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By Fred Dreier
Colorado’s thin air and long, grinding mountain passes played to the strengths of climbing specialists Anthony Colby and Mara Abbott, who took solo victories at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race.
The iconic Colorado event, which covers 47 miles from Durango to Silverton and ascends the hulking Coal Bank and Molas passes, celebrated its 38th year on Saturday.
Gray skies and moisture greeted riders who queued up in downtown Durango for the 7:20 a.m. start. A deluge on Friday evening had many wondering if the Iron Horse would see a repeat of 2008, when a heavy snowstorm stopped the race before it even began for the first time since its inception in 1972. In 1997, the Iron Horse was halted in midrace after reports of snow, heavy winds and slush on 10,910-foot Molas Pass.
Race director Gaige Sippy, however, was confident that the race would run its course.
“We don’t have the same kind of cold as last year,” Sippy said Friday night.
A nip in the air saw most of the Iron Horse riders toe the line in leg warmers, jackets and gloves. Many others carried layers to throw on for the high-speed descent into Silverton. But in lieu of a few dark clouds and some spitting of moisture, the weather held for the entirety of the race.
Colby (Colavita-Sutter Home) and the rest of the men’s pro field watched as Durango’s Ben Kneller took a solo flier on the day’s first incline, the false flat ramp past Shaloma Lake. With Kneller riding solo out front, the men’s field gradually whittled down as the pace was upped on Coal Bank.
“I was worried about Ben. Nobody was really chasing,” said Colby, like Kneller a Durango resident. “We weren’t making any time on him. Nobody was attacking.”
Colby finished second at the Iron Horse in 2007 when Phil Zajicek attacked at the summit of Coal Bank and held his winning advantage over Molas and into Silverton. Colby said he didn’t want to be put into another situation where he was racing for second place, so he decided to attack at the same spot. The field, which included Zajicek, Chris Wherry (Hotel San Jose), Jonathan Garcia (BMC) and a smattering of local pros, didn’t initially chase.
Colby increased his gap on the three-mile descent from Coal Bank and then narrowed the gap to Kneller on the five-mile climb up Molas. Colby caught the tiring Kneller near the summit.
“Ben had to get off his bike. He looked pretty haggard,” Colby said.
The Colavita rider held his advantage to the line, finishing in 2:20:04.
“[Winning] this race is good for me because I rode aggressively and it worked out,” Colby said. “It’s my hometown race so it’s easy to find motivation to get yourself ready.”
Abbott came into the Iron Horse on the tail end of a stay in Colorado between European racing campaigns. On May 16 Abbott won Boulder’s Sunshine Canyon Hill Climb.
The Columbia-Highroad climber, who won the 2007 Iron Horse, took the front of the women’s field on the slow climb to Shaloma Lake, a little earlier than she would have liked.
“It didn’t seem like anybody else had the impetus to go so I got on the front,” Abbott said. “It was temptation. I was thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll just do it here.’”
Abbott held a fluctuating gap over a group of three chasers before finally pulling away on the climb up Molas to win in 2:39:53.
“It feels really good to be able to win a race like this. It’s more of an event than just a race,” Abbott said. “You feel like you’re part of something bigger; part of the community.”
Durango icon Ned Overend competed despite earlier reports that the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame rider was suffering from a bad back. The 53-year-old Overend, who won the Iron Horse in 1983, 1986, 1987 and 1992, finished 15th in the pro men’s field.
