Riders ready, weather iffy

Saturday, May 24, 2008 2:15 AM
Quentin Dyson of Houston rides to the summit of Coal Bank Pass on Friday. Dyson was with a group of Houston-area men checking out the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic course. They rode up Coal Bank from the bottom of the north side. The cyclists’ brakes werenworking because of the cold weather, they said. "We didn’t come to sit in the pub and drink beer," Dyson said of the possibility of today’s race being canceled. The group vowed to make the ride to Silverton before leaving town Wednesday.
Neil "Nomad" McCleary of Houston loads his bicycle onto a truck after he and friends reached the summit of Coal Bank Pass on Friday.
Haakon Sigurslid tests out a bike at the Durango Devo Velo Swap on Friday at La Plata County Fairgrounds. Twenty percent of proceeds from the swap will go toward funding the Durango Devo Junior Cycling Program. Sigurslid is a Durango Devo (development) team member.

For Phoenix resident John Romero, bike races - or "torture fests" as he calls them - are a way of life.

So, Ro-mero and six friends camped in the rain Friday night at

United Campgrounds on Animas View Drive. This morning, they planned to ride from Durango to Silverton in the 37th

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.

The pouring rain and accumulating snow wasn't overly concerning, he said. As bicyclists,
their lives revolve around these events.

"Unless they call off the race, we're on," Romero said Friday at the La Plata County

Fairgrounds. "We're a bunch of gluttons for punishment. For us, it's just a badge of honor to complete it. Most of

the guys involved in this know all about pain and suffering - which is all about the sport."

The energy and anxiety among bicyclists was high Friday afternoon at bike shops and during

registration at the fairgrounds. Some cyclists have trained for months, and they were anxious to know whether their

hard work paid off.

Lynn Ristedt, a teacher from Phoenix, planned to participate in her first-ever Iron Horse

race. She has been training for six months, she said, including a ride in the pouring rain Friday from Durango up

Shalona Hill and back.

"It was very sleety and snowy," she said. "I'm used to 105 degrees. My feet are freezing.

(But) it was good. I was just real careful. Cars were respectful. They are a lot nicer than drivers in


Racers are scheduled to begin at 7:20 a.m. at Durango High School, and the traditional

citizens ride at 8:15 a.m. at College Drive and Camino del Rio with the train whistle.

The Colorado State Patrol has ultimate control when it comes to canceling the race. But as of

Friday afternoon, race officials were optimistic the event would occur, although it might be cut a little


"Weather is supposed to be nicer (today)," said Patti Zink, a spokeswoman for the Iron Horse.

"We are planning to do something; we just don't know how far we are going to go based on road conditions. If it's

just cold, I think people can dress warm enough to do it. But if they get wet, that's when the trouble


In 1996, riders grew hypothermic and were forced to abandon their bikes on Coal Bank and

Molas passes. But those riders were caught by surprise, whereas this year's riders know what to expect, said Ed Zink,
an organizer.

"If people are prepared, this is a doable thing," he said.

Andree Behrens traveled from Germany for today's event.

"If they open the road, I'll go," he said Friday at Mountain Bike Specialists on Main Avenue.

"I've heard so much about it, I want to do it."

His friend, Bobby Vigil of Minnesota, was equally committed.

"We've come a long distance, so we want to meet the challenge," Vigil said. "We've trained

for it. We anticipate doing it - and doing it well."

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