Racers romp on bicycle built for 2
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs’ Katie Lindquist and Kent Eriksen don’t get tired of the wide eyes or the questions their tandem mountain bike induces.
The husband-and-wife team raced in the massive Leadville 100 mountain bike race each of the past three years now, mostly competing on their tandem bike last weekend.
Once again, they won, and once again, they drew plenty of long stares.
“Tandems do get a lot more attention than the singles,” said Eriksen, the namesake of Kent Eriksen Cycles in Steamboat and a pioneer in the mountain bike-building industry.
“They’re pretty exciting. We ride through a lot of aid stations and people just blow up,” Lindquist added. “People are so excited to see you, and they’re asking, ‘You made it down that?’ They can’t believe what they’re seeing.”
To be fair, there aren’t many Leadville racers similar to Lindquist and Eriksen, even among the few who tackle the grueling 100-mile, high-elevation course on a tandem bike.
The pair have dominated the tandem race in recent seasons and own the course record.
They had to give that top spot, and the record, up one season but were back and faster than ever a year later to regain both.
They won it again this year, finishing in 8 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.
That gave them a 54-minute cushion on the next fastest tandem team, and it was only about 2 1/2 hours behind the fastest overall rider, who, of course, did the course on a regular mountain bike.
Riding a tandem has its ups and downs.
Leadville attracts a huge crowd of riders, and 1,500 are gathered at the start. Weaving a tandem bike through that mess can be complicated. It went well enough this year but has resulted in a few small crashes in the past when riders will tip into the tandem, then tip it over like a row of titanium dominos.
Often, when being passed by the bike, other riders won’t realize it’s one bike with two people, and they’ll only narrowly avoid a collision.
It also doesn’t climb particularly well due to its size.
That size, along with 29-inch tires, lends stability, however, and the bike descends like a champ.
“It’s got such a long wheel base you can’t endo it (i.e. crash it end over end, or over the handle),” Eriksen said. “We can confidently go down much faster, probably twice the speed of a single.”
Don’t worry. It has good brakes, too.
“It’s so much heavier it gets better traction for cornering, too,” Eriksen said. “We’re like 300 pounds, with two riders and the bike, so that’s a whole lot of bike.”
It’s a lot of bike that draws a lot of attention.
Saturday, the pair finished 263rd overall, ahead of more than 1,000 other mountain bikers.
“It’s fun,” Lindquist said. “it’s fun to spend a day together. We work together, live together and are married, and we’re athletes together. That’s how we met, so it’s always a lot of fun for both of us.”
Tackling the trail
For Steamboat’s Liana Jones, completing the 100-mile race meant freedom.
She said she’s dedicated her summer to racking up the miles required to be ready for the Leadville race, and when she finally crossed the finish line, she felt joy and relief.
“The training is harder than the race itself,” she said. “It’s such a big commitment, to spend all of your weekends doing long rides, not drinking with your friends or going out and doing casual rides. I’m pretty excited to get to enjoy the rest of my summer now.”
That’s not to say she also didn’t enjoy the race. She did. She finished in 10:48:58 and was 58th among the women.
“I felt awesome,” she said. “Every time I’d hit a milestone in the race it felt great.”
The only problems during the race came when her focus would drift and get lost in the scenery as the trail drifted from 10,000 feet to more than 12,000.
“It was really, really good,” she said. “It’s a pretty big thing to train for, but it went really well and was a cool thing to check off the bucket list.”
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