Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Score another win for the new generation.
Twenty-year-old Nate Wilson of Boulder used a late rush at the finish Sunday afternoon to win the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic pro men’s criterium in downtown Durango.
Sheltered by two of his teenage California Giant/Specialized teammates, Wilson pedaled across the line just ahead of runner-up Greg Krause of Littleton (Juwi Solar), the two-time reigning Iron Horse omnium champion.
The two cyclists finished in a mass of peloton confusion with Ryan Cleveland of Fort Lewis College actually winning the final sprint up Main Avenue.
But Wilson and Krause, who had broken away midway through the 60-minute race, had lapped the rest of the field, creating one large 15-rider peloton at the conclusion.
With Cal Giant/Specialized working for Wilson and Juwi Solar pushing for Krause, Cleveland broke wide two turns from the finish to take the final sprint and finish third.
“The gap opened early, and we got on the gas,” Wilson said of the breakaway he shared with Krause, 37.
“Then once we started rolling, our teammates were shutting down (the peloton), and that helped us get away.”
Wilson, who finished third in the road race to Silverton on Saturday, said he and Krause dueled for a couple of cash bonuses called preems during their breakaway.
“I sprinted against Greg for a couple of the preems, and it seemed like I could sprint faster than him,” Wilson said.
With that in mind, he and Krause reeled in the main pack, and Wilson waited.
“I was just sitting in (the peloton). Robin (Eckmann) and Yannick (Eckmann) were keeping me safe, and they did a great lead-out at the end,” said Wilson, extending special thanks to his teammates (18-year-old Yannick Eckmann and 19-year-old Robin Eckmann).
“Your teammates ... are everything in a race like this,” said Wilson, who moved to Boulder in 2009 from Arlington, Va., to attend the University of Colorado.
“I’ve done races without teammates before, and it’s impossible to win ... at least for me. To have the guys out there with me (Sunday) made it possible,” said Wilson, who is a leading candidate to take the Iron Horse omnium crown. He’ll race in the final stage this morning, the time trial out County Road 250 (East Animas Road).
Lachlan Morton, a 19-year-old Australian who lives in Boulder, won Saturday’s road race. Morton didn’t compete in Sunday’s criterium.
Krause, who was 12th in the road race, also will be in contention for a third consecutive omnium crown in today’s time trial.
“They are strong boys. They’ve had a really good season,” Krause said of the young guns from Cal Giant/Specialized. “He (Wilson) got me at the end.”
Krause nonetheless said he enjoyed the downtown criterium, where racers were greeted with cheers and cowbells at virtually every turn.
“The crowd here is awesome. I always love coming down here,” said Krause, who knows his fair share of Iron Horse history.
“Every time I’ve been down here, someone laps the field (in the crit). So, I thought I wanted to be a part of that,” Krause said of the early break.
“We worked pretty well together to get back to the field,” Krause said.
His Juwi Solar teammates then frantically pedaled to get him into position to win, he said.
“We had him (Wilson) isolated at one point, but then they came back together ... we just didn’t play it right,” said Krause, who had five teammates in the finish group.
“But it was really fun.”
“I knew after 10 minutes that it was going to be tough trying to win this,” the FLC cyclist said as he collected his bronze medal.
“With those two off the front, I knew I would be racing for third,” Cleveland said.
“So, I started thinking of how I could win the (final) sprint for third,” he said.
With Juwi Solar and Cal Giant/Specialized preoccupied with their respective leaders on the last lap, Cleveland darted past two blocks from the finish line.
“With two turns to go, I went past them,” he said, taking advantage of the final short downhill and short sprint to the finish line.
“Winning the last sprint, getting on the podium, especially with the home crowd ... this is a success for me,” said Cleveland, who came to FLC from Ontario, Calif., to study and race bicycles.
He’ll also tackle today’s final time trial, the third and final race of the 2012 Iron Horse.
Cyclists will race north on County Road 250, starting east of Bread bakery. The finish line is north of Bakers Bridge in front of the Granite Ranch.