Welcome back, Mr. Swindlehurst.
Burke Swindlehurst of Salt Lake City returned to his bicycle racing roots Saturday with a dramatic
final climb up Molas Pass and a homecoming victory in the 39th annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race.
Swindlehurst, who won the Iron Horse road race twice in the 1990s, had to pedal away from a competitive band of pro
challengers - led by Alex Hagman - to win his third Iron Horse title.
Hagman, 27, a Bahati team pro rider and former Fort Lewis College cyclist, finished second for the second consecutive
Greg Krause of Littleton, 33, was third in the pro men's field, just ahead of defending champion Anthony Colby
(another ex-FLC cyclist).
Eighteen-year-old Australian Lachlan Morton finished fifth.Albuquerque's Damian Calvert, 37, was sixth, and Durango's
own ageless wonder - 55-year-old Ned Overend - was seventh.
"I love this race so much," an ecstatic Swindlehurst said in the finish area. "This race pretty much launched my
career 15 years ago."
Swindlehurst, then a Durango resident, won the Iron Horse road race in 1995 and again in 1998. That kick-started a
professional cycling career that came full circle 15 years later on a cloudless Saturday in Silverton.
"Now that I'm in control of my own schedule again, this was the first race I marked down," said Swindlehurst, who
ended his cycling team contract this season, which opened up Saturday's race date. He's racing as an individual in a
mix of road races and mountain bike events.
Coming off a strong 10th-place overall finish at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico, Swindlehurst had to come from
behind after a bit of a slow start Saturday.
"My stomach was killing me early on, so I didn't know what to expect," he said. "My legs were good, but my stomach
He tucked into the pro men's peloton and rolled along, he said.
"There was a tailwind, so the pace was good. With that tailwind, it made it easy to sit in the field," said
Swindlehurst, 37, now one championship behind Overend's record of four titles.
Meanwhile, Durango's Ian Burnett offered an early attack in the Animas Valley. But it was a six-rider breakaway that
set the tone for the early miles up to Coal Bank Pass.
The leaders included Hagman (who would lead much of the race), Krause, Morton, Dan Bowman (Durango cyclist), Lee
Rosenthal (Durango cyclist) and Ben Hoffman (Durango triathlete).
The six soon became a foursome of Hagman, Morton, Bowman and Krause as they turned at Cascade Creek and headed
Colby and Swindlehurst pulled their way out of their trailing peloton, and they set out after the lead foursome.
Calvert was right behind.
"I made a hard attack at the top of Coal Bank, and it paid off," said Swindlehurst, who caught and passed the leaders
near the summit.
"Then, the three of us hit the descent," said Swindlehurst, who headed downhill toward Lime Creek with Hagman and
Krause close by.
The three pushed on, making the Lime Creek turn and heading up Molas Pass.
With Hagman leading midway up the incline, Swindlehurst stood up and attacked. He stepped into a lead he would not
relinquish, celebrating with his right arm raised when he crossed the finish line in Silverton in 2 hours, 12
minutes, 15 seconds.
"That was a bold move," Hagman said to the champ as he offered congratulations after the race.
Colby, who won the 2009 race with a comeback climb on Molas Pass, also congratulated the popular Swindlehurst.
"That's his signature move, for sure," said Colby, describing the winning power push by Swindlehurst.
"I didn't expect Burke to attack so rapidly (on Molas). But he's known for that. He's dropped me a number of times,"
said Colby, who is coming back from shoulder surgery and collarbone surgery earlier this year.
"It was a good race, a really competitive race, which was good to see. It was exciting," Colby said.
Colby finished fourth in 2:13:30. Krause was ahead of him by 12 seconds. Hagman was second in 2:12:59.
"I just can't seem to win this race," Hagman said with a huge smile. "That's second twice in a row."
He said he enjoyed Saturday's action, including the early stages when he worked closely with Krause, Bowman and
"It was really smooth. Everyone was rotating. Bowman was riding great, and Greg Krause is super strong," Hagman said.
He said he figured any chance to win the 2010 race would come with a break on Coal Bank.
"I felt like I had good legs. But, right at the top, Burke bridged up and caught us," Hagman said.
"He was unbelievable (Saturday)," Hagman said. "It's frustrating getting second twice in a row, being a former local
and riding at Fort Lewis College. But losing to Burke is not that bad ... he's a helluva talent."
Hagman said he'll be back again next year, searching for the elusive road race title.
"I love the Iron Horse. It's such a classic race," Hagman said. "And I'll win this race, eventually."