorded, thanked the volunteers, sobbed on their shoulders, asked where the taxi stand was, and upon learning that there wasn’t one, they began the epic descent down Columbine.
Easy for you to say
Incredible as it sounds to think that 3,000 wankers would ride their bikes up a mine shaft on top of Mt. Everest, it was more incredible when Mighty Mouse saw that, as she bombed down the mountain, there were thousands of people walking up.
Where were they from?
What were they doing?
Why were they doing it?
Did anyone have a stretcher?
As she blew by, the enthusiastic spectatewalkers shouted, “You’re almost at the top!” and “Keep your tires rolling!” and most terrifying of all “Rider up! I’m on your ass like buttfloss!”
After the Columbine descent, Mighty Mouse’s HUB reappeared, handing her food, drink, and a healthy helping of encouragement. She quickly grabbed more stuff, and headed back to Pipeline.
The next ten miles were into a brutal headwind. She was alone. She was tired. She was hoping that Sasquatch might show up and give her a push. She remembered that one mile on an MTB is like a thousand miles on a normal road bike with no air and square wheels.
In the out door, or up the down climb
Part of the horror of Leadville is that everything you encounter on the way out, you encounter on the way back. The nasty climbs are hairy descents, and the hairy descents are nasty climbs. Mighty Mouse climbed the first steep section of Powerline, her legs feeling like Leadville, her lungs starting to burn holes in the bottom, and strange bits of phlegm, blood, and esophogeal tissue coming out her ears
It was now Mile 80, her legs crumpled, and she dismounted. After a respite, she hopped back on and rode the rest of the way up. A few false flats made the job easier, but like everything else in this race, as soon as something got easier it got lots harder. In this case the flats had loose rock, which made it hard to gain traction.
Down the rocky, technical, terrifying, death-defying section onto Turquoise Lake Road, then another fast descent, and then a climb up the back side of the lake. This was the point where the living were separated from the dead.
With each pedal stroke a mash of agony, Mighty Mouse couldn’t believe her luck when a young, muscular, tanned, fit young Adonis with perfectly moussed hair ran up along side her. “Hey,” he said in a baritone. “Mind if I sample the goods?”
“Smart shoppers always do,” she said as his strong, sinewy, powerful palms pressed against her aching ass. He pushed, then caught up to her, then pushed again. He was strong, and each shove sent her flying up the road, allowing precious recovery before her legs kicked back to life.
“Was it good for you?” he shouted as she pedaled off. “It was awesome for me!”
Hand-up Bitch to the rescue!
Having gnarled her way through one hundred miles of freds, ruts, crashes, hypooxygenation, mental fatigue, and physical collapse, Mighty Mouse had only a few miles to go, but her tank was so dangerously low that she didn’t see how she’d conquer the final four-mile Boulevard Climb. This vicious stinger on the end of the ride was inhuman: lined with the bones of last year’s decedents and covered with nails and soft sand, Mighty Mouse knew her race was at an end. Nothing could get her up this final hill.
In the run-up to the climb she’d hopped onto a paceline, and it was rolling fast, even though everyone knew they’d crack and quit two hundred yards into the climb. And then, there on the side was G$, armed with the Special Hand-up Bitch Bottle…but the speed! He’d never get her a hand-up at 25mph!
Trained as a track star, and the recipient of countless high-speed hand-ups, Mighty Mouse’s HUB knew exactly what to do. He spun and began sprinting as if shot out of a gun. His brief burst hit maximum speed as MM raced by, arm outstretched. She grabbed the bottle perfectly!
And no ordinary bottle was it! This was G$’s last reserve of Ruggedmaxx Endurance IV, which had the effect of slinging Mighty Mouse up the last four-mile climb like a rocket and giving all the men in a four-mile radius erections that lasted for two days.
All’s well that ends well on the Leadville 100, especially if it’s someone else doing it
As she approached the finish line children were scattering, cowbells were ringing, and babies were crying. A feeling of amazing accomplishment came over her as she rolled onto the red carpet. A Leadman himself placed a medal around her neck. She was so happy to get off her bike and be done, especially because there was a cool 85-mile trail ride she wanted to do the following day.
She started to tear up as she realized what she had accomplished, and how lucky she’d been to have the best hand-up bitch in America there when she needed him most.
For him, too, it had been an amazing day, hanging out on the trails, drinking whatever was left in castaway bottles, snacking on the numerous mashed up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and best of all, running up and down the trails with the four and five-year old kids. He was definitely the only kid with a three-foot beard.
After the race, the two champions, each successful in their own way, enjoyed a candlelight dinner over hamburgers while drunken Leadvillains played banjo love songs to their next of kin.
Until next year, all hail the Mighty Mouse!