SILVERTON – Three women who love to climb set a thrilling pace, but the racer with the knack for descending came out ahead in the 42nd annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic on Saturday.
In the valley descent into Silverton, 22-year-old Abby Mickey pulled way from an Iron Horse first-timer, Anne Perry, 39, from Draper, Utah, and last year’s champion, Mindy Caruso, 41, to seal the win.
Mickey, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and a native of Aspen, is a former ski racer who knows how to “hit the corners” of a turn.
“That’s where I get my advantage in those corners,” Mickey said. “I’m able to take them a little bit tighter.
“Once we hit the descent, it was my game. I took it from there,” said Mickey, who wore a nose ring and a blue “Rise Above” jersey sponsored by a bicycle shop of the same name in Golden.
In downtown Silverton, Perry sprinted to catch up, but Mickey still crossed the finish line a second ahead, wining with an unofficial time of 2 hours, 56 minutes and 16 seconds. Caruso, who was four seconds behind, finished third.
Perry said she “figured we would stay together on the descent, but it was pretty technical. It was pretty fast coming down the corners. Abby gapped us.”
Caruso, an Albuquerque resident competing in her fifth Iron Horse, said she was not disappointed.
“I’m really happy with third,” Caruso said. “I would have been happy to win, but those girls could really climb, I was happy to hang with them.”
Both Mickey and Perry said they love to ride uphill.
“I’ve been wanting to come to Durango and do this for several years,” Perry said.
Mickey said she’s “a natural climber. I was looking forward to the race. I didn’t do any specific preparation.”
The trio of Mickey, Perry and Caruso first made a break from the pack at Shalona Hill, but three to four other riders soon caught up with them.
At the bottom of Coal Bank Pass, Mickey, Perry and Caruso broke from the pack again. They raced neck-and-neck until Mickey grabbed the lead going into the descent into Silverton.
The win was exhilarating for Mickey, who won first her first race in a top professional category.
“I’ve been getting second or third all season so this is really awesome,” said Mickey, who finished fifth in last year’s classic.
In the 47-mile road race that began from the parking lot at Durango High School, Mickey said there were moments on the mountain climb where she waged “an internal battle.”
“‘You can do this. Don’t quit! But my legs are killing me,’” she recalled thinking.
Mickey will have to shut off the self doubt as she gets ready for more competition.
The criterium and mountain bike races are today.
She said her legs are “feeling not too bad. I hope they hold up. I have the mountain bike race (today). Ambitious weekend.”