More than 100 cyclists participated in the first La Strada La Plata Gravel Ride as part of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.
The event was not treated as a race because the roads could not be shut down, but that didn’t stop some of the area’s top cyclists from displaying their competitive spirit.
Brendan Cusick of Durango was the first of a group of six riders to finish, making him the first place finisher with an unofficial time of two hours and 45 minutes.
“I got away towards the top of Edgemont and stayed away for about an hour, and then these guys caught me,” Cusick said. “It was just a great ride from there.”
The friendly race kicked off the day’s Iron Horse festivities with a 9 a.m. start time. The cyclists prepared for an array of terrain including paved roads, dirt and gravel. The 54-mile course had a 3,700-foot climb and featured six gravel sectors that totaled 24.2 miles, including Texas Creek, County Road 510 and Glockenspiel.
Those registered for the event included 61-year-old local mountain biking pioneer Ned Overend, who finished seconds behind Cusick.
“We had a good group off the front here,” Overend said. “We’d regroup, break up a little bit, and then regroup again. It was good riding with these guys.”
Overend, a five-time Iron Horse championship, was physically unfazed after finishing seventh in the citizens’ race on Saturday.
“I felt pretty good,” Overend said. “I was a little slow getting started but once I got warmed up I felt pretty good.”
Gravel racing is becoming increasingly popular in the cycling community. The IHBC created the event as an experiment to see if they could add it to their event schedule in the future.
The diversity of the terrain is the most intriguing aspect about gravel racing, Cusick said.
“It’s fun to get out and just race the road a lot but to integrate the gravel,” Cusick said. “To have some of our local roads out here get utilized is super fantastic.”
Overend believes gravel racing has tremendous growth potential.
“It can appeal to a lot of people,” Overend said. “It has a huge popularity because it lets people get away from the cars more and it’s a little more challenging.”
Gravel racing also consists of a lot of equipment. Cross bikes, road bikes, and gravel specific bikes were all used in the event, featuring a plethora of different tire sizes.
The race ended where it started at the intersection of Ninth Street and Main Avenue, leading the riders into mix of Iron Horse festivities.
“It was a great inaugural event,” Cusick said. “I know it’s not supposed to be a race, but it was fun.”