The pro cyclists in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race Saturday certainly will be going up - and up and up.
In a cycling race where the winner historically comes from one of the two big climbing sections, the pro men will
push the pace on the uphills again this year in search of victory.
"Once the climbing begins at Shalona, that starts to separate the guys who will be there at the end," said Dave
Hagen, the longtime team manager and assistant coach of the Fort Lewis College cycling team.
"It's essentially status quo through the valley," Hagen said of the section of U.S. Highway 550 from Durango to
The riders often power up the highway in a tight, high-speed peloton for the opening 10 miles.
Then the course heads up.
Once the pros start up Coal Bank Pass past Purgatory, Hagen said, the final tactical assessments begin among the
riders up front.
"The top one, the top five, usually establish themselves on Coal Bank," Hagen said.
But, he said, they still have to pedal up and over Molas Pass before the final high-speed descent into Silverton.
"Molas is a lot harder than it looks," Hagen said, reinforcing the statement that every cyclist makes after riding
"You think you can get right up Molas after climbing (20 miles) up Coal Bank. But Molas just keeps going and going.
"Plus, that's where the altitude really gets to you," Hagen said.
A year ago the pro men's race was decided with a late climbing attack on Molas Pass by eventual winner Anthony Colby
of Durango, a pro rider and former Fort Lewis College cyclist.
Colby caught Durango resident Ben Kneller on Molas after Kneller negotiated a solo breakaway earlier on Coal Bank.
Colby, however, raced down the pass and into Silverton, finishing the 50-mile race in 2 hours, 20 minutes, 4 seconds.
Alex Hagman, another former bike racer for Hagen at FLC, finished a close second last year.
Hagman, a pro with the Bahati Racing Team, will be back this year in search of the No. 1 spot after his runner-up
finish a year ago.
Colby, in 2007, watched a solo breakaway by Phil Zajicek of Boulder produce victory in the Iron Horse road race.
Colby was second. After the race was snowed out in 2008, Colby used Zajicek's tact to win in 2009.
Zajicek, coming off the Tour of California, will not race the IHBC this year. But Colby, like Hagman, will be back to
defend his Iron Horse road race title.
Last year's IHBC win sparked Colby through the rest of the season. He went on to win the last circuit stage of the
Cascade Classic, finishing 16th overall.
They are among a group of 15 to 20 pro men who could win Saturday's race, according to Hagen and a host of other
local cycling buffs.
Other top contenders likely will be Hagman's teammates on the Bahati pro team, including local cyclist Ian Burnett.
Bahati's Corey Collier, another former Durango cyclist, also will ride.
Another former winner, Drew Miller of Arizona, will race this year. Two-time winner Burke Swindlehurst also is back
in search of another title.
Multiple winner Ned Overend of Durango, at 55, remains a contender for the top prize.
"Really, there are 15 or 20 guys who could win it," Hagen said. Team tactics could affect the outcome, he said, particularly if the team opts to break early or late.
"It all depends if there is someone or some team that wants to break the record," Hagen said. "A team of five or six
riders could break some people in the valley. They could set it up for their guy (to win)."
He said whoever wins Saturday will manage two key components to the road race.
"It's the altitude and the length of the climbs," Hagen said. "That's the difference."
He said the pro riders won't be concerned about the 50-mile distance.
"It's definitely not a long race. It's a short race for those guys, who are used to racing 100 miles or more in a
day," Hagen said.
But the climbs, particularly the long ascent of 20-plus miles up Coal Bank, will test the top cyclists, even the top