Keegan Swirbul wins Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Road Race
The Aspen Times
Cyclist Keegan Swirbul of El Jebel won the men’s title Saturday in the annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Road Race from Durango to Silverton.
Swirbul, 19, captured the crown in the historic 50-mile race over two mountain passes (Coal Bank and Molas), finishing in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 14 seconds.
He held off Durango’s ageless cycling legend, Ned Overend, a 59-year-old who first won the Iron Horse in 1983.
Overend and Fort Lewis College mountain biker Ryan Standish were the only cyclists in the field to stay with Swirbul on the first major climb up Coal Bank Pass from Purgatory Ski Area.
Swirbul pulled away for good on the second climb up Molas Pass before the rapid descent into Silverton for the downtown finish.
Standish was second, 42 seconds behind Swirbul.
Overend, who has won the Iron Horse road race five times, was third, just 1 second behind Standish.
Swirbul, a second-year racer, rides for the Axeon Cycling Team.
Fourth place went to Durango pro mountain biker Ben Sonntag, a two-time winner of the Power of Four Mountain Bike Race in Aspen.
“On the first pass (Coal Bank), I tested the other riders, I did a couple of attacks,” Swirbul said in an interview with The Aspen Times. “Myself and two other guys got away (Overend and Standish.”
Swirbul said he considered the idea of going solo, but waited.
“I rode with them until halfway up the second pass (Molas). Then, I just attacked.”
He created his winning distance on the final ascent up to 10,900 feet and the summit of Molas Pass.
But he had to hold his advantage on the high-speed, turny descent into the old mining town of Silverton.
“The descents are really fun,” Swirbul said. “I’ve never gone full gas on a descent like that.”
A huge crowd lined Silverton’s main thoroughfare to greet Swirbul and the Iron Horse racers Saturday morning.
“There were some surprisingly big crowds in Silverton; that was lots of fun,” he said of the finish.
Swirbul said the Iron Horse was his first competitive race of the season after suffering a troublesome knee issue in training.
“I was out six weeks. That was pretty depressing for me,” Swirbul said.
But when he was cleared to return to the bike two weeks ago, Swirbul said he was more than ready to ride.
“I was so excited. It was like I was waiting all winter for this,” he said.
“And we got lucky with the weather, too,” he said.
Swirbul joins a star-studded list of winners of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, including the likes of Tom Danielson and Jonathan Vaugthers.
Women’s cycling sensation Mara Abbott of Boulder won the women’s title Saturday for the fifth time in her decorated career. She’s one of the top U.S. pro women racing today.
Samantha Lunsky finished second.
Aspen native Abby Mickey, a former University of Colorado cyclist, won the women’s Iron Horse road race two years ago.
Snowy weather shorted the race last year to a 25-mile sprint from Durango to the Purgatory Ski Area.
Bad weather at midday Saturday, including snow on the passes, forced organizers to stop many of the recreational riders before they could complete the ride to Silverton.
The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic continues today with downtown criterium racing in Durango, weather permitting. A time trial is set for Monday.
Swirbul is scheduled to race in today’s crit.
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