Cory Wallace is racing this weekend’s Leadville 100 mountain bike marathon race on a gravel bike. The iconic event, once won by Lance Armstrong, isn’t exactly the most technical race but it’s still a mountain bike race. Taking on Leadville 100 on a gravel bike – or something resembling a gravel bike – is still a risky endeavour.
But then again, Cory Wallace is no normal athlete. And Wallace’s Kona Libre DL is definitely pushing the limits of what could be considered a gravel bike.
The Candian, a multiple-time 24-Hour World Championships winner, knows he’s pushing the limits of his Libre. “I believe this bike setup can go toe toe with the mountain bikers out their tomorrow at the race across the sky,” Wallace says, adding “For the majority of the course it will be awesome, a couple rowdy sections will be a test for this bike and my skills.”
The Jasper, Alta. endurance specialist is racing a 52cm Kona Libre Carbon DL. The frame is a gravel frame, for sure. Wallace is rocking a dual ring Shimano GRX drivetrain for Leadville’s steep climbs(31-48 up front with an 11-40 cassette), 42cm Pro Ergo carbon fibre drop bars and Shimano RS road rims.
Then things get interesting. Up front, Wallace has Fox’s 40-mm travel RAD gravel suspension fork. Between the sanctions, there’s a meaty 29×2.25″ Maxxis Aspen tire. Out back, it’s matched with a 50c Maxxis Rambler. That’s half mountain bike tires and half way to a mountain bike fork.
But it’s not a mountain bike. I mean, he’s not even running a dropper post. But someone, somewhere, is surely muttering “That’s just a 90s mountain bike.”
Wallace also squeezes three water bottle cages into the Libre’s frame. Which should help keep the Canadian going in the Colorado heat.
Especially since Wallace is doubling up this weekend. When Leadville 100 finishes, he’ll have less than 24-hours to recover before starting the 231-km SBT GRVL event on Sunday.
Wallace isn’t the first Canadian to explore the limits – and advantages – of gravel bikes. Geoff Kabush made headlines for riding a Yeti-coloured Open U.P. to win the Iceman Cometh mountain bike race way back in 2018.