Iron Horse Bicycle Classic hires director

Racer, sports manager takes helm

Jeff Frost, the new director of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, attended an informal ceremony to honor local cyclists Wednesday evening at Mountain Bike Specialists. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Jeff Frost, the new director of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, attended an informal ceremony to honor local cyclists Wednesday evening at Mountain Bike Specialists.

The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic on Wednesday named Jeff Frost, an experienced sports events manager from Tucson, Ariz., as director of Durango’s signature annual bicycling event.

Frost will be tasked with expanding Iron Horse events and participation, a tricky balance that will require placating law enforcement and local officials in Durango and Silverton.

Frost served as snowboard venue manager for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. He’s also managed the Sea Otter Classic, a bike race event in Monterey, Calif., the SunTrust National Marathon in Washington, D.C., and the National Mountain Bike Series, among other events.

Frost, 52, also races professionally as part of the Trek Cyclocross Collective.

“My thing is, I race bikes,” he said.

Frost will move to Durango to take over the Iron Horse, which organizers say is Colorado’s largest and oldest cycling event. The Iron Horse has been held on Memorial Day weekend annually since 1972.

The Iron Horse attracts 2,500 riders for the Citizen Tour and Road Race from Durango to Silverton. That number has been capped for several years because of safety concerns, and slots quickly sell out.

Iron Horse organizers plan to approach law-enforcement agencies about revisiting the rider cap. The Colorado State Patrol closes U.S. Highway 550 from Durango Mountain Resort to Silverton for the Saturday rides.

“We’ll engage in that conversation, but the ultimate objective is to not put people at an unreasonable risk,” said Ed Zink, the race’s founder and chairman. “We’ll be conservative because we want to be safe.”

The race has been capped at 2,500 riders since the 2007 Iron Horse.

Frost’s hiring follows a search by the Iron Horse’s search committee and a strategy process that resulted in recommendations for improving the event.

Iron Horse officials also want to extend the event beyond the popular Saturday tour and race, keeping riders in town through Sunday. Only 10 percent of Iron Horse participants sign up for more than one event, Zink said.

Boosting that number “may be a smarter way to enhance the positive benefit of the whole Iron Horse,” he said.

The Iron Horse has an annual budget of approximately $400,000. The vast majority of revenue comes from participants, although sponsors such as McDonald’s provide valuable assistance such as running aid stations and providing food, Zink said.

A nonprofit organization, the Iron Horse donates proceeds to groups such as the Durango Devo youth cycling program, Fort Lewis College cycling teams, Trails 2000 and the Mercy Health Foundation.

Frost succeeds Gaige Sippy, who served as race director from 2007 to 2013. Sippy stepped down to take a job as sales manager at The Wells Group, a Durango real estate brokerage. He remains an Iron Horse volunteer.

“The biggest successful thing that you’ve got to focus on is realizing it’s a community event and treating it as such,” Sippy said. “The community really embraces it.”

The 2014 Iron Horse is set for May 24-26. Registration will open Dec. 1 at www.ironhorsebicycleclassic.com.

Frost – known for most of his life, inevitably, as “Frosty” – said he has spent the last two summers in Durango. He rode Wednesday morning at a cyclocross practice at FLC and shook hands in the evening at an open house hosted by Mountain Bike Specialists.

“The community is not new to me, you know what I mean?” said Frost. “I love it here – the vibe.”

Frost grew up in Mount Snow, Vt., and received a Raleigh three-speed at age 10. He avidly rides all types of bikes and refuses to take a side in the road-versus-mountain biking divide.

“Each community is so passionate, and that’s what I like,” he said.

Frost admitted that he’s never ridden in the Iron Horse.

“That’s one on my list I haven’t done,” he said.

But Frost thinks Durango is his kind of town.

“I’ve lived a lot of places, and there aren’t many places like Durango where you can get on any bike and go for an epic ride on any day,” he said.

cslothower@durangoherald.com

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