SILVERTON Mara Abbott wasted no time between her previous victory and her latest.
In fact, Abbott made history by becoming the first racer man or woman to win four consecutive Iron Horse Classics.
Abbott and Kristin McGrath of Durango pedaled away from the pro womens pack at the base of Coal Bank Pass on a cloudless day in the mountains Saturday. She opened a gap over McGrath about three miles from the summit.
McGrath, a former NCAA Division I two-sport athlete in swimming and cycling at the University of Tennessee, made up some of the difference on the descent but could not catch Abbott, who won by about 10 seconds.
I could see her (McGrath) behind me the whole way, Abbott said. She stuck with me.
A group of seven riders broke away from the pack early coming up the valley, easily cruising past the citizens tour riders who started the day early.
Carmen Small of Durango attacked early on the climb up Shalona Hill, but the small, organized peloton easily reeled her back in.
My goal was to get away early, said Small, who was competing in the Iron Horse for the first time. I attacked, thinking they would let me go since I was racing for the first time after an injury, but they didnt let me go.
Small finished the day in fourth with a time of 2 hours, 37 minutes, 45 seconds, a little less than a minute behind Jeannie Longo of France.
Small competed just one day after getting married to Ben Sonntag, who finished seventh overall in the pro mens race.
The small pack stayed together until Abbott and McGrath broke away at the beginning of the first big climb of the day. Abbott, a strong climber, cranked on the pedals with ease, opening up a respectable gap on McGrath.
McGrath used her strong descents and size to her advantage, however, narrowing the gap to a few car lengths as the women started their second major ascent up Molas pass.
Yet again, Abbott used her strength as a climber, averaging between 15 and 20 mph up the pass, cruising past some of the pro men who had fallen off the pack. As McGrath looked to be getting left behind, a little family support seemed to kick her into another gear.
McGraths older brother Nathan, stationed on the side of the road, ran alongside his sister, cheering her up the steep terrain. She was able to keep the distance between her and Abbott steady from there, setting her up well for the final descent into Silverton.
It was too little too late for McGrath, however, as Abbott came across the finish line first for the fourth time in her last four tries.
This was probably the most high-quality field I have competed against at this race, Abbott said.
The Boulder native finished in 2:34.28, shaving 2 minutes 53 seconds off her 2010 time.
Someone told me last year that I had gotten the course record, so if that is correct, I bested my own time, as did Kristin (McGrath), Abbott said.
The four-time winner now is just one win shy of tying Ned Overends record of five Iron Horse Bicycle Classic victories, a bar reset with Overends win Saturday. Of the four however, this one may have been the best.
I (felt) really good (Saturday), she said. Last year, I felt really bad, and the year before I raced really stupid. This year felt good.