From Long-Time Support Crew to Sixth Place in LIFETIME Leadville 100 MTB
Near the end of a breakout 2021 season, while competing at the legacy LIFETIME Leadville 100 MTB race, University of Utah graduate Melisa Rollins was recruited by TWENTY24 Pro Cycling. As the team develops a new roster and new team goals heading into the 2022 season, Rollins has the versatility and adaptability the team is looking for.
“I have been recruiting talented development athletes for more than a decade and I know Melisa has what it takes to go as far as she wants in cycling regardless of discipline,” said TWENTY24 Pro Cycling General Manager, Nicola Cranmer. “I was impressed with her top ten finish and her positive attitude—Melisa checks so many of the boxes that determine a rising star and I’m excited to create a pathway to her performance goals,” Cranmer added.
Rollins’ debut race with TWENTY24 is set for September 4, 2021 at the Park City Point to Point MTB Race in Utah, which features 75 miles of mostly single-track and 12,000 feet of climbing. She’ll follow with the renowned LIFETIME Chequamegon 40 event in Wisconsin, a race held on the famed American Birkebeiner Ski Trail on September 18, 2021. Rollins will roll into winter with a competitive Zwift race schedule ahead of her.
“I’m super excited to join the team—there is a wealth of knowledge on Team TWENTY24,” said Melisa Rollins. “Though I’ve had a lot of help from the Hangar 15 Bicycles shop team this past year, I have never really had any actual teammates to ride or race with. I’m excited to be able to get to know and watch some experienced ladies. I’m fairly new to participating in such a high level of racing, and I’m excited to be able to learn from women who I have looked up to for years. I am so proud and honored to line up in Team TWENTY24 colors,” Rollins added.
A Utah native, Rollins balances her blossoming cycling career with her work as a chemist at ARUP Laboratories, a national nonprofit and academic reference laboratory at the forefront of diagnostic medicine based in Salt Lake City, UT. She swam competitively in high school, establishing school records in the 100 breaststroke, 200 freestyle relay, and 500 freestyle. Her road to the bike began in 2016 when her stepdad won a mountain bike in a raffle. He offered her the bike if she would commit to racing the Leadville 100. She accepted the gift and the challenge.
Why Leadville? The Leadville 100 has been a family affair for as long as she can remember. Rollins has been a support crew member for her mom, uncle, stepdad, and brother at Leadville events for many years. Her stepdad, legendary Leadville 100 MTB podcast host Elden Nelson, aka Fatty, has competed in the Leadville 100 MTB twenty-three times, her mom sixteen times (running it once), her uncle three times, her brother twice, and her biological father several times as well.
That challenge led Rollins to finish 36th in her first Leadville 100 MTB. In 2017, Rollins sustained an injury on a recon Leadville MTB ride. Completely defeated; she sidelined the bike and began competing in ultra running events. She was back in Leadville in 2018—this time on foot. The year included a string of Leadman events: Leadville Marathon, Silver Rush 50 MTB, Silver Rush 50 Run, Leadville 100 MTB, Leadville 10k run, and the Leadville 100 Trail Run. The combination of having never run more than a few miles off-road, and training for the 100-mile run, left her chronically fatigued for the following year and she has not competed in a running race since.
In 2019, recognizing that she was shooting from the hip with her training, she hired a cycling specific coach. After training with structure and purpose for six months, it was time for her third Leadville 100 MTB, this time securing a solid 6th place performance and a PR by nearly 1.5 hours. In 2021 she earned another sixth place—but this time in a highly competitive and much deeper field. She improved on her finishing time by 50 minutes.
Rollins’ palmares include wins at the 2020 Eden Epic MTB and the 2021 Firecracker 50 MTB, and a fifth place in the 2020 Belgian Waffle Ride in Cedar City, UT.
2021 Leadville 100 MTB
1. Rose Grant, 07:23:57
2. Moriah Wilson, 07:27:32
3. Sarah Sturm, 07:30:56
4. Hannah Finchamp, 07:45:13
5. Katerina Nash, 07:47:39
6. Melisa Rollins, 07:48:29
2021 LeadBoat Challenge
1. Sarah Sturm (Specialized / Rapha)
2. Melisa Rollins (Hanger 15)
3. Jasmin Duehring (TWENTY24)
4. Kaysee Armstrong (LIV Racing)
5. Kristen Legan (Unattached)