Sweet Elite. Sweet returns?

Local pros form a formidable unit for IHBC

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic weekend is upon us, and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory/Durango DEVO Sweet Elite Team is set up to make some noise on tires both fat and skinny.

Sepp Kuss, Payson McElveen, Lauren Catlin and Sarah Sturm will ride both the pro road race and mountain bike race, while Stephan Davoust and Kaylee Blevins will make their pro debuts in the mountain bike race after riding in the junior category in Saturday’s road race.

“We’re doing really good regionally and locally, and this is another local race here,” team manager and DEVO co-founder Chad Cheeney said. “I’m pretty sure we’re pretty good on the national level as well, just seeing some of their times on those races, some training courses, we’re definitely faster than we were in the past.”

Kuss is a threat to take home hardware both in the mountain bike and road race. He finished fifth in last year’s mountain bike race – his first as a pro. And he won the junior classification in the road race, an event in which Davoust finished fourth.

More recently, Kuss, Davoust and McElveen helped power their team to a win in the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde in the 3-4 Male category. And both Kuss and McElveen were two of six riders invited to attend the European development trip with USA Cycling in June.

“Sepp’s riding super strong right now,” said Cheeney, who picked up a short track win of his own last week. “He’s been training really good and resting plenty. He’s super efficient for a young guy.”

McElveen and Catlin helped Fort Lewis College to a third-place finish at the Collegiate Road National Championships earlier this month, and Sturm, a former FLC cyclist, finished 33rd overall at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico, good enough to earn eighth in the young rider competiton.

Sturm was seventh in the road race last year and added a fifth-place finish in the mountain bike race. Catlin was fourth in that same cross country event, won by Durangoan Teal Stetson-Lee. And McElveen was 10th in a strong men’s cross country field.

“They just have fun out there,” Cheeney said. “They know how to do it. They’ve been in big races before, all of them – both road and mountain.”

And this weekend should provide fun memories and a couple of potentially good performances from Blevins and Davoust in what Cheeney said will be the pro debuts for both on the mountain bike. Davoust also is coming off a third-place finish at the Flagstaff Frenzy cross country race and super downhill, and he added a win in the junior race.

With strong recent results and the possibility for more this weekend, Cheeney’s one happy camper.

“It seems like every race we have somebody on top of the podium,” he said. “It’s a good feeling as a team manager.”

rowens@durangoherald.com