An Interview With Dave Wiens: How to Win the Leadville 100 - Part I

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Over the last several years, Dave Wiens has become the people's choice to win the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. Though he lives two hours away in Gunnison, Colorado, with his wife Susan (De Mattei) and their three boys, Cooper, Ben and Sam, long-time Leadville racers and local townspeople want Dave to win—he has become the race's hometown favorite.

People want him to win because he is one of those rare combinations of a nice guy, a caring family person, an extremely gifted athlete and he can race at the top levels of his sport with integrity. He's often described as "down to earth and humble."

Long before the Leadville 100, Dave was a top World Cup racer. His consistent podium performances got him inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2000, three years before he would win his first Leadville 100. In 2008 he won his sixth consecutive Leadville 100, beating seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. Like always, Dave did it with class, as this N.Y. Times column describes.

I've read quite a bit about Dave, and while he is indeed a gifted, elite athlete, I know that having an athletic gift does not automatically place you on the podium at world-class events. Harder yet are repeat showings on the podium.

I'm always interested to review how different elite athletes train and I wanted to know more details about Dave's training regimen. He kindly agreed to share some of his training "secrets" through some Q&A:

Q. What is your typical training/exercise week like beginning in January and leading into Leadville in August?

A. For January (and December as well) I'll ride until the trails become unrideable under snow. The last two years I've been able to ride until early December because we've had great, late falls. Often, we'll get a "tweener" time where I can't ride but there's also not enough snow for skiing. I've been lucky these last two years as I've been able to transition directly from the bike to the snow.

From December through March, the sole goal during this time is preparation for the Elk Mountain Traverse, which generally takes place around April 1. The last two years I did the 24 hours of the Old Pueblo (a 24-hour mountain bike race) in February. I don't do any bike riding before or after Old Pueblo, I just show up and so my best as part of a four- or five-person team. During the event I'll get some seven to eight hours of riding.

I don't have any real structure during this time, I just trying to ski (all varieties) as much as I can. Looking back at my log for you, here is what I can tell you for January through March:

Cycling: The bike is put away. I don't even do townie riding as we usually have too much ice and snow on the ground. I'll walk quite a bit, mainly getting the boys to and from school. That walk is in the neighborhood of a mile each way.

I alpine ski at Crested Butte, which is a very physical workout with maximum effort for cardio climbing (skating, hiking etc., mixed into leg burning downhill skiing). I repeat the effort five times for three to five hours total, including riding lifts.

I'll try to get to the mountain to do this some two or three times per week. This day will sometimes be combined with an anaerobic threshold skin mission (see two paragraphs below) up the mountain before alpine skiing. This combination effort usually takes two hours with 4,000+ feet of vertical gain.

I alpine ski with the family at a mellow intensity once or twice per week, at three to five hours each outing.

I do skin touring (alpine touring skis with climbing skins; which I believe is very similar to mountain biking) around two to three times per week, at two to six hours per session. Over half of this is at a pretty high effort. I get 5,000 to 10,000 vertical feet per week. Many of these sessions have skating sections as well.