Race Bikes for Leadville 100 – Round 4 of the Lifetime Grand Prix

Written by: Shannon Boffeli

In just a few hours many of North America’s top riders will be lining up in Leadville, Colorado, for the Leadville 100.

Saturday’s Leadville 100 course features just over 100 miles of mostly double track riding on an out-and-back style course. The Leadville course is more rugged than most in the Life Time Grand Prix which means all the top athletes will be on mountain bikes.

We got a sneak peak at what our favorite racers will be competing on as the Grand Prix turns to knobbies including top riders like: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Rose Grant, Keegan Swenson, Russell Finsterwald, Alexey Vermuelen, Melisa Rollins, Dylan Johnson, and more.

Sofia Gomez-Villafane: Specialized Epic Hardtail – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 1st

Sofia Gomez-Villafane’s Specialized Epic Hardtail. Photo by: Andy Cochrane

SGV is running Specialized Renegade 2.2 tires. Photo by: Andy Cochrane

SGV is running a full Shimano XTR bike with road pedals for better energy transfer. Photo by: Andy Cochrane

Photo by: Andy Cochrane

Keegan Swenson: Santa Cruz Highball – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 1st

Keegan Swenson’s Santa Cruz Highball

Swenson is running Reserve 28 wheels with Maxxis Aspen ST 2.4 tires

Keegan’s race set up includes a 38-tooth ring with 10-52 cassette

Keegan’s cockpit includes the SQ Lab Innerbarends

Evelyn Dong: Juliana HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 5th

Evelyn Dong’s Santa Cruz Highball frame custom-painted to represent Juliana. She’s running Reserve 28 wheels with Maxxis Aspen 2.25 tires.

Russell Finsterwald: Specialized S-Works Epic EVO – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 2nd

Finsterwald is running Shimano road pedals for better energy transfer and Specialized Renegade 2.2 tires

Rose Grant: Juliana HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 6th

Grant is full SRAM AXS with 32-tooth ring and Quarq power meter. She has custom 26oz bottles from The Feed with Gu Roctain fuel.

Grant has a Rockshox SID Ultimate 100 fork with Reserve 28 wheels and Maxxis Aspen 2.25 EXO tires and Orange Seal sealant

Her race bike will feature ESI grips and Hammerhead Karoo 2 computer

Alexey Vermuelen: Factor Lando HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 3rd

Alexey Vermeulen will be running the Factor Lando HT at the upcoming Leadville 100

Vermeulen will be running Enve 525 wheels and Kenda Booster tires

Vermeulen runs a full Shimano XTR rig with ESI grips

Melisa Rollins: Trek Supercaliber – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 6th

Melisa Rollins Trek Supercaliber with Bontrager Kovee XXX wheels

Rollins is running Kenda Booster Pro 2.4 tires

Hannah Otto: Pivot Les SL – Life Time Grand Prix rank 10th

Hannah Otto’s Pivot Les SL with DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheels and Kenda Rush 2.2 tires. She also runs full Shimano XTR with Stages dual power meter. She’s using a 32-tooth chainring for Leadville.

Dylan Johnson: Factor Lando HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank 15th

Dylan Johnson’s Factor Lando HT

Johnson’s bike features Black Inc wheels with Continental Race King 2.2 tires.

Black Inc’s sleek one-piece stem/bar combo

Hannah Shell: Santa Cruz Blur – Life Time Grand Prix rank 17th

Hannah Shell will be riding the Santa Cruz Blur with the as yet unreleased HUNT Proven Race XC wheels and Pirelli Scorpion hard terrain tires.

Pirelli Scorpion tires and HUNT Proven Race XC wheels

Shell’s Blur is stacked with full Shimano XTR

Hannah is using the Garmin 1040 solar for navigating the 100 mile course.

