Too much rain may have spoiled the morning for mountain bikers, but an afternoon race more than made up for their disappointment.
After Sunday morning’s Fort Lewis College cross country mountain bike race was canceled because of the wet weather and concern over maintaining the single-track bike paths, race organizers scrambled to provide a race for mountain bikers.
The solution: a downtown criterium race to serve as the undercard for Sunday afternoon’s criterium road races.
Racers lined up on Main Avenue and 9th Street and raced for 20 minutes before a three-lap sprint to the finish line.
Troy Wells, who won the IHBC professional men’s road race Saturday, led the mountain bike criterium most of the race, but it was Matt Shriver who was first to the finish line Sunday, and Wells settled for second.
In the women’s race, Teal Stetson-Lee, a Durango native who now resides in Reno, Nevada, finished first. Durango’s Kaylee Blevins was second, and FLC cyclist Sofia Gomez-Villafane was third.
“This race was awesome. You go to races all the time to other places, and when it is canceled, that’s it. To scramble this together last minute and in front of the crowd down here, it is maybe even better than the cross country race,” said Shriver, a Trek team rider who will turn 34 on Monday.
Shriver lived in Durango for 10 years before moving to Wisconsin, where he worked for Trek. The former FLC coach and cyclist just moved back to Durango in October.
Shriver was right on the rear wheel of Wells most of the race. Durangoan Travis Brown, a member of the mountain bike hall of fame, also was in contention in the final laps. Brown took fifth place behind Durango’s Stephan Davoust. Shriver’s older brother, Zach Shriver, who now lives in Santa Fe, placed third.
“Troy definitely was the strongest guy out there. He was super active all day, and it was all I could do to hold onto his wheel and try to follow,” Shriver said. “I just had to save it until the very end. I knew if I got caught, my brother or Travis would be next to go, so I wasn’t too worried about getting caught. It was fun to be tactical.”
Wells did most of the work out front without the benefit of any rider to draft off of. He didn’t mind, though.
“I was just looking to get out and get a good workout this afternoon, and I pulled that off,” Wells said. “I was hoping we would race the trail this morning, but weather put a damper on it. It was nice they put this together so it wasn’t a wasted day, but I was just focusing on getting a workout; I didn’t want to just sit in and not pedal.”
Wells, another Durangoan, said response from the community has been great since he won the road race Saturday, and hearing the fans cheer him on in downtown Durango was an added treat.
“People definitely know if you won (Saturday), and people are giving me a lot of congratulations and everything; it’s been an awesome 24 hours,” the 29-year-old Team Clif Bar rider said.
Stetson-Lee had no problem winning the women’s mountain bike criterium. The Luna Pro Team rider and former national champion for FLC was thrilled to ride the race in front of her hometown fans.
“It was so awesome. After the morning race was canceled, I was at home, relaxing, stretching and getting all warmed up. I got in bed and then checked my email and saw this race was happening, so I leapt out of bed and got all fired up,” Stetson-Lee said.
Stetson-Lee, 28, said in some ways it was more exciting to race a criterium than the cross country mountain bike race.
“It was really nice of them to put something together to get us mountain bikers a little bit of exposure,” she said. “In mountain biking, sometimes we are off in the hills, and not everybody shows up. In some ways, this was even better with all the spectators out here.”
Stetson-Lee said it took a bit of adjusting to get used to racing at a high speed on pavement, something she does in training but rarely does in races.
Shriver said the fat tires of mountain bikes made the bikes a bit more unstable at high speeds going in and out of turns, but he adjusted his bike accordingly.
“Riding on knobby tires versus a slick tire, the speeds were not as high as road bikes. The geometry of the bikes is totally different,” Shriver said. “Going through turns, it was a lot more wobbly at high speeds. I’m sure everybody did like I did and aired up the suspension real hard and put more air in the tires and just ripped it.”