The first time Katja Freeburn rolled through Steamworks Brewing Co., she had a huge gap on the next woman through the bar. Each time she passed through, her lead only got bigger.
The 19-year-old Durango native and Fort Lewis College team rider crushed the Morehart Murphy Subaru MTB Race in the women’s professional category. Representing the Treak Bear Development Team, Freeburn turned in three impressive and consistent laps to complete the 18-mile race in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 53.4 seconds.
“It’s so special,” Freeburn said of her first IHBC pro win. “It means a lot to me. I haven’t had the best season so far. Going out and winning this race is awesome for me. I feel so much better about my racing and all the work I put in to do this sport and try to race at a high level.”
Jennifer Gersbach finished second in 1:34:39.4, while Fort Lewis’ Kelsay Lundberg, another Bear Development rider, finished third in 1:37:13.1 to round out the podium.
Freeburn’s first lap came in at 29:32, and no other rider broke 30 minutes on a single lap. Gersbach’s first lap was 30:51.6, and that was the only other sub-31-minute lap.
“I just pushed it,” Freeburn said. “I think I had a gap after the first climb. I tried to keep a steady pace and pushed it without overdoing it and just kept going and had fun with it.”
Freeburn said the energy generated in the three passes through the bar at Steamworks was key to the good vibes she felt.
“I love racing this because everyone is out here cheering,” she said. “A lot of races don’t have this many people in an area cheering as hard as they are. I love going this direction into Steamworks because you have more time going through there. You get pumped up for the steep climbs. I get tunnel vision and just go, but I was laughing every time going through the yelling crowd. I felt so prepared to go do another lap after that because it gives you so much energy.”
Durango’s Ellen Campbell, a Fort Lewis and Pivot-Competitive Cyclist athlete, finished fourth in 1:40:45.0, as she edged Caitlyn Kneller in a sprint to the line. Kneller finished in 1:40:45.1. Campbell had a mechanical issue and was stuck in one gear much of the race.
Only seven women finished in the pro women’s field. Kneller entered the race leading the Queen of the Mountain standings, as she finished fifth in Saturday’s 47-mile road race to Silverton. Her result Sunday locked up her Queen of the Mountain title. Gersbach finished second in the omnium standings, and Campbell was third.
Freeburn didn’t compete in the women’s pro road race. Her next event is the GoPro Games in Breckenridge in two weeks, and her big focus is mountain bike nationals in July. “I’ve got some other stuff around Colorado to have fun with and get the reps in of starting a race and getting into the zone of racing and into that pain cave,” she said.