Alexis Skarda: Santa Cruz Highball – Life Time Grand Prix rank 17th

Alexis Skarda will be aboard the Santa Cruz Highball with full SRAM XX components, 34 tooth chainring and Quarq power meter. Photo by: Devon Balet

Skarda will be running Reserve 28 wheels and Maxxis Aspen 2.4 tires. Photo by: Devon Balet

Stephen Davoust: Giant Anthem – Life Time Grand Prix rank 23rd

US marathon national champion Stephen Davoust on the Giant Anthem he will race at the Leadville 100

Davoust’s Giant Anthem sports the Fox Live valve system and a Fox 34. He’ll be running Giant XCR0 wheels and Maxxis Aspen 2.25 tires.

Stephen Davoust runs full Shimano XTR cockpit with Shimano Pro stem and bar

Click here to see our review of riders bikes from Unbound 2022 

Click here to see the full leaderboard from Life Time Grand Prix 2022

Josie Fouts: Cycling Trailblazer

Photo credit: Andrea Tobin (@allthingslynt on Instagram)

Josie Fouts, Elite cyclist, is trailblazing her way to the Tokyo Olympics. While the US National Champion paracylist is relatively new to the sport, she has risen to the top of the field similarly to how she rides her bike-fast. Josie’s unconventional plan to prepare for the Olympics parallels her life. In fact, the Olympics aren’t even her end goal of the 2021 season! 

Josie was recently featured in a Pearl Izumi docufilm-Go Josie. We had the opportunity to chat with Josie after the film was released.

What would you like the World to know about you? Can you explain your disability and how it affects your performance in everyday activities? 

  • My name is Josie Fouts and I’m a self-proclaimed mad scientist single-handedly discovering the human body’s limitlessness as an elite paracyclist! 
  • As a congenital amputee without a left hand, I’ve been adapting to a 2-handed world since birth. My life experiences have taught me that nothing is perfectly designed for anyone; there is no ‘one size fits all.’ The reality is that customizing everything — from bikes to healthcare — helps people reach their personal best faster!. 

Can you share some details about the progression of adaptations made to your bike(s)? 

Photo credit: Andrea Tobin (@allthingslynt on Instagram)
  • BRAKES: I started off riding only using 1 brake because that’s how a stock bike is built, the rear brake on the ride side of the bars. Using a cable splitter, my brake system evolved into having 2 brakes, but at 50% power and without the ability to articulate if I wanted more of the front or rear. With the help of Shimano and creative thinking of another paracyclist, I now have the capacity to use hydraulic brakes either separately or together all with using one hand! 
  • SHIFTING: I actually started racing on a bike with down-tube shifters which was quickly upgraded to a 1x system so I didn’t need a second shifter. Today, I use Shimano Di2 and its Full Syncro technology to change front chainrings easily!
  • STUB ADAPTATIONS: My stubborn self started using nothing but an extra layer of bar tape on the tops of my bars on the left side. Anything was going to be better than nothing so I took baby steps first mounting a PVC pipe end to the bars using a shifter clamp. Then a fellow cyclist and UC San Diego graduate student evolved the cups using 3D printing. The biggest and most effective adaptation — both on and OFF the bike — is getting a cycling prosthetic from Hanger Clinic. 

How are you preparing for the Tokyo Olympics? What event(s) will you be competing in and what are your goals? 

