When the racing in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic turns to the downtown criterium, the cyclists will turn to a new set
of gears - physically and mentally.
After pushing pedals uphill on the grueling road race to Silverton today, the top riders will shift into
street-racing mode Sunday - tight turns, tight packs, quick breakaways, high-speed turns and a huge crowd.
"The crowd is what really makes the criterium," said Iron Horse criterium legend and three-time defending champion
Chris Wherry of Durango.
The longtime pro cyclist, who eased out of the professional ranks this year, has won the Iron Horse criterium four
times, including the last three in a row.
"That's one of the best parts of the Iron Horse, racing downtown with the crowds. That's huge motivation. It's great
for the riders," Wherry said of the downtown criterium course with the start/finish on Main - just down the street
from the beer garden/street fair.
"The riders hear the crowd. It really is super-motivating," said Wherry, a former U.S. national road racing champion
He said the crowd helps the riders bounce back from the rigors of today's road race.
"Recovery is a big part of it," Wherry said. "The (road) race is a tough race ... a significant amount of climbing."
But the timing helps the pros, he said.
The pro men and women will go out last in the criterium field Sunday afternoon.
"That helps give them time for recovery," Wherry said.
The pro men are scheduled to start at 5:05 p.m. Sunday.
The pro women will race at 4:05 p.m.
The citizens' highlight of the day, the cruiser crit, will help psyche up the crowd at 3:15 p.m.
Citizen-class racing begins at 7 a.m. in a full day of criterium action in downtown Durango.
Once the criterium begins, Wherry said, the riders have to explode to high speed quickly.
"No matter how much you warm up, it's still a shock to your system. In the first laps, they jump up to speed. Really, you just want to survive those early laps," he said.
Then, Wherry said, the riders will let their bodies adapt to the pace, and the attacking will begin.
"The last few years, there's been an early break. You have to be on your toes from the gun."
The middle of the hour-long race, he said, is survival.
"You ... have to judge your effort. Make sure you have enough in the tank (to finish)," he said.
"You have to save energy for the sprint, and it's a criterium, so there's always a sprint," said Wherry, a master at
covering early breaks and blasting past riders late.
The pace and the tight-quarter racing wear on the riders, he said.
"You've got to be mentally sharp," Wherry said. "It's ... draining."
The defending men's pro criterium champion isn't sure if he'll take the line to defend his perfect streak in Iron
Horse crit races.
"I'll ... wait until the last minute .., to decide," Wherry said, adding that there will be oustanding fields in the
pro men's and pro women's categories this year.
Dan Bowman of Durango was second to Wherry in the 2009 criterium. Bowman, a strong overall rider, was second in the
three-event Iron Horse omnium (combined).
Bahati team rider Neil Coleman also is a top crit rider. He's scheduled to race Sunday afternoon along with teammates
Alex Hagman and Ian Burnett, a pair of cyclists with local ties. Both are former Fort Lewis College racers.
Hagman was second in last year's road race.
The pro women's race, annually a crowd favorite, will feature the top cyclists from the road race - Mara Abbott, Alison Powers, Terrie Clouse, Marisa Asplund, Kristin McGrath, etc.
Carmen (McNellis) Small of Durango won the women's pro crit last year for the second consecutive year. But European
racing commitments will prevent her from defending her title this year.
Clouse, from Monument, was third in the crit last year en route to winning the pro women's omnium title. Asplund was
second overall last year.
Tiffany Cromwell of Boulder was third in the women's pro omnium last year. The omnium includes scoring from Monday's
individual time trial on East Animas Road (County Road 250).