Iron Horse director to step down after race

After leading the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic through seven years of steady growth, event Director Gaige Sippy will step down after next weekend’s 42nd annual event.

Sippy began the demanding job in 2007. During his tenure, the number of riders participating over the course of the Memorial Day Weekend event jumped from 2,800 to 4,000, in large part because of the addition of new events, including the Quarter Horse, mountain bike race, time trial and omnium.

“Gaige has shown great commitment to the community and the event,” said Ed Zink, Iron Horse co-founder and board president. “We had a great team when he joined us, and we will continue to grow as we move forward.”

Under Sippy’s leadership, the Citizen Tour from Durango to Silverton has sold out at ever-increasing rates, doing so in six days for the 2012 race and in a mere 36 hours for this year’s race.

Sippy can’t count the number of memories, he said.

“Certainly the big snowstorm of 2008,” he said. “And the criterium last year. The crowds, the enthusiasm, were overwhelming. I had broken my pelvis shortly before the event, and the way the crew stepped up to take care of all the details was amazing.”

Another part of Sippy’s legacy that he’s proud of is the work the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic has done with the Mercy Health Foundation. The classic has raised more than $200,000 over the last seven years for the Breast Care Center and now the Hospice of Mercy Experience project.

Sippy has some advice for his successor.

“Just enjoy being part of one of the greatest things in Durango,” he said. “And there are a whole heck of a lot of details, even more than I can imagine, and I’ve been doing it for a while.”

Sippy will join the Wells Group Real Estate Brokerage as sales manager in late fall, but he will continue to be involved with the Iron Horse as a member of the board of directors, the organization said in a news release.

The Iron Horse board isn’t going to start advertising the event director’s job just yet.

“We want to take a few weeks to vision what the Iron Horse should look like in five years and 10 years, and then we need to determine what skill sets we need to add to our team to achieve that,” Zink said.

Sippy will continue in the role for at least another month and expects to help with the transition for the rest of the summer.

“Part of the reason the Iron Horse has continued to grow is our willingness to change, try new things, adjust and respond,” Zink said, mentioning the addition, deletion and re-addition of the mountain bike race and other events.

The new event director will come into an organization that has a lot of strengths, Zink said.

“We have 300 of the greatest volunteers, who are loyal and well-trained,” he said, “and a handful of talented staff. Tweaking things keeps it interesting for them, too.”

One of the ideas the board will be considering is a popular event out of Europe called the gran fondo.

“It’s a combination of a tour and a race, not too unlike what we do,” Zink said. “We want to look at what makes it so popular, take ours apart and see what we can do to make the Iron Horse better.”

The board would like to hear ideas from the community about the future of the Iron Horse, he said. Comments should be emailed to him at edzink@waterfallranch.com.

abutler@durangoherald.com