Mavericks dominate weekend

Sunday’s Maverick Classic Road Race features a 24-mile course that loops from downtown Palisade to east Orchard Mesa and into Grand Junction. The men’s race was 96 miles, and the women’s course was 72 miles.

Ariane Horbach continued her season of dominance Sunday with a win in the Maverick Classic Road Race in Palisade.

The win wrapped up a sweep of three events for the Colorado Mesa University women’s cycling team. It’s the second straight week the CMU women have won all three events.

For the CMU men, the road race was a disappointing end to two days of racing, with only one rider finishing in the top 10.

The win by Horbach was as predictable as hearing sirens at a fire, as she set a blistering pace before smoking her closest competition with another powerful sprint to the finish.

As she crossed the finish line smiling, she raised her hands to her helmet and formed horns to signify the Maverick mascot.

The 20-year-old from Germany didn’t have any trouble with the 72-mile course, which is a longer-than-usual women’s course. With her European experience, she has raced a number of longer races.

But that didn’t mean it was easy.

“It was hard. I’m tired and ready for food and sleep,” she said, smiling.

The sprint finish was just like her victory in the criterium Saturday. With the finish line in downtown Palisade lined with cheering fans, it was virtually identical to Saturday.

Horbach used another impressive sprint to pull away from the University of Colorado’s Sabrina David, who also finished second in the criterium.

Four women broke away on the second of three laps and rode together for the remainder of the road race. But no one wanted to try to break away from Horbach.

“I was a little surprised they didn’t attack,” she said.

As they approached the finish, there was little doubt Horbach would again power to the victory. Her winning time was three hours, 29.06 seconds.

CMU’s Lexie Millard had a good ride as well, finishing in fifth, coming in with the second group about four minutes behind the top four.

She said it was the longest race of her career. She tried to break away from the second group on the steep, short climb that took riders up to East Orchard Mesa.

“That climb is tough, but I tried to get away on the third lap, but they caught me,” she said.

With her blonde hair tinted with a touch of maroon, Millard said it was just a happy accident the color matched the maroon of the CMU colors.

As the CMU co-captain, she said the season has been fun and successful.

“It’s been a really fun year,” she said. “I think after last year, we took it a lot more seriously this year.”

Ariana Dittmer finished 11th for the Mavericks.

Men battle on 96-mile course

For the Colorado Mesa men, Spencer Oswald had a strong sprint finish to take seventh.

Chad Young, an 18-year-old freshman from Colorado School of Mines, broke free in the final three miles and held on for the win.

“I was just surfing the front, checking things out for most of the race,” he said.

He finished the 96-mile race in 3:55:46.3 with the peloton charging at the end but still 23 seconds back.

Oswald, who entered the weekend as the points leader for the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference, made a hard charge at the end to get the top 10 finish.

“I had to really rev it,” he said about starting his sprint early to try to get around as many riders as possible.

There were a number of breakaways in the race, but none were successful until Young bolted away late.

Oswald said the long race, which was also much longer than the usual 70-80-mile range for the collegiate men, took its toll. With wicked cross winds and having to climb the steep hill four times, he said the riders had to decide whether they had the energy to attack late or just hang on for a high finish.

He said road racing is normally an unpredictable event, and he accepts winning and losing are both part of it.

“I have a saying, ‘If I win, I win, and if I lose, I lose.’ It’s just racing. For us, I don’t think we could have done much else today,” he said.

Sam Phillips finished 11th, and Morgan Ryan placed 13th for the Mavericks.

Fort Lewis College, which competes at the Division I level, finished a strong weekend by placing three riders in the top 10.

CMU will now look to win the Division II Road Racing National Championships in Richmond, Va., on May 2-4.

For the professional men, Boulder’s Tom Zirbel had a rough day, but he held on for the general classification victory after the road stage.

Maxx Chance won the 96-mile race in 3:53:09.6, pulling ahead of a group of six riders at the line.

Zirbel, who is the U.S. Time Trial national champion, got caught in a five-rider crash with about 10 miles remaining. That ended his chances for the win, but he worked to get close to protect his 93-second lead. He finished 11th, 26 seconds back.

This is the first year the Maverick Classic was a four-event stage race for the noncollegiate riders.


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