leadville Andres Small

Training for Leadville: From the Couch to the LT100 MTB in One Year!


By Jim Rutberg,
CTS Pro Coach

Major life transformations are always bumpy, but Andres Small’s “Couch to Leadville” journey shows that the benefits of taking on ambitious goals extend way beyond race-day performance. His story is not a fairy tale where everything falls into place, which is why we think you’ll find it both inspirational and relatable.

Choosing Leadville

Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, Andres Small graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Economics and International Relations, earned his MBA from Columbia Business School, and began his finance career with JPMorgan Chase in 2002. After advancing through private equity firms, he joined Partners Group in 2014, where he currently serves as Managing Director, Private Equity Partnership Investments.

Andres, his wife, and two toddlers were living in an apartment in New York City’ Upper East Side when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020. As it did for many, the pandemic changed his family’s perspective of where they wanted to live and raise children, so they moved to Denver, Colorado. Andres then learned about the Leadville 100 through his role on the Board of Directors for Life Time Fitness, owner of the Leadville Race Series and a company within Partners Group’s portfolio. Initially, though, Life Time Fitness and the Leadville 100 were just another investment.

First Steps

The Leadville 100 didn’t resonate as a personal goal for Andres right away. After moving to Colorado, the work connection to Life Time inspired him to sign up for the 2022 Leadville 100. But without a personal connection to the challenge, his commitment to training and lifestyle changes didn’t follow. His CTS, Coach Adam Pulford, characterized his training through the winter and spring of 2022 as “stop and go”. Although he purchased a Stages SB20 indoor bike, between traveling for work and chasing toddlers with his wife, some weeks he put in 4-6 hours of training and other weeks he couldn’t train at all.

The Wake Up Call

In May 2022, Andres came down with a case of COVID that knocked him down for a solid month. “COVID just wiped me out for about a month, month and a half. I was lethargic. Although, I could do a little bit of exercise, I also needed to nap every day. I once even fell asleep at a stoplight,” he recalled. In June, he took advantage of a month-long sabbatical offered by his employer for every five years of service. “I took an entire month off in a nice place with great food and even better wine. And when I came back, I had my annual physical. And my doctor told me, ‘Look, this sabbatical may have done wonders for your mental health, but your physical health is not great.’

I was the heaviest I’ve been my entire life. All the health metrics you want low were at the highest they’d ever been. That was really where I was like, ‘Okay, let’s do this.’” With the 2022 Leadville 100 only a month away at that point, he deferred and set his sights on the 2023 Leadville 100.

Gaining fitness would only be part of the challenge. Andres didn’t own a mountain bike, had never ridden a mountain bike on trails, and did all his training indoors. As it turned out, he didn’t purchase a mountain bike until the spring of 2023 and only rode it a few times before his first mountain bike competition, the Leadville Stage Race.

andres small leadville

Making it Work

Meeting an athlete where they are is one of the most important things a coach can do. For Coach Adam that meant designing a program that almost exclusively utilized indoor cycling, at home and in hotels, to prepare Andres for an outdoor mountain bike race that could last up to 12 hours.

For Andres’ part, he committed to riding indoors in the morning, between 5:00 – 7:00 AM while his family was still asleep and before he needed to go to work. “With young kids through the pandemic, there were a ton of shows and movies I never watched. So, my treat was being able to catch up on shows while riding in the basement.”

To accommodate the morning rides, he prioritized sleep and nutrition. His kids had early bedtimes, which allowed Andres to spend some time with his wife and still get to bed by 9:00-9:30 PM and get a consistent 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. In terms of nutrition, the increased training workload increased his appetite and caloric intake, but the early bedtime also prevented him from mindlessly snacking late into the night. Without proactively trying, he gained muscle and lost fat, leading to an overall drop in bodyweight.

During his abbreviated season of training in early 2022, Andres regularly skipped training during work trips when hotels didn’t have stationary bikes. After his wake-up call in the summer, he made a point of staying in hotels that had fitness facilities. However, he and Adam also arranged his training schedule so focused interval work could be completed at home so rides during work trips could be recovery or endurance rides that required less precision or data collection.

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Flattening the Learning Curve

Entering the Leadville 100 with virtually no mountain biking experience is not ideal, but when athletes set ambitious and deeply personal goals, we try to support them unless the goal puts their safety or health at risk. Coach Adam’s task was to educate Andres as much as possible so he could effectively manage his effort level, risk tolerance, and nutrition strategy on race day.


