What: “Race Across the Sky”
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Century Theater, Twenty Ninth Street mall
In the 2010 Leadville Trail 100 race, a 100-mile mountain-biking grind above 10,000 feet, Boulder’s Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski duked it out for first place for six and a half hours.
In the end, JHK (as he’s known) came in second, minutes behind Levi Leipheimer. But his story and others — pro and amateur — from one of the most grueling races around will appear in the film “Race Across the Sky,” a documentary by Denver-based Citizen Pictures that will show at 550 or so theaters around the country on Thursday night, including Boulder’s Century Theater at the Twenty Ninth Street mall.
In addition to the film, they will broadcast a live panel discussion with racers — including Horgan-Kobelski — from the Paramount Theatre in Denver.
As of Wednesday afternoon, only 30 tickets were left for the show in Boulder.
Director Frank Matson, of Boulder, has done the Leadville Trail 100 three times, so he knows the race and knew it would make a great documentary subject.
“It’s intriguing because it’s such an epic, long, hard endurance race at altitude,” he said. “This is arguably the hardest one-day mountain-bike race in the world.”
Citizen Pictures made a film of the race last year, when Lance Armstrong entered and won. They entered into the same agreement they have this year with National CineMedia — to create the film and show it as a live event around the country via satellite.
Matson said as a filmmaker, it was daunting to take on the same subject twice. So for this year’s film, he focused less on the pros and more on the other riders. He was surprised by people’s personal stories about the race.
“People are either riding with a physical or mental challenge, or riding for someone who has an illness, or lost 100 pounds and chose to get in this race,” Matson said.
“I think that’s the biggest takeaway this year: It’s about life and people and overcoming adversity to do this race.”
One of those stories was of Erik Weihenmayer, who is better known for being the first (and only) blind person to climb Mount Everest. Now he’s also the only blind person to complete the Leadville Trail 100 — which he did just under the time limit on the back of a tandem bike. (Weihenmayer, of Golden, will be on the live panel.)
But many of the stories are from the everyday mountain biker who chooses to do this race, Matson said. And there are a lot to choose from: 1,500 people signed up for the 2010 Leadville Trail 100; just over 900 completed it in the 12-hour time limit.
“It’s a really neat race, because it’s not just about the professionals,” Horgan-Kobelski said. “Every person who does it will come away with a good story.”
Horgan-Kobelski said his first experience with the Leadville Trail 100 was 16 years ago, when he was a junior racer and his dad, a recreational cyclist, decided to do it as a personal challenge.
“That’s what makes this story really powerful,” he said. “It’s so difficult no matter who you are.”
Though he’d been wanting to do the race for years, this was the first time it fit into his international racing schedule, he said.
“It’s a totally different effort than what I typically do,” Horgan-Kobelski said. “World Cup racing, the races are typically two hours. They’re really intense, and you’re acutely suffering the whole time.”
“It’s sort of a long drawn out kind of pain,” he said.