Mount Evans. Pikes Peak. Back-to-back days.
Then, throw in a little revenge for good measure, as if Colorado Springs optometrist LeRoy Popowski needed any more motivation to win a race he's never lost, the Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb, presented by The Broadmoor.
Less than 24 hours after a rare loss at the famed Mount Evans Hill Climb, Popowski retained his crown on Pikes Peak on Sunday morning, racing up America's Mountain for a 27-second victory over Golden cyclist Chris Carr, who enjoyed the top step on the podium the day before.
"I had to trade places with him today," said Popowski, the Mount Evans champion the previous two years who was born and raised in north-central Iowa. "I can't lose in my backyard."
The event, which started with a "fun ride" and followed by 21 competitive categories staggered between three start times, kicked off the final day of the first weekend of the 12th Rocky Mountain State Games. Following Sunday's games, action resumes Friday, highlighted by the Olympic Downtown Celebration, 5-10 p.m. Friday along Tejon Street.
Popowski, who led early and was caught by Carr and teammate Rory Kelly, pulled away late, fighting off what he called "punch-counterpunch" efforts from each in attempt to wear him out.
Instead, it sent Popowski, the race champion in 2010 and 2012, into another gear as he ultimately finished the journey in 1 hour, 11 minutes and 6 seconds. Carr was next in 1:11:33, with Kelly right behind at 1:11.34.
"We tried, and we put in a pretty good effort to catch up by working together," Carr said. "There was a point where we were both leading. Had the race been 10+ miles, one of us would have won. I had nothing left at the end, and he definitely got the better of us today, that's for sure."
For the fourth year, cyclists of all ages and skill levels - nearly 500 in all, an event record - put themselves at the mercy of Pikes Peak's 4,700 feet of climbing.
Racers for the second time maneuvered the same stretch of the Pikes Peak Highway used by drivers in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
The race previously started in Manitou Springs' Memorial Park in 2010-11.
In the women's division, Steamboat Springs fitness trainer Lisa Tumminello completed the Mount Evans-Pikes Peak sweep, winning her division in her first ascent up the mountain. Tumminello's winning time was 1:35:45. Longtime friend Sue Stokes repeated Saturday's runner-up performance with another Sunday.
"This is my first time to the top of this peak," Tumminello said. "It's a great race. This race is more sustained for longer periods. Mount Evans is longer and you spend longer above the treeline, but this one is challenging.
"You keep waiting for a break, but this mountain doesn't give you one."