Stephan Davoust said he had never stood on top of a podium at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in his hometown of Durango. That changed Sunday.
The 24-year-old professional mountain biker has had a breakthrough season with a streak of podium finishes. Sunday, he improved another step to finish first in the IHBC pro men’s mountain bike race in downtown Durango. The race was shortened from three scheduled laps down to two because of lightning in the area. Davoust had a huge lead on second-place Troy Wells, also of Durango, and raised his arms at the finish line, though he wasn’t completely sure the race was over. So, he completed a third lap just to be safe.
“Someone had told me I was done, so I posted up at the finish and celebrated,” Davoust said. “I was like, ‘Sweet, I’m done.’ People on the other side of the finish line said, ‘Keep going, keep going.’ The lightning had kind of seceded, and I felt good, so I kept going. I raced all three laps. I was cramping on the third one. Toward the end there, another official said the race was canceled because of lightning, but I was going to finish anyway because it was all downhill from there.
“It was a little confusing out there, but it’s always fun to be racing in front of all the hometown spectators here. Honestly, it’s one of the better races when you’re getting cheered at, and everyone knows your name and people are all over the course yelling your name. Super fun.”
Davoust’s winning time was 50 minutes, 55 seconds. Wells was second in 51:24, and Payson McElveen finished third in 51:48 to complete an all-Durango podium. Wells was the lone podium finisher who had raced in the pro men’s road race from Durango to Silverton a day earlier.
“Up the climb on the second lap, (Davoust) hit it there. Me and Payson couldn’t really follow,” Wells said. ‘Payson let me around him, and I couldn’t close it, either. That was pretty much the race.
“I felt pretty good, overall. The thunderstorm sure added to it, though. The lightning looked close. I figured they’d call it and we’d finish on that second lap, but you never really know. When Stephan went really hard that second lap, I felt my legs. I might have felt my legs after Saturday anyway.”
An incredibly close King of the Mountain omnium champion was decided by one point. Durango’s Cal Skilsky, who moved to the area last year from Flagstaff, Arizona, was crowned the king. He finished fifth in the men’s mountain bike race Sunday to back up his fourth-place finish in Saturday’s pro men’s road race to Silverton. He scored 43 omnium points to edge California’s Justin Thompson and Fort Lewis College cyclist Cooper Wiens by one point, as Thompson and Wiens tied with 42 points each. Thompson finished second in Saturday’s road race in a sprint finish with Griffin Easter, while Wiens had finished sixth. In Sunday’s mountain bike race, Wiens was fourth and Thompson was eighth.
“I wasn’t expecting that this weekend,” Sklisky said of his overall win. “I just moved to Durango this year for the mountain biking community here and had never done this race before. I just knew it would be a fun weekend. To come away with the omnium, that’s pretty cool.
“Today, I felt good on the first lap, but the second was a struggle to hang onto (Wiens) and (McElveen). With all the lightning and everything, the three of us knew there was a good chance it would end after two laps, so we sprinted it to the line. I’m happy with how it went this weekend.”
As soon as Sunday’s professional mountain bike race began, ominous dark skies finally turned to nasty weather, with high wind gusts whipping up dust across town. Once the riders had completed their first lap, lightning began flashing around town and booming thunder indicated the strikes were close.
Behind Skilsky was Goose van der Meer. Durango’s Rotem Ishay was in seventh with Thompson eighth. Lucas Rowton placed ninth, and Jason Rowton was 10th. Durango’s Cody Cupp was 11th, and Cobe Freeburn was 12th. Durango results continued to pour in along with the rain, as Colby Simmons was 13th, Colton Sacket was 14th and Sam Vickery was 15th.
McElveen was able to race Sunday a day after he had to withdraw from the road race because of illness. He used Sunday as a training effort for next week’s Dirty Kanza 200-mile gravel ride, one of his big season targets. He left Sunday’s race and headed back to the trails to get more training time.
“(Davoust) just rode us off his wheel. Straight up, he’s a lot stronger right now, and there was nothing for us to do,” McElveen said. “I had a feeling today wasn’t gonna be amazing, but I really needed this effort to get back into the groove. It’s hard to skip out on your home race, so I went out there, rode my own pace and got the work in.”
For Davoust, it was a sweet win in his hometown before he continues a busy season that has already seen him finish on the overall podium at the Soldier Hollow Bike Festival and a silver medal at the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championship.
“I have never top-stepped at the Iron Horse,” Davoust said. “It had always been Sepp Kuss when I was racing as a junior, and he would always kind of take that top step. He’s on to bigger things with the (Giro d’Italia), obviously. Also, this is my first top step of the podium this season, too. I’ve had a lot of podiums so far, but to stand on the top one feels good.”