It was only a matter of time before Mara Abbott raised her arms as she crossed the finish line, stamping her legacy as Ms. Iron Horse.
The native of Boulder claimed her sixth Iron Horse Bicycle Classic professional women’s road race championship, as she separated herself from the rest of the pack with a record-setting performance Saturday in the 47-mile race from Durango to Silverton.
Abbott’s time of 2 hours, 48 minutes, 44.5 seconds stood alone as she didn’t have a single rider in her presence.
“This is a different type of accolade,” Abbott said. “You’re not going to get a lot of international recognition for it, but at the same time, this is an event that I’m really happy and proud to represent. It’s one of the most fun days of the year, like Christmas morning.”
Abbott was in high demand this weekend. The Olympic cyclist loves this event so much that she chose the IHBC over the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which coincided with IHBC weekend.
“I’m really happy to be here; it’s an amazing event and it’s great to be a part of,” she said. “The Iron Horse is a special event to me. I love being able to spend time in Colorado. It’s such a great community event in that it’s not just a race. It’s something that is accessible to everyone and it’s something that’s really supported by the communities of Silverton and Durango. I love being able to be a part of it because it represents a lot of things that I care about.”
Abbott blew away the women’s field for her second consecutive IHBC crown. Abbott claimed four consecutive titles from 2008-11 and has now won another two in a row.
The race features almost 6,800 feet of vertical climbing over two 10,000-foot mountain passes, making it a tough race for a relatively short distance compared to many major one-stage road races.
“One thing that is important to remember is that it’s a lot of climbing at altitude,” Abbott said. “You’re not supposed to feel good while you’re doing it. It’s about the results, not how you feel.”
After the event, most racers made the joyful jaunt to Silverton bars for a post-race beverage in their IHBC beer mugs. Abbott was no different as she celebrated her record win.
“I don’t like malty beverages all that much, but I’m guessing there’s a beverage that I can find in my new mug,” Abbott said as she brandished the copper finisher’s mug.
Mindy Caruso crossed the finish line in second in the women’s pro race with a time of 2:53:22, and Durango native Emily Jordan took third in 2:56:04.
It was Jordan’s first professional race. She competed in the Citizen’s race last year, and she only picked up cycling two summers ago before beginning to race last fall.
“I was hoping to be on the podium and beat three hours,” Jordan said. “I did both, so I’m thrilled.”
Jordan, 23, graduated from Durango High School in 2010 and went to Dartmouth College. She plans to continue the IHBC weekend to contend in the omnium competition by racing in Sunday’s criterium and Monday’s road race.
As for the grueling climb during the road race, Jordan felt great even when Abbott separated herself from the rest at Molas Pass, the second of the two major climbs.
“The rest was tough, but it paid off,” Jordan said. “To have the opportunity to race here and come back to Durango and enjoy the roads was great. The caliber of racers is always exciting.”