The 2017 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic women’s Coca-Cola Road Race was Mindy Caruso’s from the start.
The 45-year-old Albuquerque rider pushed the pace early, worked her way to the front on Coal Bank Pass and cruised through the Greene Street finish line in Silverton with plenty of room to spare. Caruso is no stranger to the top of the podium at the Iron Horse. The 2017 win is her second as she also reigned supreme in the 2012 road race.
“I wanted it really bad today,” Caruso said. “I really just wanted to get my legs warmed up at the start. My legs felt good and my lungs showed up. I felt great out there. The weather was good, the atmosphere was fun so I have no complaints.”
Caruso’s time of 2 hours, 45 minutes, 35 seconds bested Steamboat Springs’ second-place rider Hannah Bingham, 2:51.13 and fellow New Mexican Anna Kiep, who finished third in 2:51.48.
Golden’s Cory Popovich finished fourth with a time of 2:56.46 in her first Iron Horse women’s road race, and Granby’s Gretta Fosha rounded out the podium with a time of 2:57.12.
The women’s pro class quickly found itself in the midst of a large group of non-pro male riders. Caruso bolted out in front of them and led for most of the race after catching an unknown rider when the Iron Horse road race really starts – during the demanding climb up Coal Bank Pass.
“We got mixed in quickly with some of the mixed-age men, so I wasn’t quite sure which women were in there,” Caruso said. “When we started up Coal Bank, there was clearly another female in there. I don’t know who it was but she attacked and I didn’t have a response. I just wasn’t prepared for it, but I eventually got ahead and that’s the last I saw of her.”
It was the last Caruso saw of anyone in her class until the others arrived in Silverton. Bingham, who finished fourth last year, came in next, almost six minutes behind.
“It was pretty tough out there but it’s always a good race,” Bingham said. “I really just wanted to beat my time from last year. I did that so I’m super happy. It’s such a great event just to be a part of.”
Durangoans filled the top 10 in sixth through ninth places. Emily Jordan was sixth in 2:57:57.8. Emily Schaldach finished seventh, Caitlyn Kneller was eighth and Ellen Campbell placed ninth. Lauren Taylor also placed 12th and Brittany Cowan was 15th
Kiep was thrilled to take third in her first IHBC women’s pro race. She competed last year, but chose to compete in her age group and made it onto the podium. Like many Iron Horse participants, the Los Alamos product has one goal at the IHBC: just to have fun.
“It’s such a gorgeous course and we were really lucky because the weather conditions were perfect,” Kiep said. “I just wanted to have fun. My legs cooperated well and I got great support coming down the stretch with all the people cheering me on.”
The champion said she’s almost certain that she’ll be back next year to defend her title.
“This race is always a challenge, but it’s always fun,” Caruso said. “We have so many friends who come up here from the Albuquerque community. Some people train all year in Albuquerque for this one event. That’s all they look forward to. It doesn’t really matter when we finish or where we come in. It’s all about coming in, getting that cheer from our friends, and everybody always has a great time.”