Saturday’s Leadville 100 MTB kicked off the summer's biggest week of bike racing in Colorado, which continued with Sunday’s SBT GRVL and this week’s Breck Epic Stage Race. Hannah Otto captured the week’s first headlines, winning the legendary 104-mile mountain bike race through Leadville, Colorado’s Sawatch Range.
Hannah won with a time of 7:24:12, finishing about five minutes ahead of Rose Grant, who won the race’s last two occurrences. Keegan Swenson won the men’s race.
“I didn’t let myself accept the win until I saw the finish, then emotion took over,” says Hannah, who rode the last 30 miles solo. “I cried. I smiled. I’m still taking it all in.”
[Photo] Wil Matthews
Hannah rode among the top five women through the race’s first half, while Alexis Skarda, of Grand Junction, Colorado, took an early lead that grew to several minutes. Hannah pulled away from the other leading women on the out-and-back Columbine Climb, catching Alexis near the summit before losing a handful of seconds on the descent. She rejoined Alexis by mile 60’s Twin Lakes feed zone before gaining several minutes on a paved climb away from Twin Lakes, a gap she increased through the race’s final 30 miles.
“It was a bold move to go it alone so early. I was nervous. I was excited,” she says. “I had no idea what the gaps were. I thought I could be caught at any moment. I both resisted the urge to look back, knowing that I was giving it my all, but also managed to sneak a look back at every corner. I was forcing food down my throat. I would not lose due to a bonk. With five miles to go, I felt like I was in an all-out sprint.”
[Photo] Wil Matthews
This season has been Hannah’s best to date, with more wins and more podiums than any before. It’s not been without challenges she's had to overcome, though, including two crashes at the most recent World Cup at Mont Sainte Anne, one of which left her with a grade 2 AC joint separation just six days prior to Leadville.
“The doctor recommended I save my matches for race day and rest the shoulder by doing my final workouts on the indoor bike,” she says. “I had no idea what to expect of my body going into Saturday, and I think that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”
With her victory in Leadville, Hannah moves up in the overall standings of the Life Time Grand Prix to fourth, with two races remaining—Cable, Wisconsin’s Chequamegon MTB Festival and Big Sugar Gravel in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Prior to completing the Grand Prix, Hannah will head to Les Gets, France, where she’ll represent Team USA at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
- WHAT HANNAH’S WEARING -
“I chose the Fury for the long day in the saddle to protect me from the elements,” Hannah says. “If you could have seen my eyes behind those glasses you would have seen a woman determined, emotional and riding on her limit to achieve her goal.”
“The lightweight design makes it easy for me to forget they are there; and the secure fit on my face means that my vision isn’t interrupted by bumps or jostling on the trail.”
Read Hannah’s full account of the Leadville 100 MTB on her blog. All photos by Wil Matthews (@photowil).