Race Report: IHBC Mountain Bike Race

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic MBS Mountain Bike Race… rounding a switchback overlooking Durango (Photo: Barack Naggan)

So I’m trying to think about how to write this race report.  The race itself was great.  The resulting aftermath with timing/organization was not so great…

Matt and I registered for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic mountain bike and time trial races back in December, so it was a long planned event.  We figured we’d turn Memorial Weekend into a mini-vacation, staying in New Mexico and squeezing in time for exploring (which will all be happily described in an upcoming blog post once I finish photos!!!! 😀 ).

First up was the MBS Mountain Bike race on May 27th.  I entered Cat 3 (as expected, especially in December), which would be a 6-7 mile long race, or one lap.  We showed up in the morning, readied our bikes and found the starting line in downtown Durango, which was intermixed with the criterium course.  Whole layout was pretty darn cool.  Matt went off at 8:30 with the Cat 3 Men, and I was first to line up for the Cat 3 Women’s race.

I was joined by Tricia, who was inquiring if she got added to the Cat 2 race like she wanted.  That immediately made my stomach turn.  For awhile it was just 3 of us, then some other women straggled in.  Definitely not the field that I had counted up on the website the night before (which painstakingly involved hovering over every single entry in the MTB race and see what their class was!).

Start went off, and Tricia and I leaped out front.  First part of the race was on pavement to get to the trails.  I tucked in behind her rear wheel, as anytime I can feel like a super awesome roadie is a good time!  We were going about 25-27mph up this pavement, so it really did feel like a road race!  We got to the trails, and Tricia immediately jumped off her bike to start walking.  I made it about a foot up the loose, powdery dirt and also had to bail.  OK, cool, insane climb.  Duathlon involving hiking once again!  Once again I had one of those eery moments where I realized no one was catching and passing Tricia and I, similar to what I felt at the Gowdy Grinder.  We hiked up back and forth on some switchbacks until the grade of the trail was actually rideable.  Lots and lots of climbing, and I was stuck to Tricia’s wheel.

First descent and Tricia zipped off, since I am still a scaredy-cat descender for some reason.  Course marshalls warned us about slow moving men racers, which was nice.  I definitely liked how all the course marshalls cheered us on!  We descended a little ways and then had another tideous climb back up the mountain (the course is up the mountain that Fort Lewis College sits on, and around the college, and then back down the mountain, in simple terms).  Tricia bumbled on the climb, and I was able to take over first, with Liz not too far behind me.  There was some sketchy washed out parts, and tons of exposure, so I found myself saying “Don’t look over there!” a lot!

Soon the course crested and there was zippy singletrack.  Fun, and I was still leading.  Then came the most bizarre stuff I have ever seen on a cross country course.  Literally a maze in the trees out of stupidly powdered dirt that made you dizzy instantly.  I fumbled on a switchback in the soft dirt, and Tricia and Liz were able to jump around me.  OK, so there went winning the race.  Liz pointed out that someone should be taping us, because of all the sound effects Tricia, Liz, and I were making, LOL! I was dazed by this whatever you wanna call it course, and relieved when I finally got back on the singletrack for the big descent back into town.  Tricia and Liz are fast descenders, so I lost sight of them,and had the trail to myself, which was nice, though I had no idea how close anybody was behind me.

I found the descent to be “east coast-ish” with roots and trees and rocks.  Good practice for PA maybe, no?  After fully utilizing the capabilities of my brakes, I was back on pavement and screaming towards the finish.  But wait, first there was an obstacle course!  Because who doesn’t like those in a middle of a cross country race?  I don’t mind technical courses, but damn, I’m not a trick rider.  I think this was more for public amusement than the racers.  I turned it into cyclocross with the amount of time I spent dismounting and hoisting my bike over stuff.  Which was a lot.  A LOT.  I can’t bunny hop over stuff (OH NOES) so all the log piles I had to get off the bike.  I rode one foot of the skinny before just riding off of it, haha.  I did however make it out alive on the teeter-totter.  These obstacles seemed to drag on forever.  Ugh.  Finnnalllyyyy they were all done and I was sprinting towards the finish.

