This was the first year in several that the Iron Horse race weekend has included a mountain bike race. Since Ari and I love visiting our cousin Tom and his wife Maggie, we look forward to any excuse to visit Durango-and a new mountain bike race fit the bill! When I saw that the Iron Horse would have a Queen of the Mountain competition consisting of the road race and the mountain bike race, I figured why not and registered for both.
Thursday afternoon Ari and I packed up the truck and hit the road, destined for Durango Colorado for the IronHorse Bicycle Classic. On the way, we picked up my cousin Brian. We decided to stop in Salida for dinner. None of us had been there before (actually I’m sure I have, but like many destinations visited during my childhood, I don’t remember). I’m glad we stopped ‘cause it’s a really great town and definitely some place I’d like to come back to and spend some time in.
Anyway, we arrived in Durango later that night and my other cousin Tom had the front light on and was up waiting for us. The next day started with a leisurely breakfast and then I set out to pre-ride the cross-country course. The course was not really what I was expecting…for some reason it didn’t really sink in that we were racing pretty much in town. I’ll admit, I wasn’t psyched on the course…especially the silly taped-off twisty section near the Ft. Lewis campus. It definitely took a few tries before I was able to even get my big wheels through it without dabbing. After the less-than inspiring pre-ride, I went back to my cousins’ house and we all got ready to visit our first brewery;)
SKA Brewery had a really cool outdoor seating area, awesome food-truck cuisine, and needless to say-delicious beer (I restricted my intake to 1 due to the racing and such….). Tom’s wife Maggie met us at the brewery after she was done with work and the band was back to together!
The next morning was the road race which started at 8am. This meant for an early wake up for me, and to my astonishment the whole house got up with me! My fantastic support crew was determined to be in Silverton for my finish and since they closed the road at 8, this meant that they had to get past the closure before then. So we were all up and about by 6 am.
The road race was a shock. I haven’t raced in a pack in years, and I was sort of uncomfortable and nervous to be surrounded by so many folks. It was like this for the first hour before we hit the first climb. Once we started climbing, things strung out and I was more comfortable, or at least less nervous I should say. Long story short-I think I ended up finishing 9th. Not quite what I was hoping for, but I was hoping to redeem myself in the mountain bike race. The day finished with a stinging ‘ice-bath’/wade in the Animas river followed by another delicious home-cooked meal by Tom and Maggie and some solid family fun time with the cousins!
The mountain bike race started later in the afternoon on Sunday. So, thankfully we were able to sleep in, with everyone sort of doing their own thing for the morning. I stretched, hydrated, checked over my bike, etc and before I knew it it was time to go! As I was warming up, I was very pleasantly surprised at how not-awful my legs felt. They were definitely a little achy, but not bad considered the effort the day before. I had a pretty good start and was sitting in 2 or 3 going up the first technical climb. I made it through the tight, twisty section which actually wasn’t bad and even was sort of fun, and before I knew it we were looping back through town, up a really steep ramp that crossed OVER the road crit that was taking place at the same time, down the steep ramp, cut sharp left, hop a curb, up a little ramp into the Durango Brewery, out the back, and down another ramp, and back onto the course. My fantastic support crew was in the perfect location with water bottles and enthusiastic cheering each time I went by. I ended up finishing 3rd and felt ok with that. At the end of the day, as I was sipping a (ok, maybe more than one) beer, I determined that this was the most fun mountain bike race I’d ever done! The course was way more fun to race on than I was expecting, the crowds were fantastic, and riding through a brewery is just awesome. Not to mention having my family there was pretty fun too. I’m really hoping that the mountain bike race becomes a regular part of the Iron Horse Classic weekend. Maybe next year I’ll be able to win the Queen of the Mountain title!