Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Race Report

By Ruth Holcomb

Every year for one weekend in Durango, Colorado, there is nothing on the towns mind but racing bikes. In my opinion, this is the best weekend of the year. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic has been a tradition in Durango since 1972 and every year has grown to become the event it is today. From the hundreds of people that ride the road race on Saturday, to the BMX track built in the middle of the street for street rhythm, to the mountain bike race that rides through a brewery downtown, the weekend is truly the coolest biking event. I’ve been racing this event since I was super little, and after many years of racing the junior division, I decided to try racing the pro race.

I’ve grown up riding and trying to stay with the pro women that live in Durango, and until this year I couldn’t really hang with them. I was pretty nervous to jump into this race. The day before, I had raced the road race that conquers two mountain passes, each over 10,000 feet elevation, and ends in a small mining town called Silverton. To my surprise, I placed 8th in that race. When I lined up Sunday for the mountain bike race, I had no idea what to expect. My legs were tired from the day before, but I also knew I had an edge on some of the ladies on a mountain bike.

The race start was located in downtown Durango and there were people lining practically the whole race course to watch. As the race started, I got pushed back quite a bit, as the course narrowed almost immediately after the start. After a quick single track section through a park, we popped back out onto the road. Up ahead, I saw my Bear Dev teammate, Katja Freeburn in the lead. I decided to try and work my way up to her. By the time we hit the singletrack again for our first climb of the race, Katja was almost in sight. Climbing is one of my strengths, and by the time we reached the top, I had caught up to Katja and we were leading the race. For the rest of the loop, Katja and I took turns pulling, she would pull the flats and descents, and I would pull the climbs. We looped back to downtown and reached the section of the course where you ride through a brewery.

This was definitely the most amazing part of the race. As you climbed up the ramp, you couldn’t help but smile as you heard tons of people screaming and cheering for you. As we looped back up for lap two and headed up the major climb, I looked back to see that Katja had disappeared. From then on, I rode solo. Midway through the lap, there was thunder and lightning, which eventually progressed to hail and sleet. This definitely became a challenge as the lap went on, as the course got slippery and cold. As I descended down into town, I saw my coach on the side of the road. He informed me as I rode by that the race had been shortened to two laps. At this point, I was in shock. I never expected I would do this well in the race. As I approached the ramp for my last lap through the brewery, the crowd greeted me louder than ever. I raced down the road and finished down in the park where I started. It was such an honor to win this race in my hometown. My goal for this race was to get top 15 and I completely surprised myself. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic remains my favorite race and I cannot wait until next year to line up with the fastest in Durango and race in my hometown once again.