1. Anthony Colby, Durango, CO, 2:20:04
2. Alex Hagman, Woody Creek, CO, 2:21:01
3. Phil Zajicek, Boulder, CO, 2:21:01
4. Greg Krause, Littleton, CO, 2:21:01
5. Jonathan Garcia, Ft Collins, CO, 2:21:01
6. Dan Bowman, Durango, CO, 2:21:01
7. Cameron Brenneman, Santa Fe, NM, 2:21:01
8. Kevin Nicol, Lafayette, CO, 2:21:01
9. Nico Toutenhoof, Boulder, CO, 2:21:13
10. Mike Allen, Fruita, CO, 2:21:28
11. Ben Kneller, Durango, CO, 2:21:29
12. Sam Jurekovic, Colorado Springs, CO, 2:22:07
13. Rotem Ishay, Durango, CO, 2:22:35
14. Ian Tuttle, Mill Valley, CA, 2:22:35
15. Ned Overend, Durango, CO, 2:22:41
16. Chris Case, Golden, CO, 2:24:00
17. Ian Burnett, Durango, CO, 2:24:46
18. Robin Eckmann, Boulder, CO, 2:25:19
19. Mark Schwab, Boulder, CO, 2:26:27
20. Brad Winn, Colorado Springs, CO, 2:26:32
21. Paul Thomas, Tucson, AZ, 2:26:32
22. Neil Coleman, Bloomfield, NM, 2:26:49
23. Daniel Murray, Telluride, CO, 2:27:53
24. Chris Wherry, Durango, CO, 2:27:58
25. Jesse Dekrey, Durango, CO, 2:27:58
26. Matt Shriver, Durango, CO, 2:27:58
27. Ben Hoffman, Durango, CO, 2:27:58
28. Joey Thompson, Durango, CO, 2:27:58
29. Zachary Tittensor, American Fork, UT, 2:28:45
30. Chris Carr, Littleton, CO, 2:30:53
31. Hugh Selby, Los Alamos, NM, 2:31:00
32. Trevor Connor, Ft Collins, CO, 2:31:17
33. Lee Rosenthal, Durango, CO, 2:32:48
34. Scott Nagelkerke, Manitou Springs, CO, 2:33:04
35. Kevin Kirkwood, Scottsdale, AZ, 2:34:00
36. Caley Fretz, Ft Collins, CO, 2:34:00
37. Travis Mccabe, Prescott, AZ, 2:34:00
38. Alister Ratcliff, Durango, CO, 2:34:00
39. Scott Guzman, Moab, UT, 2:34:06
40. Lance Sulzen, Littleton, CO, 2:35:02
41. Darian Founds, Colorado Springs, CO, 2:36:10
42. Matt Anderson, Grand Junction, CO, 2:39:20
43. Daniel Matheny, Colorado Springs, CO, 2:41:54
44. Brian Flaherty, Telluride, CO, 2:42:31
45. Peter Brown, Tucson, AZ, 2:42:36
46. Dave Kerr, Albuquerque, NM, 2:46:01
47. Frank Mapel, Durango, CO, 2:48:58
48. Eric Burkhart, Odessa, TX, 2:49:55
49. Drew Miller, Flagstaff, AZ, 2:57:14
50. Steve Porter, Berthoud, CO, 3:4:30
51. Danny Bennett, Lordsburg, NM, 3:5:06
52. Mark Kessler, Prescott Valley, AZ, 3:24:28
53. Rory Lewis, Colorado Springs, CO, 3:48:28
1. Mara Abbott, Boulder, CO, 2:39:53
2. Marisa Asplund, Durango, CO, 2:40:01
3. Alisha Welsh, Salt Lake City, UT, 2:40:22
4. Melissa Mcwhirter, Scottsdale, AZ, 2:42:33
5. Amy Dombroski, Boulder, CO, 2:43:48
6. Susannah Gordon, Parker, CO, 2:43:51
7. Terrie Clouse, Monument, CO, 2:47:15
8. Lisa Tumminello, Littleton, CO, 2:47:18
9. Tiffany Cromwell, Boulder, CO, 2:47:22
10. Shantelle Pierce, Flora Vista, NM, 2:48:11
11. Tracey Jacobs, Boulder, CO, 2:50:57
12. Mindy Caruso, Albuquerque, NM, 2:51:14
13. Tiffany Pezzulo, Salt Lake City, UT, 2:52:31
14. Marilyn Mcdonald, Taber, AB, 2:54:31
15. Holly Borowski, Albuquerque, NM, 2:57:04
16. Ambre Levy, Aspen, CO, 2:58:40
17 Diana. Gibson, Boulder, CO, 2:58:48
18. Luisa Bryce, Denver, CO, 2:59:49
19. Barbara Wetherill, Santa Fe, NM, 2:59:49
20. Sue Stokes, Breckenridge, CO, 3:00:45
21. Michelle Steiner, Boulder, CO, 3:00:45
22. Jona Bollinger, Telluride, CO, 3:01:43
23. Molly Hummel, Durango, CO, 3:02:32
24. Gabriela Ferrat, Evergreen, CO, 3:03:5
25. Tanya Bettis, Albuquerque, NM, 3:03:30
26. Lesley Carroll, Denver, CO, 3:03:58
27. Sarah Sturm, Albuquerque, NM, 3:04:56
28. Christy Roberts, Rico, CO, 3:04:56
29. Anne Spalding, Grand Junction, CO, 3:04:56
30. Erin Dunham, Boulder, CO, 3:07:24
31. Jill Sugg, Phoenix, AZ, 3:10:11
32. Megan Cassidy, Ft Collins, CO, 3:10:37
33. Monique Hein, Lyons, CO, 3:10:49
34. Megan Myrick, Boulder, CO, 3:11:15
35. Alisabeth Thurston, Canon City, CO, 3:11:53
36. Carla Flores, Pueblo, CO, 3:14:19
37. Maria Osborne, Boulder, CO, 3:20:43
38. Cindy Sanchez, Tucson, AZ, 3:27:18