A Belt Buckle from Leadville

The Father Figure drew this remarkable likeness of The Husband competing in the Leadville 100 mountain bike race on Saturday. Leadville, Colorado is at an altitude of 3,000m (about double that of Jozi) and the race goes up into the mountains to about 3,600m – hence the oxygen tank on The Husband's back and the puff of carbon dioxide billowing from his mouth.

The Sister and I were lucky enough to be selected as The Husband's official soigneuses for this epic race. (The competition was stiff, but I'm pleased to say, we came out on top). Soigneur duties involved waking up at the ungodly hour of 3:30am. I'd made some calculation errors (I'm blaming the on-line conversion tool) and Aspen is not exactly 50km from Leadville – it's more like 55 miles away – i.e. 90km. Still, you'd rather be in Aspen every single day of the week. Not only is Leadville a bit of a dump, it is also (we subsequently learned) one of the coldest places in the United States. So when we dropped The Husband at the start of the race at 6:30am, the temperature was precisely zero degrees celsius. Just another summer's day in Leadville.

After queuing for coffee, The Sister and I made our way back to our big-ass Chrysler rental, which we'd kitted out with duvets, pillows and enough snacks to keep us entertained for our 12 hour soigneur shift. Yip – 12 hours of 'butt-on-bike' for The Husband. At least, that's what we were hoping for because 12 hours was the cut-off time for the Leadville 100 mile race. If you finish the race in over 12 hours, there will be no belt buckle for you. No, Sir-ee! And yeah, you sure did hear right: I sure did say "belt buckle". That's right. That's what ya get for cycling 160km in Leadville – a bonnie, bright 'n shinin' belt buckle! Eyes on the prize, mountain bikers!

By Pitstop 2, things were hotting up. Literally, thank God. The sun was out and the temperature had risen substantially. Whole families of American supporters were out along the sides of the race track. They had camping chairs, cooler boxes, sign boards and LOADS of spirit. The favourite cheer was "Good job! Good job!" but my personal fave was: "Yeah! Keep goin'! That's BUCKLE pace!"

After just over 4 hours of riding, The Husband tore in to Pitstop 2. The Sister and I had forgotten our vuvuzelas to try and catch his attention so we had to improvise and waved him over with my red pashmina instead. At this point, he was on track to make cut-off with only 10 minutes to spare, so we were under major time pressure with our soigneur duties. We'd lined up sandwiches, energy drinks, water bottles, chocolates, food shakes, you name it. We felt a bit like the tyre changes at a Grand Prix, only less…er…less able to change a tyre. We were also less able to unscrew the top of his Camelbak to fill it with water.

All in all, we proved utterly useless. As we stood there helplessly, watching The Husband try to hop out of his leggings and wolf down a sandwich simultaneously, a random supporter appeared from across the track. "You got lube, man?" he wanted to know. The Sister and I looked at each other blankly. At that point, I think the dude realised who he was dealing with and lost no time running to other supporters for lube. Before we knew it, The Husband's bike was lubed up, the Camelbak had been unscrewed and topped up with water and our mystery man was practically picking The Husband up and putting him on his bike.

Pitstop 2 = success.

By Pitstop 3, we'd made friends with another random supporter –  Jaime from Texas – so when The Husband came screeching down the hill, Jaime provided much-needed back-up. This soigneuse thing wasn't turning out to be so hard, after all. You just had to be strategic about it.

At Pitstop 4, we found Nemo:

Pitstop 5 was the finish line, back in Leadville's main street. I knew The Husband would want to murder a large burger within half an hour of finishing, so just after Pitstop 4, The Sister and I went in search of one.

Our enquiry at the local diner as to the availability of take-away burgers, was met with: "We only got Buffalo Burgers." Now, call me blonde, but I really thought that a "Buffalo Burger" was some kind of Buffalo Bill Hillbilly All American Mid-West Special, so I politely asked, "what's in a buffalo burger?".

I was honestly expecting to hear that there'd be an extra patty or some deep fried bacon or something. Instead, the dolly looked at me as though as I was just plain stoopid. Even the drunk dude at the bar turned to look at me as though I was just plain stoopid. He decided to answer my question on the waitress' behalf.

"It's buffalo," he said in his best imitation of my accent. Don't ask me why, but I was still kind of confused.

