What a sweet, sweet race! I pre-rode the course on Friday and was entirely unimpressed. I consider Durango to be a big mountain bike destination, and I was a little surprised at the trails they selected to feature in this race. Although I understood that they wanted to keep the course in town and select a spectator friendly route, I was sure they could have done better.
They could not have done better.
This course rocked.
The downtown area was jam-packed with spectators. I’d venture to guess that the trail covered about seven miles in total with five of those miles on dirt trails and two on pavement in and out of town. Spectators centered around the pavement section of the course in the downtown area. The fans were (by far) the highlight of this race.
The mountain bike course overlapped with the crit course. There was a single lane sectioned off for us to access the same streets used for the crit. There was also a flyover. The crit racers would travel underneath the flyover. We would go over the ramp. The flyover was used in both directions – in and out of town.
The pro mountain bike races also included a stretch through a downtown Durang restaurant – Steamworks. It was one of the coolest features of any race I have ever done. They took a plate glass window out of the front of the restaurant and added a wooden ramp to allow us access to Steamworks via the (now) glassless window.
We rode up the ramp, through the window and onto a fenced off section within the restaurant. At first, it appeared totally black inside because the eyes needed time to adjust. People inside Steamworks were going nuts. They were screaming, cheering, eating and drinking as we zig-zagged through the place. We came out the other side of the restaurant down balcony via a super steep ramp. The ramp dropped us down from the top of the balcony to the pavement. Following the ramp, we took a hard left hand turn. Given the placement of the corner, had to make sure we didn’t zip down the ramp too fast or we’d wipe out.
The restaurant section was followed by a few man-made features on the pavement section of the course. There was a rock garden and these little wooden, triangular things meant to mimic going over logs. It required decent speed to successfully clear them, and a lot of fans were out on the course at this section.
From the rock garden / wood log section, we would wander our way back to the crit course, head up and over the flyover, and hit the trails.
The actual single track part of the trail – the dirt stuff – included two climbs. The first climb was probably a good five minute effort and it was hard – steep. We’d drop down really fast from that first climb before heading up again for a second climb. The second climb wasn’t quite as steep but it was easily double the length of the first climb – if not more. The top of the second climb took us to trails all around Fort Lewis University campus.
It wasn’t true single track up there, so the course was marked off with tape like you would see at a ‘cross race This part of the course included different sections of pump track and a section through tight and narrow trees that required some track stand skills to navigate. From here, we’d see real single track again until we were dumped back downtown to begin another loop.
Did I mention how much fun this course was? So fun. I knew it would be different racing this course in real race conditions, but I didn’t know how different. The spectators and fans keep things light-hearted with their heckles and cheers. I found myself laughing at some of things that they were yelling (ok, at A LOT of the things they were yelling).
Teal Stetson-Lee, my former Cal Giant teammate, beat me by about five minutes. Shonny Vanlandingham finished second. I rounded out the podium.
As happened yesterday, my back and neck tightened up a bit later in the race. On the last lap, I knew I had a decent gap on the girl behind me, so as long as I avoided making any mistakes, my hold on third was guaranteed. In addition to the back and neck pain, I was a little bit tired from the road race on Saturday – but it was the back and neck more than anything.
Both Teal and Shonny are from Durango, and I would guess they benefited slightly from the hometown advantage. That being said, Teal was undeniably the strongest. Shonny has been on Luna for as long as I can remember. She retired from mountain biking awhile ago to race Xterra, and this was her first mountain race in several years. She’s a former Xterra World Champion.
I can’t be too upset to be beat by a strong up and comer on the mountain bike scene and a veteran who wears the rainbow stripes, but I do wish I could have closed the gap a bit more.
All in all, another top-notch day. We had perfect weather, amazing spectators and solid racing. It was neat to be in Todd Wells’ hometown, run Ned Overland and get help from Michael Engleman at the road race. This place is seeped in cycling history.
I also need to make sure I give a shout out to Specialized. The demo team was here, and, as usual, they lent me a hand with the various things I needed. Fun weekend. Bottom line? Both roadies and mountain bikers should put Iron Horse Classic on their list of racing must do’s. I’m stoked to have checked it off mine.