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Durango’s Cobe Freeburn wins Iron Horse road race

Caleb Classen and Emmett McManus rounded out the top three
Cobe Freeburn crosses the finish line winning the 2024 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic men’s pro road race on Saturday in Silverton. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Durangoan Cobe Freeburn rode well beyond his years on Saturday in the 2024 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic men’s pro road race.

The 22-year-old bided his time as other riders raced off out of his eyesight in the beginning. Freeburn was in total control of his ride and broke free around Andrews Lake on Molas Pass and cruised to victory through Silverton for his first Iron Horse victory.

“It was sweet,” Freeburn said. “It's a race I’ve always wanted to win being from Durango. It was special. I was feeling not great at the beginning. Going up Coal Bank, I was kind of struggling and felt better as the race went on.”

Freeburn finished the iconic 47-mile race with a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes and 20.6 seconds.

Cobe Freeburn wins the 2024 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic men’s pro road race on Saturday in Silverton. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

He credited his race success to being patient and not doing anything in the valley. Freeburn said he waited until Purgatory to start attacking. He also said eating a lot was key.

Freeburn will be back in action in Vail for the GoPro Mountain Games in two weeks.

Fellow Durangoan and last year’s winner Caleb Classen, 22, finished second with a time of 2:13:06.7 seconds.

Classen has been recovering from patellar tendinopathy, known as jumper’s knee, and was happy with how the race went for him. He hasn’t been able to train much with his injuries and he wanted to try his best in the Iron Horse.

“I definitely did more than I should have with the run into Coal Bank,” Classen said. “I was racing like I was the strongest guy in the race when I wasn't. I just suffered and clawed my way back over the top of each pass.”

Durango’s Emmett McManus, 17, finished third with a time of 2:13:19.5 seconds. It was McManus’ fourth time doing the Iron Horse men’s pro race and his best finish was eighth last year.

“I woke up in a little bit of a rough way,” McManus. “But I went out there and rode my own race and tried to work as much as was necessary. Then once we had the passes, I realized I was pretty strong and ended up third.”

McManus said he spent a lot of time in the high country training this year. He almost finished second but Classen caught McManus on the descent into Silverton after McManus slipped his pedal on the descent and on the sprint to the finish line.

Stephen Schaefer finished sixth after leading most of the race and had a gap of over 90 seconds at one point to second place. Schaefer was passed at the top of Coal Bank Pass and crossed the finish line with a time of 2:15:48.5.

Iron Horse legend Ned Overend finished 22nd after staying with the peloton for most of the race. The 68-year-old finished with a time of 2:23:26.

Conditions were in the 40s and 50s with mostly cloudy skies. There was a tail wind for the riders for most of the race which they enjoyed. Freeburn said there were some gusts descending Coal Bank Pass that threw him off before turning into a headwind descending into Silverton.

Brad Neagos broke away at the start and Schaefer quickly tracked him down where the road narrows to two lanes

Schaefer kept a sizable 20-second lead on the pack as he passed the RV Park. He stretched his lead out to a minute as he got to the end of the valley in Hermosa. Liam O’Connor stretched away from the pack to try and chase down Schaefer.

A chase group of a half-dozen riders broke away from the main peloton to try and catch O’Connor and Schaefer at the end of the valley past the railroad tracks in Hermosa.

Schaefer led the chase group of now seven riders by a minute in Hermosa just before the Shalona Hill. O’Connor was caught by the top chase group to turn it into a seven-man group.

Ian Swenson led the main peloton which was 1:47 behind Schaefer at the bottom of the Shalona Hill.

As the climb up Shalona Hill began, Schaefer kept his lead as the peloton continued to try and catch up as the 8% grade up Shalona began to slow the riders.

Schaefer pushed his lead to 1:30 over Garrett Lundberg in second and Keaton Johnson in third who broke away on their own just before Rockwood. Lundberg and Johnson were surprised to find out they weren’t the leading group and had Schaefer in front of them.

The peloton absorbed the rest of the previous chasing pack as it made its way further up Shalona Hill.

Schaefer’s lead dwindled to 1:20 as he pasted Glacial Club and 2:45 to the peloton.

The peloton was strung out as 14 riders broke away and was led by Sam Brown, McManus and Beckett Ledger as the group approached Purgatory.

Schaefer led Lundberg and Johnson by 1:15 two miles up Coal Bank pass. The peloton was quickly catching Lundberg and Johnson with a gap of about 25 seconds.

Lundberg and Johnson got caught by the peloton about halfway up Coal Bank Pass. The peloton now trailed Schaefer by 1:40.

The peloton started to cut the gap to Schaefer to about 55 seconds about a mile from the top of Coal Bank Pass.

Schaefer was finally caught by a smaller second group at the top of Coal Bank Pass as the riders hit 50 mph plus as they flew down the other side.

Emmett McManus, left and Cobe Freeburn fly down Coal Bank Pass during the 2024 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic pro road race on Saturday making their way to the finish line in Silverton. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

A three-man group led by McManus, Classen and Freeburn took control of the race at the bottom of Molas Pass.

“On Molas, they weren't really willing to work with me,” McManus said about the other two in the top trio. “Then I decided to wait for a gust of tail wind and that's when I would try to attack because there's less draft in a tail wind. Then we got rid of Caleb until the bottom of Molas and Cobe was just stronger.”

Freeburn took the lead as he and McManus broke away from Classen toward Andrews Lake on Molas Pass.

The 22-year-old never relinquished the lead as he cruised across the finish line with his hands in the air celebrating his victory.

bkelly@durangoherald.com