Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Anne Perry’s doing just fine as far as debuts go.
In her first-ever Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race Saturday, she finished a close second. On Sunday, she did one better.
Perry won the women’s pro criterium Sunday in downtown Durango in a race that was tight until the final lap.
Tight in the sense that two riders – Perry and runner-up Sarah Lough – broke from an early lead group of five in a modestly-sized field about midway through the race, taking off to take control after previous leader and eventual third-place finisher Heather Fischer pulled off to take care of a mechanical issue.
“It was a kind of fortunate turn of events for me because (Fischer) was off the front with (Lough), and then she had a mechanical, so she flatted,” Perry said. “So I took advantage of that, put in the effort to catch (Lough), and she and I just maintained it from there.”
On the final lap, Perry attacked on the horseshoe-shaped course’s two climbs, earning a gap coming into the final downhill. As Lough tried to catch up on the final downhill, she crashed, earning several bruises and scrapes down the right side of her body. She recovered in time to reattach her chain and hold off the chase group for a second-place result before receiving some bandages and care for her wounds.
“That last lap, I attacked on the two hills, and she caught me on the first attack,” said Perry, who calls Draper, Utah, home. “And then my second attack on the second hill, I had a little bit of a gap on her, so I bombed that descent trying to stay in front of her for the finishing sprint.”
Lough said she thought she skidded over a manhole cover, which caused her to lose her bearings. But, as is the case in many crashes, details can get a bit hazy.
“The (manhole) covers, they get slick,” Lough said. “And I’m pretty sure – you know, you don’t really know – but I’m pretty sure my back wheel hit it and just slid.
“Evidently we had enough of a lead that it gave me some buffer,” she said with a laugh.
Durango’s Rebecca Balboni finished fourth, and Catherine Johnson rounded out the top five.
Early on, it looked as though Balboni and Fischer, Exergy TWENTY16 teammates, had the winning strategy, with Balboni pulling out ahead to open the door for Fischer. Unfortunately for the duo, Fischer’s tire issue left her playing catch-up the rest of the way and split the pair.
“Heather and I looked at the course, and it really suits her – she’s great through the corners,” Balboni said. “I like the new course. I think it’s really conducive to a breakaway.”
The added downhill turns to the course this year made for some added excitement and required added focus as riders had to be careful to pick their lines carefully for the optimum speed and safety.
“The corners were very tricky, mostly because of the cracks in the road and the manholes and stuff,” Perry said.
The victory, coupled with the decision by road race winner Abby Mickey to ride in the cross-country mountain bike race, gives Perry two first-place point totals for the omnium results with only today’s time trial remaining. Fischer sits four points off the pace. Defending criterium and omnium champion Mindy Caruso did not race.