Though there were no winners and losers in the Iron Horse Classic’s “Sprite Kids Race,” the true victory for event organizers is the continued rise in participation in the next generation of cyclists.
DeeDee Carlson, an organizer with the Iron Horse, said she’s seen the amount of children who take part in the weekend-long event grow “exponentially” since she started volunteering more than 10 years ago.
This year, for instance, the Sprite Kids Race from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Sunday drew a total of 315 kids, ages two to 12 years old, who took part in a multi-lap course around Main Avenue and Ninth Street
Last year, that number was below 300, she said.
“It’s really sky rocketed in the last few years,” Carlson said.
The continued efforts to incorporate more child-friendly activities during the Iron Horse weekend has a twofold effect: it provides parents who may be riding in the event an option to entertain their kids, and it also piques more interest in the sport.
More than 40 children out of the 315 who took part in the Sprite Kids Race were in the 3-year-old age bracket, a sign that the future of cycling is probably in good hands, Carlson said.
“A couple of the kids – it being Durango – have world champion riders for parents,” said Carlson, pointing out that she saw professional cyclist Todd Wells’ child in the event.
This Iron Horse was also the second year in a row event organizers have offered a “Kids Village” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., offering activities for children and at times a much needed relief for parents.
Mary Shepherd, who was working at the Kids Village on Sunday, said some parents have kids racing throughout multiple age brackets, and the village offers activities for children while they wait.
The village offers balloon animals, a bounce house, face painting, coloring, among other activities.
“Our goal is really to engage kids of all ages,” Shepherd said. “And it keeps families downtown.”
Carlson also noted one more trend: the continued rise in popularity of Strider bikes with children learning how to ride.
Strider bikes are the trademark brand for a “balance bike” – a bike that has no pedals or training wheels, and is powered only by foot propulsion. According to the company’s website, it’s designed to train kids how to steer and balance on two wheels.
“They can ride a lot earlier,” Carlson said. “It gives them so much more balance for when they get on a real bike.”
Carlson said about two-thirds of the 3-year-olds and all of the 2-year-olds had Strider bikes for the Sprite Kids Race.
The cost of registration for the Sprite Kids Race also benefited the Boys & Girls Club of Durango.