A Sub-9 Hour Leadville MTB 100? Learn what it takes from these insider tips.

Discover the variables that need to be controlled for in order to achieve a sub-9 hour finishing time at the Leadville MTB 100 mountain bike race.

A Sub-9 hour leadville attempt

If your desire is to finish a Sub-9 Hour Leadville MTB 100 race, let’s discover as many variables needing control to make this possibility a reality. Several factors will give you the ability to finish a Sub-9 Hour Leadville MTB 100 and there are always some variables which are unknown and uncontrollable. Here, Tenac describes a few key components that when controlled for, will allow you to finish in less than 9hrs. And, while we’re at it, there are a few variables worth discussing that can derail your Sub-9 Hours at Leadville dreams.


In our experience, if you can do 3.5 watts/kg for 20 minutes, you have the power to complete a sub-9 hour ride at Leadville.  However, there are many more details that come into play in a 104 mile MTB race at altitudes over 10,000 feet.  Other insights we have from a numbers perspective are that you should be able to do 2.7watts of normalized power in the first half of the race. That should roughly be about 4.5hrs to the top of Columbine.  Then you must be able to stay steady and not have a power drop of more than 20% of your first half of the race.  This will result in a faster 2nd half of the race.   I have seen a few athletes start strong with more than 2.7watts per kilogram only to bonk on the way back and not finish in sub 9hrs.


Leadville is composed mostly of double track fire-road. It’s relatively not technical in general, but it does take some technical skills to descend these roads safely and through traffic.  When you factor in fatigue and altitude, having some skills will allow you to ride efficiently and without undue stress. These skills will also allow you to feel comfortable drafting and working with other athletes in the race. This has a lot of value especially between Twin Peaks and Power line going both ways. There is typically wind on the way back and even without wind, a draft can help you conserve up to 50% power in some situations. In essence, practicing riding in a group off road will provide you a great advantage on race day.


You can have a huge FTP power and still lack stamina. Stamina is what gets you to the finish line. From a total work perspective measured in kilojoules, you must be able to do 4500-6000 kj of work to complete Leadville.  There are outliers that measure below 4500 but for the most part everyone falls in this range with an average being close to 5300 kj.  We don’t feel you need to do a ride of this length before Leadville but we do recommend you do a few rides in the 3500-4000 kj range and maybe even put two days back to back. This is optimal training for Leadville, and it will ensure you have the aerobic capacity to do the work to finish Leadville no matter your finish time.


Most successful Sub-9 Hour Leadville MTB 100 athletes are able to be patient and hold back on their speed/power on the first two climbs of the race.  It’s easy to get caught up in the “race” and start fast.  With the length of this event and the high altitude, it’s necessary to stay steady. I would recommend that you ride under your altitude adjusted FTP on the first two climbs of the day.  You should be able to say a few words but not have a conversation.

As with any race or event in life, there are obstacles that can come into play and may derail you.  Some you can control and I encourage you to do so.  Some are out of your control and it’s best to roll with the punches, take a deep breath and focus on your goal.  Below are a few examples:

Nutrition and hydration during the race

This is in your control and the biggest factor in you completing your sub 9hr Leadville.  You need to have a nutrition and Hydration strategy in place for this event.  And like everything else, you will need to practice it.


This is not in your control but you do know about it so you can do some things to prepare.  We highly recommend you experience some altitude before Leadville. This could be a local mountain or even a trip to Leadville prior to the event. This experience will allow you to see the effects of altitude like faster breathing and higher heart rate.

The best recommendation for a race at altitude is to train at altitude. This is not always possible but if it is, we encourage it.  Full acclimatization happens in 3 weeks but even 10 days prior to Leadville will have some positive effects. Altitude will dehydrate you quickly and you will fatigue.  After 3 days, you will start to feel this and performance can decline. You want to avoid being at altitude from three to eight days. If you are planning on being there five days prior to the event and that’s your only option, you can make a strategy around that with a focus on hydration and extra recovery time.

Weather event

This is out of your control but you can be prepared. Have spare clothes and warm clothes in your drop bags at each feed zone. The race provides this if you do not have a support crew.


This is a little bit of both in your control and out of your control. Do make sure your bike is race ready. Have it tuned up a couple of weeks prior to the event and on race day be sure check all your bolts just in case.

You could have a flat which is not always in your control but you can control being able to fix a flat.  Practice fixing flats and even a broken chain. This is a perfect activity for a recovery day.


Again, this can be in your control and out of your control.  You may always cramp no matter what but you can know that and be prepared for it with some pickle juice in your pocket or using somethign like Hot Shot as a preventative measure.  Cramps typically arise from fatiguing of muscles so doing your prescribed training will help stop and delay cramps.

Always Move Forward

This is in your control.  Every time you stop, the clock is still ticking.  Remember this race has altitude and therefore lots of fatigue. At some feedzones, I’ve seen athletes sit for 5 minutes or more.  Once a Tenac athlete missed a Sub-9 Hour Leadville MTB 100 finishing time, and when we looked back to see, we found he sat in feedzones for a total of over 30 minutes!  The next year, he came back to finish in 8hr 47 minutes.  For feedzones, I do suggest stopping and not rushing but I also suggest getting what you need and continuing to move forward. Feedzones are not a place to rest. You can rest after you finish your sub-9 Leadville effort!

Another place we see stops is on the Power Line climb. This climb is steep and comes at about 80 miles into the event so you are tired. We’ve seen many a athlete sitting on the side of the climb to rest.  Again, they may sit there for many minutes and lose track of time.  We always say, “Keep Moving Forward.”

These are a few thoughts you should consider if your goal is sub 9hrs at the Leadville MTB 100.  Typically less than 20% of finishers achieve sub 9hrs with many years being around 16%.  We suggest getting yourself tested to find your baselines and starting a training program as far as 9 months in advance.  We also recommend pre riding the course if possible.  If you are unsuccessful in your first year, we’ve almost always seen dramatic improvements in athletes performance in their second year.

The final thing we leave you with are some split times that can help you achieve your sub 9hr goal.


Leadville pacing
Pipeline Twin Lakes 1 Top of Columbine Twin Lakes 2 Pipeline 2 Finish
9 hrs Final Time 8:55
Section Time 2:05 0:50 1:40 0:40 0:55 2:45

If for any reason you have questions about how to prepare for Leadville, don’t hesitate to contact us via this form. We are here to see you achieve your best cycling success!