Maria swept the 3/4 omnium for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in her own backyard! We couldn’t be more proud and she’s only a few precious points from that Cat 2 upgrade!
The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is an Omnium points race that consists of a Road Race, Criterium, and a Time trial over Memorial Day weekend in Durango, Colorado. Initially I was not going to participate this year because it was not USAC sanctioned, but after urging from friends and my LAAF bikes and CThree Wheels sponsor, I decided to try to defend my Women’s B Champion Jersey. After all, it is here in my hometown!
Day 1 The Road race
The Road Race starts in town at the highschool and then travels down the Valley for about ten miles. From here it climbs for the next 30 miles, summiting two mountain passes and reaching around 10,800 feet before descending 7 miles into the small, old, mountain mining town of Silverton.
I raced with the Women B category, since I am a Cat 3. This field had a total of 97 racers in the field. We left the parking lot at the high school and began up the valley on HWY 550. The tour riders are allowed to leave before the racers begin. This caused some safety issues. Many times I had to tell the racers to call out if a rider was coming up so we could all anticipate a flow to the left in the group. It wasn’t working very well and I was just sure that I was going to hear the sounds of clanking metal and girls shrieking as they hit the concrete. Amazingly, we made it through the valley with no crashes. Once we came to the base of Shalona, which is the first real start to the climbing part of the race, a racer attacked. I responded and grabbed her wheel. Then another racer attacked and I grabbed her wheel. Before we came to the semi flat section on top of Shalona we were a group of five. This part of the mountain highway is a four lane road. There were cones on our white dotted line so that cars can use the left lane and racers the right. With the tour riders on the right and the cones on the left, it did not leave much room for racers to ebb and flow. My initial fear finally came to fruition when one of the racers from our lead group ran into a cone as she moved away from a tour rider. Bam, I heard the slide across the pavement. My initial response is to stop and help, but I had to shake that and keep pedaling. You can’t help but feel a little cruel when you just continue on but a race is a race. We kept a good pace for the rest of the climb leading up to where they close the road to traffic and Coal Bank Pass begins. Some more girls had latched on to our group after the crash, and our group was bigger again. I began up Coal Bank with three girls along side of me. I had to tell yet another squirrely tour rider that racers were on their left. After hearing me bark out safety orders for the last 28 miles, I heard one of the girls say “she’s kind of spicy.”
My only tactic was to keep a good steady pace for the first three miles of the six mile climb and if there was anyone left with me, then begin surging. Before mile two approached, I was on my own. I climbed and climbed keeping a good rhythm with my counting and breathing and finally summited the pass. Grabbed a Gatorade, with most of it landing outside my mouth, and started my descent. I had to remind myself of the story of the tortoise and the hare. I wanted to take the descent slower, but was afraid that I would be caught by a faster descender. It went smoothly (AKA no big wind gusts blowing me sideways) and I then began my climb up Molas Pass. I climbed steady for another 4 miles, remembering to stay seated because of the lack of oxygen, and saw the glorious top of Molas Pass, signifying the end of the climbing. Who ho! Because I had the distinct feeling of being chased with meat cleavers, I tried to bomb it down to Silverton as fast as I could. Before I knew it, I was seeing the town from above with all the cute roofs of different colors, the train depot and tracks. It looked like someone had made a model train town and placed it in between a bunch of fake mountains. I rode up the main street and through the finish.
Day 2 The Criterium
The Criterium was laid out in downtown Durango. They changed the course this year and made the corners much more technical. They replaced the recovery straight away with a second power climb and made a longer run to the finish line. The start began and I went out hard. I wanted to break down the group to a smaller field, if I could. I preferred this because the corners were pretty hairy and riders were wiping out from all the different categories. One guy even broke his bike in two along with his collarbone. After the first turn and power climb, no one was with me for the first four laps. The time gap between myself and the follow group was about 15 seconds. It held steady at 15 seconds and I couldn’t see them behind me before I started my turns after the long straight away. Then, the time began to get shorter and at 8 seconds I made the decision to fall into the group and recover. It was successful and we had a much smaller group. The primes started and I decided that I would go after them. I was able to take all of them home. Each time I would grab a prime, I would then fall back into the group and recover. I stayed in the group until the last lap and then used the last power hill to build a gap again. Took the last corner alone, and hammered to the finish line.
Day 3 Time Trial
The time trial had me starting at 0800. I did a warm up ride on my neighbor’s stationary bike, and then they drove me down to the finish. I put on my helmet and the strap came out of the buckle. I tried to stay calm and fix it, because I knew that if I panicked I would never get the frayed pieces through the small buckle slits. I was internally freaking out as my start time was only three minutes away and I had about that much of a ride to the start line. Finally I got the straps together and jumped on my bike doing the mental checklist…glasses, helmet…bike….clipped in…..ok, I got it all. I arrived at the start line right when they were saying last call for Maria Santiago. I yelled, “I’M HERE, I’M HERE” and poof I was off. The course is 13.7 miles of mostly rolling hills with a brutal climb to the finish line that lasts about 2 miles. I felt good, staying within my zone where I am working hard, but not getting that feeling like someone punched me in the stomach. I knew that I needed to save a bit for that last push to the finish. The juniors started before me and as I passed them I wanted to say ‘good job’ , ‘looking strong’, but instead it just came out as a grunt of air and drool with a sideways glance. I began the climb up to the finish and really had to do some positive affirmations to not shift into my easiest gears. Not yet, not yet….almost there, you got this (you all know the words). The finish was finally in sight and across I went. I had no idea if I won or lost, but I was just so happy to have it done!!!