Favorites reigned in the pro men and pro women cross country races at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in Durango, Colorado on Sunday.
In the men’s race 1999 NORBA national champion and 2000 Olympian Travis Brown (Trek-Volkswagen) had an easy go of it, winning the three-lap, 20.4-mile race with a time of 1:40:48. Costa Rican José Adrian Bonilla (Café Costa Rica) came across second, 1:46 behind Brown. Jay Henry was third, at 3:09.
“I was going pretty hard from the start because José was really pushing the pace,” said Brown, who grew up in Durango. “I was getting small gaps on almost every descent and was able to slowly pull away.”
Indeed, by the end of the second lap Brown had stretched his lead to a full minute, and he continued to pull away on the final lap though he admitted to backing off the gas some at the end.
Brown now turns his attentions to next week’s NORBA national championship series opener at Snow Summit in Big Bear Lake, California. “I think this weekend is a good sign [for Big Bear],” he said. “Yesterday was the best I’ve ever done in the road race, and obviously today went well.”
On Saturday, Brown finished sixth in the 47-mile road race from Durango to Silverton.
Meanwhile, another 2000 Olympian, Australia’s Mary Grigson (Subaru-Gary Fisher), rode away with the women’s cross-country race, turning her three-laps around a slightly shorter loop in 1:37:35. Durango resident and four-time national champion Ruthie Matthes (Trek-Volkswagen) was a distant second, at 3:19. SoBe-HeadShok’s Shonny Vanlandingham came across third, 5:09 behind Grigson.
“I had a good start for once and was first to the single track,” said Grigson, who won both the road and mountain bike races here last year. “I sat on with Ruthie for awhile because I knew I could stay with her. I think it might have been a little demoralizing for her when she saw that, even though I’d done the road race yesterday, I wasn’t getting tired today.”
Grigson, who was second in Saturday’s road race, took control of Sunday’s race during the second lap when she grew a 10-second advantage into a 1:10 bulge. The result in Durango appears to indicate that the shoulder injury which kept her off the start line at the World Cup opener in Napa back in early April is doing much better.
“I’ve made a big jump since Napa,” Grigson said. “I don’t even think [about the injury] much any more. Today really helped, too. I feel good and I think I’m on my way.”
The Aussie dislocated her shoulder in a crash at the Tour de Snowy road race in March, and had initially feared she might miss the bulk of the 2001 season.
Both Brown and Grigson tackled the fairly technical course aboard full-suspension bikes. Brown rode a Trek-Fuel, the same model teammate Roland Green used to win the World Cup cross country in Houffalize, Belgium the previous week. Grigson was on her customary Gary Fisher Sugar, the same bike she used to win four of five NORBA nationals last year, plus the overall series title.
The pro men’s course started at Fort Lewis College, wove its way through Horse Gulch, back around the edge of the college, then up and down Chapman Hill before returning to the center of the four-year liberal arts school’s campus. It’s the same course that will be used for the World Cup cross-country race that will be part of the Durango World Cup triple slated for July 13-15.
“This is a hard course,” Brown said. “There are a lot of places where if you lose concentration you’re going to end up on your head. But it’ll be a good World Cup course. There’s lots of places for passing.”
The downhill and dual World Cup races will be contested 30 miles north of Durango at Durango Mountain Ski Resort. The World Cup race will be the first event of its scale in the area since the 1990 world mountain biking championships, the first ever UCI-sanctioned off-road championships.