The mountain biker outlasted the WorldTour roadies at the Leadville Trail 100.
Howard Grotts, the two-time defending champion at Colorado’s so-called “Race across the Sky” took his third consecutive Leadville title on Saturday after battling with a trio of WorldTour road riders for much of the day.
Grotts, 26, rode in the front group alongside Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and Lachlan Morton and Alex Howes (both EF Education First) for much of the 103-mile race before dropping them on the steep Powerline climb. Grotts then soloed in for the victory, crossing the line with a three-minute advantage on his chasers.
“It seemed like we had more of a road racing crew today— I’m not totally sure who they all were,” Grotts said at the finish. “It just got down to a really small group on Columbine [climb]. When I got my gap I figured I just gotta roll with it.”
The victory marks an important milestone for Grotts, a two-time U.S. Olympian and the only American to win South Africa’s Absa Cape Epic Stage Race. Grotts has told reporters that he intends to step away from full-time racing after this season to attend graduate school. And earlier this year Grotts stepped away from the World Cup circuit to help coach the Durango Devo mountain-bike program.
He recently finished second place at the U.S. national cross-country championships to Keegan Swenson.
Grotts said he was overcome with emotion as he pushed his way to the finish line by himself.
“There was one point where— it’s super random— I was coming down the last pass and I was crying for some reason,” Grotts told VeloNews at the finish. “You just have to roll with the emotions out there, I guess. I got over that and just kept going.”
The most impressive ride of the day, however, belonged to 18-year-old Quinn Simmons (Lux Cycling), who caught the chase group on the run-in to the finish and then won the sprint for second place overall.
Simmons was competing in his first ever Leadville 100—previously he was too young to register for the event.
Simmons closed a six-minute gap in the waning miles of the race to catch the WorldTour road riders. Simmons said he suffered four flat tires on the course—some of which came from thumb tacks on the course.
“I flatted four times—someone threw tacks on the course and I flatted four times and had three kilometers of riding on the rim going down [the] Powerline [descent],” Simmons told VeloNews. “By the second feed zone someone told me I was 10:45 back. I rode it back to five minutes by the top of Columbine and caught these guys on the top of Powerline on the second time up.”
Simmons is a rising star of U.S. pro cycling, and in 2018 won the U.S. junior national titles in the road race, criterium, and cross-country mountain biking. In April he became the first American to ever win the junior version of Gent-Wevelgem.
Simmons said his most memorable moment was closing the gap to the WorldTour pros. He spent the better part of 50 miles slowly riding back into contention, he said.
“I heard six-and-a-half minutes [gap] at the base of Columbine [climb] and when I came over the top I had it down to four,” Simmons said. “That was pretty cool to know that, even by myself—because I rode two hours out and an hour and a half back solo into a headwind—just being able to come back and put the head down the whole day was the coolest part.”
This content was originally published here.
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