Ned Overend isn’t feeling a lot of pressure to win the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race these days.
After five titles, though, he remains a threat.
“I don’t feel like I’m under a lot of pressure these days to do well,” said Overend, whose most recent win came in 2011 at age 55. “I’ve been doing some training up in the passes, had a few rides where I started to doubt myself, then had a few good rides, too.”
He’ll be joined by a cavalcade of cyclists hoping to have one of those good rides when the 42nd edition of the IHBC kicks off today.
Some of that group, like Overend, will be defending champions – including Rolando Gonzalez, Drew Miller and Michael Carter. Others still will be hungry for that first taste of Iron Horse glory.
Perhaps the most likely to have their hunger sated are brothers Yannick and Robin Eckmann. The California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized cyclists nearly broke through last year, with Yannick finishing second behind champion Lachlan Morton and Robin in fifth.
“They’re up and comers and strong riders,” IHBC race director Gaige Sippy said. “I shouldn’t say up and comers; they’re contenders.”
Overend said the juwi-Slipstream team could provide some of the stiffest competition with cyclists such as Benjamin Blaugrun, Michael Martin and LeRoy Popowski.
“There’s several guys from the juwi team. A bunch of those guys did well last year,” Overend said.
Rotem Ishay, the well-decorated former Fort Lewis College cyclist-turned-coach, is hoping to make a run at the Iron Horse crown, as well. Always a strong mountain biker, Ishay’s ability to climb could push him to the front of the peloton in the race to Silverton after a 19th-place finish a year ago.
“I’m not a roadie, per se, and I know a lot of them are road professional riders, but in terms of climbing, knowing the course and having a home advantage, I’d definitely consider myself one of the guys ... that can definitely pull the win,” Ishay said.
Ishay, a two-time Israeli mountain bike champion, said his legs have felt a bit sluggish at times this week, something he’s hoping to kick come today. And while he’s in it to win it, he’s trying not to place too much internal pressure on himself.
“I try not to put too much stress or expectations on me,” he said.
One big name missing from the local roster will be Howard Grotts, who finished fourth in 2011 and sixth in 2012. The Durango native and FLC cyclist is competing for Specialized at the Nove Mesto World Cup event in the Czech Republic.
“That’ll move me up one spot, for sure,” Overend said with a chuckle.
Those looking for a young Durango rider to make a splash this year may want to turn their eyes to Sepp Kuss. Kuss won the junior division last year with a time that would’ve placed him 23rd among the pros, one spot behind Miller.
And then there’s always the possibility Overend makes it No. 6.
“He is always a threat to medal. The guy is, how would you say it? Unstoppable,” Ishay said.