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Riding for Life at 12,000 Feet

CC Cunningham is the Program Coordinator for the Chris Klug Foundation.

The Chris Klug Foundation returned to the Leadville 100 MTB mountain bike race with a mighty team of thirteen—ten riders and three volunteers. Held in Leadville, Colorado every year for the past twenty-five years, the Leadville 100 MTB, or “Leadville 100”, is a world-renowned mountain bike race that spans over 100 miles in length, with a vertical ascent of 12,000+ feet. This grueling test of mental and physical strength, technical control and endurance covers extreme terrain, steep uphill climbs and treacherous loose-gravel downhills in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

CKF was represented by ten racers this year: Chris Klug, Jon Gibans, Alex Loeffler, Jeffrey Cole, Michael Faas, Ryan McClean, John-Mark Pampiano, Scott Kendrick, Keith White and Aaron Whalen. Aaron is a living donor who altruistically donated a part of his liver—only six months before riding in the Leadville race! Although his donation was anonymous, he was able to identify and meet the recipient of his liver: an eight-year-old boy, named Manny. Read more about Aaron’s incredible act of generosity in the “Trailblazer of Hope” blog post.

The entire race takes an average of twelve hours to complete, so we were up bright and early to see our riders off at the starting line. The shotgun to signal the beginning of the race was fired as the sun was rising over the mountains in the distance. Nearly 2,000 riders pedaled by us as we watched from the sidelines. You could hear cowbells and shouts of encouragement the entire time. It definitely made for a picture-perfect scene.

CKF set up two aid stations at different points along the race course. We received an overwhelming amount of support at each station from our three volunteers: Esther Blom-Geiser, MJ Faas and Lori Cole. We had so much fun helping each of our riders along the way—whether that was by lubing chains, replacing flat tires or handing out Coca-Colas and Hot Shots to help with cramps. The energy was palpable throughout the entire race as family members, friends, volunteers and race staff cheered on the riders as they rode by or stopped to refuel.

Alex Loeffler finished 93rd in his classification, nearly completing the race in under nine hours. Gibans finished 76th in his classification and 430th overall. Jeffrey Cole finished 81st in his division in just under ten hours. McClean finished 358th overall, finishing a little over nine and a half hours. Michael Faas was three minutes over the eleven-hour mark, coming in 792nd overall. Scott Kendrick completed the race at exactly twelve hours, finishing 260th in his classification. Unfortunately, Aaron did not qualify to finish the race as his time was over twelve hours at the final checkpoint. Just six months out of donating his liver and after going through major surgery, we couldn’t be prouder of his commitment and how far he came in the race. Our very own Chris Klug completed the race with an impressive time of 8:58:31! Although he had FOUR flat tires throughout the race, which made it difficult to achieve his personal goal of finishing the race in under eight hours, he still finished first out of our team and 88th in his division!

We are so proud and inspired by our Leadville team. As mentioned, the race is no easy feat by any means, but the commitment and pure dedication showed by the CKF team members in supporting organ donation and transplant means so much to the Foundation as well as to our supporters and those whose lives have been touched by donation. We want to extend a huge “thank-you” to all ten of our riders for participating in this year’s race, as well as to our three volunteers for lending your support and generosity. Way to go, team!

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