Eagle will host the Colorado Cycling League’s state championship meet for the fifth consecutive year this October. After a long wait, Durango will get its turn to host in 2018.
The Colorado Cycling League is the governing body for high school cycling in the state and is part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. Participation in NICA events has boomed, and Colorado is no exception.
Durango has yet to host a competition on the Colorado Cycling League calendar, but that will change in a big way when the state championships roll into town in October 2018.
“I’ve been looking for Western Slope venues for quite some time,” said Colorado Cycling League Executive Director Kate Rau. “Durango is a perfect cycling destination. The town put together a proposal that was very supportive of our event.”
Rau worked closely with representatives from the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Durango DEVO, the Fort Lewis College cycling team, Durango Business Improvement District and the city of Durango. IHBC race director Gaige Sippy was involved every step of the way in getting an event to the Durango area. She had been looking into Durango and surrounding areas in the region since 2012, noting the abundant trail systems and ease of access. A big challenge for the Durango bid committee was luring the league away from the Front Range. More than 1,000 riders from 67 teams and 147 high schools participated in regular-season races last year. Of those, only 30 or 40 were from the Durango area.
“The Colorado Cycling League is Front Range centric,” Sippy said. “It took years to get to this point. To get families down here and to get the organization to believe we can do this successfully in Durango required a paradigm shift. We had to prove we can do it in Durango. We certainly have the cycling culture, and I’d say we have hosted bigger cycling events than any community in the state.”
Durango boasts two teams that compete in the league. Animas High School competes in Division 1, and Durango competes in Division 2. Each have won conference titles since the first races were held in 2010.
Sippy said the bid committee used every weapon in the arsenal in trying to convince the league’s board of directors to bring a race to Durango, including the name recognition of some of the top mountain bikers in the country who reside in Durango.
The city of Durango and business improvement district hope the event can help support the local economy during the fall shoulder season by bringing in hundreds of riders and their families for the two-day event. Last year, 561 athletes qualified for the state championships.
“When we found out the championships were coming, we were ecstatic,” Durango Business Improvement District Executive Director Tim Walsworth said in a news release. “Durango has a long history of supporting all kinds of cycling events, and we can’t wait to show off our town to all the riders. The impact of having this caliber of event in Durango is many-fold, including a strong economic boost during a shoulder season, showcasing the Durango area offerings and inspiring kids to ride bikes.”
Eagle built a course that fit specific criteria for hosting the state championship. The course must feature sections of double- and single-track to allow passing opportunities and a mental break for riders. It also must not have more than 800 feet of climbing per lap, Rau said. Ease of access also is important for spectator and athlete parking as well as medical personnel.
A Durango location has not been finalized for the 2018 event. Sippy said an announcement regarding an official location is close and was key to being able to bring the event to Durango. Rau visited Durango twice in the last 18 months and firmed up the league’s commitment to Durango in her last visit in April.
She tires to schedule venues to host events three years in advance and likes races to be held for more than one year in each location.
Sippy, whose daughter Camryn competed in the Colorado Cycling League for four years and is now on the Fort Lewis College team, believes Durango will put on a quality event that will encourage the league to return to the area.
“NICA is by far the best thing going on in junior cycling in our country,” Sippy said. “We’re a perfect fit as a town for an event like this. The community will embrace it, and I think families of visiting riders will embrace Durango. We hope this is a multi-year opportunity for us.”