First-time Leadville 100 racers Rick Bucher and Julie Bass took an unusual approach to the 100-mile mountain bike race in Colorado. They got married at the top of the famous Columbine climb midway through Saturday's race.
"We had originally planned a wedding in Sedona. There is good mountain biking there," said Bucher to Cyclingnews. "We'd spoken about Leadville in the past. A few of our teammates had done it and said it was worth doing at least once."
"One day Julie said, 'What do you think about getting married in Leadville?'. I said, "That'd be nice,' and she said, "How about on top of Columbine?'. That was one of the coolest things I ever heard, so we moved forward with the plan."
Getting into the popular Leadville race is no easy chore, but contacting the registration personnel and letting them know their plans ahead of time helped Bucher and Bass get in.
The couple has been racing bikes for more than two decades. "This is 26 years for me and 22 or 23 for Julie," said Bucher, who is a firefighter / paramedic in Scottsdale, and she is a physical therapist. They've been together for four years and engaged for one.
The met because of two wheels, but not the bicycling kind. "I used to be a motorcycle road racer, and I had a catastrophic accident in which I broke my neck, leg and ankle. Julie was my PT. We got to talking during PT, and I came to find out we had a lot in common including road cycling and mountain biking. I think I'm more of a road racer than a mountain biker and Julie is more of the opposite."
"One thing led to another and we went for a bike ride. The last four years have been absolutely fantastic."
The couple has been training together all summer, including taking some trips to cooler locales at altitude to prepare for the conditions at Leadville.
"Our biggest goal is to get to Columbine and get the ceremony done. Getting back will be a secondary endeavor. I say that somewhat in jest, because I'm pretty confident we will make 12 hours in the longest," Bucher told Cyclingnews before the race. "Our goal is to make the time cutoffs. We're doing it more as a recreational ride - we're going to stick together through the whole day."
The race does not allow team support personnel atop Columbine, but organizers made an exception for the special occasion. Three members of the wedding party met the couple at the top. They held a 20-minute ceremony. Bucher was dressed all in black with a small top hat attached to his helmet and Julie was in all white with a veil attached to her helmet.
Both have raced together, usually on teams at 12-hour races, but they have never done a 100-miler before - together or separately.
On Saturday, they finished the race together, married, in a time of 12:46:55.