Second place was not an option for Dan Bowman. Not on Sunday.
Bowman, the Durango-based professional road cyclist, won a final, tense sprint to the finish line on Main Avenue, capturing the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic criterium pro men's title Sunday afternoon.
The margin of victory - mere inches over runner-up Alex Hagman - thrilled the large crowd on hand in downtown
Durango. They watched a six-rider breakaway take control of the race midway through the 60-minute time window.
Bowman and Hagman, along with Corey Collier, Greg Krause, Jesse Dekrey and pro mountain biker Troy Wells, pulled away
from the main pack and set the stage for the frantic sprint to the finish.
When Wells dropped back after sprinting to cash in a late preem (lap-winner's cash prize), five riders forged ahead
with visions of victory.
"I've done this race four times or so, and every time it is a break that gets away that wins it," said Bowman, 28.
"It's a matter of finding a group with enough strong guys to stay away."
They did Sunday, with the leaders lapping the main pack with 6 minutes to go in the race.
"Everyone rode really well together, Everyone shared the work," he said, recalling the lead exchanges among Hagman, Collier, Krause, Dekrey and Wells.
"There were two Bahati (Foundation) guys," Bowman said of pro teammates Hagman and Collier. "And when we lapped the
field ... there were three Bahati guys. Ian Burnett joined in, and he drove the field to make sure no one would get
away," Bowman said.
"So it came down to the sprint."
Bowman, who was second to the legendary Chris Wherry last year in the Iron Horse crit, managed to break to the front
as the riders made their final high-speed turn onto Main.
He just held off a sprinting Hagman at the line.
"I broke my collarbone (earlier this year), so I've kind of been down on the B team," Bowman said.
As part of his recovery, he said, he's been racing a lot of criteriums lately.
"I've been working on my sprint a little bit," said the smiling Bowman, who also finished second to Scott Moniger of
Boulder in another Iron Horse criterium runner-up finish of years past.
"Dude, I can't seem to win. I finished second again," Hagman said after congratulating Bowman in the finish area.
"It was a super-fun race," said Hagman, a former Fort Lewis College cyclist now living in Fort Collins. He finished
second in the Iron Horse road race Saturday to Burke Swindlehurst of Salt Lake City, who was unable to compete in
Sunday's Iron Horse criterium because of a previous race commitment in Oregon.
Hagman also finished second in the 2009 Iron Horse road race.
But the early teamwork with the six-rider group Sunday almost produced an Iron Horse title for Hagman.
"We were working well together. I had Corey Collier there, which was ideal," Hagman said of his Bahati pal.
He said Burnett provided a big boost when he joined the fray after the leaders lapped the pack.
"Ian kept it fast, which was good," Hagman said.
Anthony Colby, the 2009 road race champion who was fourth in Saturday's road race, also pulled into the mix when the
field was lapped.
He helped pull Bowman along on the final lap.
But Colby rolled a tire on a tight corner and slid wide, close to the curb, nearly losing his balance at the rail in
front of a tightly packed cheering section.
Colby righted himself at the last second.
The rest of the lead group split apart, with Bowman moving into position for the last sprint.
"That almost took some of us down, and I hesitated a little bit," Hagman said.
"Dan rode great ... he's getting ready for some big races," Hagman said of the 2010 criterium winner.
One of the big crowd favorites Sunday was Wells, the mountain biker competing against the road riders.
Wells raced in a pro mountain bike race in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, finishing ninth. He flew back to Durango on
Sunday morning and raced in the criterium Sunday afternoon.
"I got up at 6 o'clock Durango time, and it was a quick flight from Austin," Wells said. "I was back at my home by 1.
"I felt pretty good, really," he said.
Wells eventually finished sixth in the competitive field.
Krause, the 33-year-old cyclist from Littleton, was third to match his finish in Saturday's road race.
Collier, another Durango pro cyclist, was fourth.
Dekrey, a Fort Lewis College cyclist, finished fifth.
All of the top finishers expressed their appreciation of Durango's cycling fans.
"These crowds are the biggest race crowds you'll ever see in Colorado," Hagman said. "These crowds brought me up
racing, so it's always fun to race here again."
But, he said, he desperately wants to win.
"I'll win this one eventually, too," Hagman said.