Haley Smith heads into the fourth stop of the Life Time Grand Prix off-road series tied for second place in the overall standings for women with Sarah Sturm, both just eight points back of leader Sofia Gomez Villafane. The same trio took top honours at last year’s Grand Prix, Smith winning the inaugural title.
The task at hand Saturday is to compete and complete Stages Cycling Leadville Trail 100 MTB in Colorado, where the start line begins at 10,000 feet above sea level. This year Smith’s preparation for another podium in Leadville took a huge turn, a 7,000-kilometre cross-Atlantic excursion to Scotland to compete at the UCI Cycling World Championships. She finished 15th on the 100km, muddy, mixed-surface Marathon Mountain Bike course last weekend.
“Representing Canada at my first Marathon Champs was very cool. I’ve worn the maple leaf at 10 XCO World Championships, and they’re some of my favourite memories on the bike. I didn’t have the performance I wanted this year, but the experience was invaluable and a huge honour,” Smith told Cyclingnews on Wednesday on a layover in Toronto en route to Colorado.
This time last year, the Canadian mountain bike specialist grabbed the lead for good in the Life Time series with a third-place finish in Leadville, Sturm in fourth and Villafane suffering with a DNF on her first try at the high-altitude race. But it’s a new year with lots of questions.
“I came into Leadville with much better prep last year, so I can very honestly say that I’m quite nervous for the challenge this year. I’ll never count myself out – because you never know, do you? I came in without a pre-Leadville altitude camp last year, and it worked out okay, so I’m hoping that my simulated altitude prep (via sauna and heat training) will have done the trick this year.”
In past years a Leadville Trail 100 MTB-SBT GRVL doubleheader, known as Leadboat, was the milestone endurance achievement for elite riders. With the two events now spaced out by eight days rather than a weekend pairing, a few ambitious athletes are attempting a World Championships-Leadville double, made all the more menacing with the air travel distance of more than 7,221 kilometres (4,487 miles) separating the off-road races.
A few male athletes who completed UCI Marathon World Championships in Scotland on Sunday and will be on the start line in Leadville are South Africa’s Matthew Beers, who finished 20th, Andrew L’Esperance of Canada, 34th, USA’s Alex…