The community here gets behind any cycling event 100%. –Howard Grotts, 2017 IHBC King of the Mountain
Cycling up Coal Bank pass, the sound of water flowing in the high mountain streams along the road, I felt completely in the moment. The road was open solely for the Iron Horse participants. I concentrated on my breathing and my mind was quiet. As I rode the bike I was aware of my surroundings. Wet evergreen needles glistening in alpine sun. The endless white of the San Juan mountains touching the blue sky. With every breath I inhaled the fragrance of sweet forest. Rivulets of water streamed down the stone-faced mountainsides, reminding me of the soothing ambiance of the Florida River rolling over the polished rocks by the cabin where we had slept. It was a seamless experience. The rhythm of heart and legs pumping. Breathing deeply in the silence. Here I am. This is the reason we cycle. To dream big and immerse ourselves in the cycling experience, becoming a part of something greater and timeless.
I enjoyed the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic more than ever this year. There are a number of events over the weekend inlcuding kids races, mountain biking, a cruiser parade, BMX, and more. I focused on Saturday’s road race from Durango to Silverton. It’s an incredible course traveling up the Animas River Valley and over two high mountain passes before making a fast, sweeping descent into Silverton. It’s one of the most beautiful courses in the country.
The community not only gets behind the events, they actually get in the events! There are thousands of riders cycling from Durango to Silverton. You can race or ride at your own pace. Either way, everyone challenges themselves and shares the cycling experience. The citizens cheering along the course are equally extraordinary, and it takes so many volunteers and staff to make the events happen. No matter if you are riding, racing, cheering, working, or waiting for your family member to finish in Silverton, all participants infuse the festivities with special value. And the event promoters are careful to make the community integral in every aspect of the weekend’s adventures.
My race went off at 7:30am Saturday. The field was stacked with impressive talent. My basic plan was to ride with the main pack for the first 20 or so flat miles through the river valley, and wait for when the climbing began in earnest to spend my energy. But I saw Sepp Kuss, a professioal cyclist from Durango, was there, as well as Howard Grotts, a superb climber. My teammate Drew saw them as well and advised me that if I could get in a break early and save some legs for the climbs, that it wouldn’t be a bad strategy. As the race rolled out of town, I found myself moving up in the pack. And then I saw an opening at the front and just kept going. I was riding solo off the front.
I rested my forearms on the tops of my bars and time trialed to the base of the first climb. On Coal Bank Pass the race official’s vehicle pulled up next to me and told me I had a six mintue gap. It was beautiful riding higher and higher into the mountains but it was getting more difficult and I knew they would be charging hard across that gap. I told myself that if I make over Coal Bank Pass still solo that I had a chance to hang on for the win. I did go over Coal Bank solo and started the Molas Pass alone as well, but when I glanced across the valley I saw the orange kit of the Rally Cycling rider Sepp Kuss about a minute behind. I was suprised how quickly he caught me and how effortlessly he spooled by, like climbing on air. I kept my own pace and started looking over my shoulder, but didn’t see anyone else. I crested Molas Pass ok, stayed safe on the descent, and pedalled hard up through the tunnel of cheering fans. You can’t help but get shivers, and feel so happy to have made it, knowing you did your best effort on the ride. It was awesome. The first person I saw was Matt Caruso of Caruso Cycleworks, my mechanic, and then I found Mai. It was a fun celebration. As the racers came in we all congratulated one another, happy for each other and the challenge, laughing as we recapped our experiences. The spirit of cycling in Durango is positive, energitic, rewarding, super fun.
The celebration continued for hours as riders rolled across the finish line. One of the best parts of the weekend was the arrival of my teammates in Silverton. Team CSP-SBI had three riders in the citizens ride. Wonderful how cycling brings us all together. Shared joy filled the atmosphere. The grace and beauty of all the people on bikes in epic landscapes.
The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic reunites us with old friends and family and helps us make new ones. It is such a family friendly event. So many interesting people, it just absolutely flattens all boundaries to coming together as one community. The whole world seems bicycle-oriented, and the incredible mountains, snow, and sky make the setting especially delightful.
It is inspiring. I think the most incredible thing is experiencing the joy of others, and seeing their accomplishments. Mindy Caruso from Albuquerque won the womens race in remarkable fashion. I was so happy for Sepp Kuss, winning his hometown-race. Howard Grotts, another hometown hero, would win the mountain bike race the next day and win the inaugural King of the Mountain competition. Ned Overend was there representing the best in the cycling tradition. At 61, his experience and strength is awesome. Iron Horse turned me on to so many inspirational stories. You learn more about the triumph of the human spirit. On our podium Sepp called out “everybody up” for us to gather around him. He wanted us all on the top step with him. I feel lucky to be a part.
The story of the mens and womens pro races, w/ video, in the Durango Herald:
The kids race attracted over three hundred youth!
The BMX event was an exhilirating success:
There are more stories at the Durango Herald, and also other media such as Facebook:
Thank you to my teammates, friends and family, Southwest Bike Initiative’s fiscal sponsor SINC, and our team sponsors.