SARAH FRIEDMAN/Herald photos
SARAH FRIEDMAN/Herald photos
Not many mountain bike races go through crowded restaurants and down a ramp into the back alley, but this wasn’t just any mountain bike race.
For the 40th Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in Durango, race organizers decided to bring back the mountain bike race, and they decided to go all out.
On Sunday, both the men’s and women’s pro fields battled through a windswept course around the Fort Lewis College campus before riding back into town and through Steamworks Brewing Co. before crossing the finish line.
Durango native and Durango High School alum Howard Grotts added to his fourth-place finish in the Iron Horse Road Race with a decisive win Sunday.
“I was hurting in (Saturday’s) race, but (Sunday) I felt good the entire time,” Grotts said after only the third professional race of his career.
Troy Wells of Durango started out the day strong, leading the race for two of the three laps. Grotts turned on the burners on the first climb of the final lap.
“Howard (Grotts) is so light, he just road away on the first steep part,” Wells said. “I tried to ease up my second lap, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have enough in the tank to catch him.”
Wells and Travis Brown, a Mountain Biking Hall of Famer from Durango, finished second and third, respectively.
“Once I passed Troy (Wells), I didn’t know if they would catch me,” Grotts said. “But I had it in my legs.”
On the women’s side, it was another Durango sweep of the top spots.
Jennifer Gersback was the winner on the women’s side, finishing comfortably in front of former Fort Lewis College rider Teal Stetson-Lee and good friend Erin Huck.
Carmen Small, a Durango native, replicated her road race finish with yet another fourth-place finish.
“I tried to start slow since I tend to blow up, but on the first climb I felt good and decided to go,” said Gersback, who finished all three laps of the race in front of the pack.
Gersback used her knowledge of the Factory Trails to help her beat the field.
“I help out with DEVO sometimes, and I take the kids through the Factory Trails all the time,” Gersbach said. “So I have to thank the DEVO Jr. squad for giving me a leg up on that part.”
On top of the ridge over by the Fort Lewis campus, racers had to contend with a challenge from Mother Nature.
Racers had to lean into the wind to say upright, Gersbach said..
“I feel like I have dirt in my lungs,” FLC and No Tubes team rider Kaila Hart said after coming across the finish line.
Hart started the day off strong before dropping off the pace.
The racers agreed that the best part of the course was going through Steamworks after coming in off the trails.
“Riding through Steamworks gave me goosebumps every time,” Gersback said of the loud, cheering crowd.
Huck said going through the building added an extra challenge to the already challenging course.
“Going from the light outside into the dark of Steamworks was crazy,” Huck said.
“I had to go through there by feel. It was like I was using ecolocation from the crowd to know where I was.
“It was so much fun.”
The crowds both inside Steamworks and around the course were strong, giving the riders an extra boost.
“We are so used to having mountain bike races out of town, so it was awesome to be downtown with all the people. There were people all around the course,” Wells said.