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Rocky Mountain Highs (and Lows) at the Silver Rush 50 MTB

Last weekend, IMBA communications director Mark Eller joined development director Rich Cook and many other members of the IMBA family to race the Silver Rush 50 MTB event in Leadville, Colorado. The Silver Rush is part of the Leadville 100 Qualifier Series. Life Time Fitness hosts the events, and goes the extra mile for mountain bike advocacy by donating proceeds from the qualifier event lotteries to IMBA, and by proving all racers with an opportunity to donate funds to IMBA when they sign up for events.

Any time you put on a race number, you can be sure of encountering more than a few highs and lows. It's always thrilling to blast off the start line, shoulder to shoulder with a crowd of like-minded masochists — and, whether you win, lose or draw, there's always a measure of satisfaction in crossing the finish line.

Between those two moments, anything can happen.

Like all the events in the Leadville Qualifier Series, the Silver Rush 50 MTB race offers a serious test for riders who want a shot at an even bigger challenge. Heck, even if you have no intention of racing the big daddy, just completing one of the qualifiers might demand everything you've got.

The Silver Rush 50 MTB info page puts it like this:

Need a nice challenge? Then forget this one. It’s nasty. Cut the Leadville Trail 100 in half, remove all the easy parts, throw in technical descents, burning lungs and wild animals and you'll have a good understanding of what you’re about to get into.

Okay, I'm pretty sure I didn't encounter any wild animals on the course... but on the more abusive climbs I would have paid good money for, say, a rabid wolverine to nip my leg and require an honorable evacuation.

Highs and lows, ups and downs. For me, the high was hanging with a group of riders on a steep, loose climb just before the halfway turnaround. We were touching 12,000 feet of altitude and barfing was a real possibility, but I hung tough and appreciated the moment (until they dusted me on the descent).

My low point hit on the return trip to the start/finish line, when a jacked front deraileur relegated me to granny gears. I'm definitely seeing the beauty of 1X setups.

Crossing the finish line, I was still a little chaffed about losing my gears. (Also, seriously chaffed in other places, but I'll spare you those details.) Soon, I found myself talking to old and new friends, and realized none of them had a trouble-free day. Some caught multiple flats. Others didn't have the oomph they'd hoped for on race day. Others got soaked in a brief, very cold, mountain rainstorm.

We ate some great post-race grub, drank cold beverages and settled in to hear who would get the chance to race twice as far — on similar terrain — in just a few weeks, at the Leadville 100 MTB.

I didn't get in, and there's a measure of relief in that. It's on my to-do list though, as are a bunch of the other Leadville Qualifier Series events. Thanks to Life Time for hosting such great events, and for your continued support of IMBA!

— Mark Eller, IMBA Communications Director

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