It can take athletes years to learn how hard to push themselves, for how long, and at what points during a race. Without much time, and considering the duration of the Leadville 100, Coach Adam focused on teaching Andres how to use heart rate and perceived exertion to stay in Zones 2 and 3 for long periods of time. Although they used hard intervals to gain fitness, the pacing strategies for the 3-day Leadville Stage Race and then the Leadville 100 were to stay in aerobic endurance and Tempo intensity ranges to conserve energy and not burn too many matches with high-intensity efforts.


Steadily consuming calories throughout many hours on the bike – without suffering gastric distress – is essential for finishing the Leadville 100. This is a skill on its own, as Andres had to learn. At first, a more experienced Leadville competitor encouraged him to consume high-calorie sports drinks (i.e., 400 calories per bottle). With insufficient gut training, these predictably led to GI distress. Andres and Coach Adam changed that by resetting to packaged foods (e.g. gels, chews, solid foods) and water or low-calorie sports drinks. This allowed Andres to find a sustainable calorie and fluid intake and, from there, he gradually increased hourly carbohydrate intake and created a list of foods and drinks he tolerated well.

Mountain Biking Skills

Between his work schedule, family commitments, and a snowy winter and spring in Colorado, Andres did not work on technical mountain bike skills going into the Leadville Stage Race and Leadville 100. Knowing this would be a weakness and a source of anxiety, Andres and Coach Adam worked to set expectations and minimize risk. Andres set his goal at “Arrive Alive”, meaning he committed to riding very conservatively. That’s not an easy commitment for driven, goal-oriented, and professionally successful executives who are easily drawn into riding aggressively, especially in an adrenaline-fueled environment like a mountain bike race.

Racing Leadville

Andres Small had two cracks at Leadville. The first was the Leadville Stage Race in July 2023, which breaks the 100-mile Leadville 100 course into three stages over three days. This was Andres’s first mountain bike competition – ever – on a mountain bike he’d only ridden a handful of times. By sticking with his conservative game plan, pacing wisely, and eating adequately, he had a positive 3-day experience and finished the Leadville Stage Race. The most important takeaways were that his aerobic fitness was good and his nutrition strategy kept him fueled without causing GI distress. He did suffer from muscle cramps, which was somewhat expected due to the novel stress from exertion and a new bike. Because he was prepared for them, he was able to work through them by backing off the intensity and cooling down.

andres small leadville finish

Leadville 100 MTB

Going into the 100-mile (actually 105-mile…) Leadville 100, Andres knew he would be flirting with the time cuts all day. Nevertheless, the goal was to ride the whole course, buckle or not. “At the start I was a different type of nervous, like in a way I hadn’t been since like high school football games. Then there were elements of making it past checkpoints, like going down Powerline. I didn’t fall. I made it past the first time cut. So, I was like, ‘Yeah, okay, I’m doing well.’ Then every cut off, I made each with a few minutes to spare.”

Of course, the problem with being so close to the time cuts is that you don’t have much time to absorb adversity. On the descent from the course’s high point at Columbine Mine, Andres crashed with the helmet pushing his glasses and cutting the bridge of his nose. “CTS was very helpful because once I made it down to the aid station, the coaches went through the concussion protocol to verify I was okay to go on.” Andres fought his way onward, managing his effort level and nutrition and making the final time cut. In the end, he reached the finish line in Leadville with a time of 12:36:16. Although he was outside the official time limit of 12:00:00, he achieved his goal of completing the Leadville 100 and ignited his ambition to return and earn his first 100-mile belt buckle!

andres small leadville text

Post-Leadville 100 text from Andres Small to his coach, Adam Pulford.

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Comments 4

  1. I am interested…is Andres still competing?
    Also, I am amazed that CTS coaches would send a client out with no real mt biking experience to the Leadville 100 mbr.

    1. Post

      Andres is planning on entering the lottery for the 2024 LT100 MTB. As for sending an athlete to LT100 with no real mountain biking experience, the article states, “Entering the Leadville 100 with virtually no mountain biking experience is not ideal, but when athletes set ambitious and deeply personal goals, we try to support them unless the goal puts their safety or health at risk. Coach Adam’s task was to educate Andres as much as possible so he could effectively manage his effort level, risk tolerance, and nutrition strategy on race day.” As MTB events go, the LT100 is quite tame from a technical standpoint. There is copious support on course and few opportunities to get lost. CTS also had support crews at aid stations for the LT100, so Coach Adam knew we could look after him throughout the event. So, although the LT100 was a big risk from a performance/DNF standpoint, Adam and the coaches at LT100 were confident the safety risk was low. – Jim Rutberg, CTS

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