Giant-sponsored XC and gravel racer Cole Paton scored a top-five finish at the Leadville 100 mountain bike race in Colorado, moving up to third place overall in the Life Time Grand Prix series after four of seven events.
Australian Brendan Johnston, also riding for Giant, put in a strong ride at Leadville as well, finishing in the top-20 and ending the day tied for 13th overall in the Life Time Grand Prix.
Paton and Johnston are part of Giant’s new gravel squad, a group of privateers focusing on major North American gravel and XC races. They are supported by Giant, racing on bikes including the Revolt Advanced Pro gravel bike and the XtC Advanced SL 29 hardtail mountain bike, which was Paton’s choice for the legendary Leadville 100 race.
“With over 11,000 feet of elevation gain, I opted to ride a super lightweight setup with my XtC hardtail on my XCR 1 WheelSystem,” Paton said after his impressive fourth-place finish on a day that saw record breaking times among the frontrunners. “The bike powered up the climbs and delivered me to the line 10 minutes faster than my previous best result here. My fourth-place finish is a result I’m really proud of. It was a great day riding at the front of what was arguably the most competitive field ever seen at this iconic event.”
Johnston, racing the Leadville 100 for the first time, also had a strong ride at the grueling race that reaches elevations above 12,500 feet in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.
“I’m pleased with my 18th place finish at this incredibly high-altitude event,” said the six-time Australian national champion. “The first half had me struggling in the thin air, but I really got going on the run home and moved up a bunch of places. It was nice to be the hunter rather than the hunted those last few hours. I’m looking forward to coming events at the lower elevations I’m used to.”
In The Hunt
With consistently strong racing through the first half of the season, Paton is well positioned in the Life Time Grand Prix, which features 70 (35 men and 35 women) top off-road endurance pros chasing a $250,000 purse at seven iconic events across the U.S. Among the pro men racing the series, Paton has finished 3rd at the Sea Otter Classic in California; 19th at the Unbound gravel race in Kansas; fifth at the Crusher in the Tushar gravel race in Utah; and third at Leadville.
That puts Paton tied at third overall in the series. Leadville winner Keegan Swenson leads, followed by Russell Finsterwald in second. Paton is in three-way tie with former WorldTour racers Lachlan Morton and Peter Stetina for third overall. Johnston, sitting 13th overall, looks to continue his momentum and break into the top-10 in the second half of the season.
“It has been fun to find the limits on this bike and see just how capable it is at high speeds over rough terrain,” Paton said following his top-five finish at the Crusher in the Tushar. “I was stoked to finish fifth at this race and go six minutes faster than I did last year.”
Looking ahead, the Life Time Grand Prix continues with two races in September—the Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival in Wisconsin on September 16 and The Race Dirt Fest gravel race in Colorado September 30—followed by the final event, Big Sugar Gravel, October 21 in Arkansas.