Woohoo, finishing in 3rd place!

Tricia, Liz, and I hung out at the finish a bit, reliving the race.  Turns out I apparently rode way more of the obstacles than Liz did.  Go me.  We wondered when awards would be, and that’s when Tricia pointed out that we all won prize money.  Oh snap, I’m a pro now, winning money!!!

Matt and I went to see when awards would be, and found out that they do not do awards, and just mail checks.  No one could tell me how much my check would be, or if I would even get one.  I was told to “look on the website.”  :/  Some results were posted, but were really odd, and random people stated that it would take awhile for results to come out.  Disclaimer:  I am VERY VERY VERY VERY spoiled by RME and Laramie Series races were timing is instant, and results are uploaded like within an hour, even in the mountains, so I had a hard time digesting that even 1-2 hours after my race there were no results…

So we kicked it with Specialized instead!


Since results still appeared to be wonky (9 hour finish times, Matt missing…), we hung out with Specialized and demo’d their new Turbo bike, and walked around the vendor area.  We decided to grab some pizza at the Fired Up Pizzeria (totally blows Hot Tomato out of the water for Colorado pizza places!!).

Riding the Specialized Turbo... damn I can climb hills with this bike!  :P
Riding the Specialized Turbo… damn I can climb hills with this bike! 😛

Matt noticed that the results had finished posting to the website (which is where another person told us to look, apparently that’s the default answer), but both him and I were missing.  Since I was in a podium, and therefore money winning spot, I admit I got a little panicked.  After finishing up our meal, we made our way over to the timing tent since no one else seemed to have any answers about anything (a lot of “Go talk to those people over there,” who then would go “We have no idea.”)  The timing lady looked up our bib numbers and frankly stated “you were disqualified for racing in the wrong category.  We were concerned about this when you were at the starting line, as it wasn’t your proper category.  You’re Cat 2.”  OK, first off, why wasn’t something said AT THE STARTING LINE?  That just seemed odd.  Second off, I NEVER registered for Cat 2, why would I have done that?  I had the email receipts saying Cat 3 for both Matt and I (thank goodness for smartphones), and also the IHBC website shows Cat 3 when you hover over our names.  The timing lady honestly didn’t really seem to care, and just said I had to find a race director.  I seriously wanted to cry at this point.

Matt and I started wandering towards a vague tent that in which was suppose to hold a “race director,” when another volunteer chased us down and pointed us to a race director, who was apparently already getting an earful about us from the timing people.  (Yes, I can get frustrated, but we did pay out $100 each to race this weekend not including gas, hotel, food, etc, and it’s upsetting to find out we were DQ’d for nothing on our part…)  I showed the guy my phone with the email, and he spent about 10 minutes with the timing people.  Finally he walked back, saying the results were fixed, and that I should be seeing a check in the mail with my prize money.  Shook some hands and was off.  OK, so they made right… we think.  We’re actually unsure Matt’s result will get added in, but thankfully for the Garmin file we can figure out where he was (7th).  The results on the website still are not fixed, so I’m worried there will be an angry girl from Arizona mad she won’t be getting prize money…

We were kind of disillusioned after this, and I looked at Matt and stated “I’m not doing the time trial tomorrow.”  Matt agreed, pointing out that racing and then an 8 hour drive would not do us any favors.  So the TT was out.  We wanted to do Mesa Verde, but then realized it wouldn’t really work due to drive time… dammit!

Will we be returning to the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic next year?  I say highly unlikely.  The course was nothing I was too fond of (singletrack and climbing was fine, just not the maze and obstacles – just not my cup of tea, and not really worth the 8 hour drive), and there are so many other races to choose from over Memorial Weekend that I don’t want to commit to this one again.  The organization, timing, results, etc definitely don’t add to to it.  I’m super pleased that I placed well in a Colorado race on trails I’ve never been on, and especially pleased at how well I climbed, so it definitely wasn’t all negative!

1 thought on “Race Report: IHBC Mountain Bike Race”

  1. Good to know about this race. What a bummer how disorganized. I’ve known a lot of people who go down there for the festival and various races too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s