  • My Tokyo preparations are unique: just like my bikes and my life experiences, my training is all about adapting! While most athletes dial in their training, recovery and nutrition routine at home, their performance suffers when they travel for competition. The way I see it, the more I train in uncontrolled environments with diverse foods, the better prepared I’ll be for anything unexpected life throws at me! 
  • This means riding outside, not just in the city, but out in the natural elements where there is no air conditioning or space heater, no air or light pollution. Physically, my lungs work better, my circadian rhythm is cyclical with the sun, and thus, not only my training quality increases but I become my best self as humanly possible! 
  • Nature and its natural elements also shape the mind. Everything natural is dynamic with undefinable shapes, infinite dimensions and different colors! No tree is perfectly horizontal, nor two trees are the exact same shape or color, but together, it’s picture perfect. When I’m out in nature and its beauty sets in, it transfers an unspeakable message to me: we are meant to be different and accepting our differences is most natural. With present-day social justices like Black Lives Matter and the Paralympic Movement, we as a culture are becoming a better, more natural, version of ourselves. 
  • Further, riding on trails that ungulate teaches me that fitness, progress, and life are anything but straight forward! Everything has its ups and downs, its ebbs and flows. When I hit a rocky section, my brain can’t move fast enough to contemplate every bump and rock; I have to let the small ones go. This is a big cross over to living life: we must pick and choose our battles and what we fight for. That is why I have chosen to fight and advocate for Para-Mountain Biking to be a Paralympic Sport! 
Photo credit: Andrea Tobin (@allthingslynt on Instagram)

Do you feel that para-athletes have the same opportunities of competition as non-para-athletes? How would you change this? 

  • There are definitely double standards for para- and non-para athletes. For example, the Olympics offers 4 disciplines for cycling — track, road, BMX, and MTB. But the Paralympics only offers 2 — track and road. I’m not certain why it’s set up this way, but I have a hunch, and it also may be the same reason why a handcyclist doesn’t have the same opportunities as a para-cyclist on a bicycle like myself. 
  • The infrastructure, the industry and the idealized picture of a cyclist is limited and designed by a one-size-fits-all mindset. In a single word, it’s exclusive: The industry excludes different bodies and abilities from marketing > the consumers exclude different types of riders > para-categories are excluded from racing > demand for customizable bikes and parts are excluded from production > and the cycle repeats. 
  • At this point in my life, I understand that life works in cycles and trying to stop or start a new one is difficult especially if it’s already set in motion (like why balancing is easier when you go faster!). My goal is to change the perspective of the cycling industry from exclusive to inclusive: First include para-athletes by sharing their stories, and films like ‘Go Josie’ > viewers will be inspired to believe in all abilities to ride bikes including themselves > more categories are included in racing (para, e-bikes, etc) > demand and supply includes bikes and parts for everyone > and the bicycle industry evolves, repeat. 
  • Swiftwick, the performance sock brand working to empower adaptive athletes through partnership and innovative gear, has been a big supporter of the ‘Go Josie’ film. Swiftwick feels strongly that brand ambassadors should not be restricted to only able-bodied athletes, and they intentionally sponsor adaptive athletes and feature them in their marketing materials. Through these endeavors, we hope to inspire and motivate the next generation; it is Swiftwick’s way of living and breathing their mission through all that they do–empowering people to be their best self through the pursuit of adventure. (Editor’s Note: Swiftwick is proud to be the only athletic sock brand that currently makes both adaptive and non-adaptive socks. When they realized there was not an adequate sock on the market to support amputee athletes, they closely worked with the adaptive community to design the VALOR™ line: a collection of socks made for below-knee and above-knee amputees).

How has cycling changed your worldview? 

  • Before cycling, I was a stubborn scientist that thought only linearly and didn’t understand why I burnt out every 2-4 years. Now I get it: I understand my own cycles (menstrual, circadic, sleep, etc), I think cyclically, and have found balance through cycling! 
Photo credit: Andrea Tobin (@allthingslynt on Instagram)

What’s your post-Olympics plan? 

  • My plan after Tokyo is to set the first Para-FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park! Not only does this set the foundation for Para-Mountain Biking to be accepted as a Nationally-recognized sport, it mentally sets me up for success at Tokyo. As all competitive athletes know, finishing a race mentally and physically strong is about focusing past the finish line. Thus, the way I see it, the Tokyo Paralympic Games is the perfect way to get into shape to ride 100-miles on a mountain bike in 1 day, pivoting my perspective of Tokyo from the destination into part of my paracycling journey!