"Ah, so you mean it's not like meat from a cow, it's like meat from a buffalo?"

Alrighty, then. No burger for The Husband.

Armed with a hot dog instead, The Sister and I positioned ourselves at the finish, hoping and praying that The Husband would make "buckle pace" and would cross the line before the 12-hour gun went off. At 30 minutes to go, I was getting mildly concerned. At 15 minutes to go, I was panicking. Then, with 13 minutes to spare, The Husband came into sight and crossed the finish. It was a perfect vuvuzela moment. We'd flown halfway across the world and he'd made it!

The Sister and I joined him. He was looking half-dead but also elated. He had a medal around his neck, but no belt buckle. "Where's your buckle?" I wanted to know. One of the volunteers at the finish overhead us and told us that the buckles would be handed out at a prize-giving ceremony at 7:30am the next day. There was no way that we were going to leave Aspen at 6am the next day to make the prize-giving, so The Husband decided to see if he could make another plan. It looked as though the dude in charge was the guy who was about to fire the 12-hour cut-off gun. The Husband turned to the very friendly volunteer next to us and asked if it would be wise to approach him about his buckle. She literally replied, "I don't know, he's got a gun." And she didn't look like she was joking.

Nonetheless, The Husband had just spent 11 hours and 47 minutes on his bicycle and he wanted his buckle, so he decided to approach the man with the weapon. I watched from afar. The guy was wearing a pair of denim dungarees and had the longest, wildest beard I have ever seen. But The Husband strode up to him confidently to enquire about getting his buckle ahead of the prize-giving.

Scary dude's response was: "There is no f*cking way that is ever gonna happen, son!"

So that was that. The Husband, The Sister and I climbed into our van for the long drive back to Aspen. The Husband had come, had seen and had conquered the Leadville 100 mountain biking race.

Apparently, his buckle's in the mail.

Holidaying in Leadville

The Husband had a rush of blood to the head a few weeks ago and decided that we hadn't been on enough cycling "holidays" this year. The good news is that the latest cycling sojourn will take us to the States. The bad news is that it will take us to an ex-mining town: a place called – wait for it – "Leadville". Okay, so Jozi's also a mining town, but no-one holidays in Carltonville, do they? Just like no-one willingly holidays in Leadville – which is why the town created a mountain bike race to lure obsessive cyclists to its parts once a year. The Husband being one such sucker, of course. He'd already paid his race money and taken his chances when his American friend broke the news that Leadville is – and I quote – "a sh*t-hole".

Nonetheless, we had to find accommodation in this sh*thole, so The Husband's PA set about making some enquiries.

Everything was full, full, full. Like I said, no-one willingly vacations in Leadville. But people (like The Husband) obviously make an exception for the Leadville 100 cycle race and all accommodation was booked out.

Finally, we had a bit of a breakthrough when The Husband's PA forwarded me this mail:


I have a large studio apartment available.  Fully outfitted, cable tv, right in town.  That is the busiest week of the year in Leadville.  This unit just came available. 

Have a super day!

I was so relieved that I promptly called up Kyle to see if we could book it straight away. Kyle had that super-cheery American service industry thing going on. In fact, he was so overwhelmingly friendly, I was almost expecting him to wish me "happy holidays" or something (even though we were nowhere near Christmas). Still, super cheery is better than grumpy so I tried to raise the level of excitement in my voice to a near hysterical level, to match his. In fact, Kyle's enthusiasm was so infectious that I was about to hand out credit card details then and there. Thankfully, the ever-efficient Kyle offered to quickly send me some pictures before I made a final decision.

A little later, in came this mail from my new friend, Kyle:


Here are a couple of pics.  Obviously, the place will be cleaned.

Have a great day!

What precisely did Kyle mean when he said "obviously, the place will be cleaned"? I almost dreaded opening the attached pictures to find out…

Apparently, this here below is what he meant.


Based on photographic evidence, I've managed to convince The Husband that we cannot possibly spend 8 days acclimatising for his mountain bike race in this mine dump.

Happily, Aspen is a mere 50km away, so I'll be acclimatising by the pool while The Husband chugs up and down the surrounding mountains on his bicycle. And I've just managed to convince The Sister to tag along from London, so actually the two of us will be cocktailing by the pool…So much more civilsed…