Marisa Asplund finally won an Iron Horse Bicycle Classic on Saturday after three runner-up finishes.
The Durango native crossed the finish line at Durango Mountain Resort in 1 hour, 26 minutes, 51 seconds, claiming the title in the shortened 26.5-mile race.
“It’s about time. Truth be told, as I’m sure a lot of people are, a little disappointed with the course,” she said. “I mean, I feel satisfied; it’s not the queen stage it usually is.”
Fellow Durangoans Sheena Carswell and Maria Santiago came in second at 1:27:01 and third at 1:33:09, respectively.
Both the men’s and women’s fields started together, which played into the strategy of the women’s race, too.
“It was from the gun. I was really having to toe the line with all the men,” Asplund said. “Because everyone was fighting for wheels, it was screaming fast out of the valley.”
Asplund, the 37-year-old coach, counselor, trainer and therapist, jumped to the front of the women’s field early, keeping up with men’s racers Ned Overend and Todd Wells out of the gate.
That’s pretty good company – a Hall of Fame cyclist and a three-time Olympic mountain biker, respectively – for the rider who’s missed the last couple of years of competitive cycling because of a blood disorder.
Asplund held that position leading into the first hill, and she kept her lead through the finish.
The field started to scatter more as they started to climb Shalona Hill, the race’s first big climb.
“I think people went out fast. There was no easy rollout through the valley,” said Carswell, a 43-year-old registered nurse at Southwest Cardiology Associates. “It was a little daunting being with the men.”
Carswell tried to stay with a group as much as she could, but she couldn’t make up the distance to Asplund, who has a decade’s worth of professional cycling experience and is a trained triathlete.
Asplund thrice times has finished runner-up to Mara Abbott, who holds the IHBC women’s record with four titles.
Abbott wasn’t in this field, which raced to the top of the DMR parking lot in front of the plaza, climbing sharply after the downhill from Needles Country Store leading to Purgatory’s front gate.
“Brutal. Totally brutal. I’ve been up here a million times, but we didn’t know exactly where it would finish,” Asplund said. “We came around the corner, and people started their sprint. Typically we’re not sprinting at 9,000 feet.”