On Saturday, cycling fans will see legend verses legend at the Leadville 100 in Colorado, with seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong (Mellow Johnny's) and six-time Leadville 100 winner Dave Wiens (Topeak / Ergon) duelling in the Rocky Mountains.
Wiens, who beat Armstrong last year, will be aiming for the top step of the Leadville podium in a race he knows well. In 2008, he won, setting a new course record of 6:45. Armstrong finished second.
Shortly after last year's race, Armstrong announced his comeback to professional road cycling. So far in 2009, he's raced the Tour of California, the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France.
While the 37-year-old Armstrong was riding in fine form and onto the podium in France during July, 45-year-old Wiens was tuning his fitness on the dirt in the Alps. Wiens, who changed his training in preparation for this year's event, rode for eight days in the TransAlp, including 50,000 feet of climbing, to finish seventh with teammate Alban Lakata.
Most fans are familiar with Armstrong's accomplishments, especially his seven Tour de France wins. Wiens, on the other hand, has been active in mountain bike racing for 20 years. He has won two US national titles, two World Cups and is a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Though he's been mostly retired since 2004, he's continued to race the Leadville 100 and a few other select events.
Wiens has faced roadies before at the Leadville. Former Tour de France winner (at least until his title was revoked due to a positive doping test) Floyd Landis raced to second place behind Wiens in 2007.
Wiens knows it won't be easy for him to defend his Leadville title. "I thought Lance might be able win the Tour this year," he said on his Topeak-Ergon team's website. "I was really impressed that he was able to come back after three years off the racing circuit and be able to ride to third place in the Tour de France. There was lots of pressure on him because he has many detractors and people who are critical of him, especially his coming back to professional cycling."
Regardless of whether Armstrong wins on Saturday, it looks like more mountain biking may be in his future. While doing some pre-Leadville training with Costa Rican mountain bike pro Manuel Prado, who finished third in the 2008 Leadville, Armstrong indicated that he was 90% likely to race La Ruta, a gruelling four-day mountain bike stage race in Costa Rica, in November of 2010. Prado will be another racer to watch on Saturday.
Chris Carmichael, Armstrong's coach, is also on the start list for Saturday.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for coverage of the Leadville 100.