The popularity of the first Iron Horse Bicycle Classic gravel ride manifested into a bigger event for 2018.
This year’s La Stada La Plata Gravel Ride will feature two routes with a 46-mile and 56-mile option. In its inaugural year in 2017, the event drew 150 riders. This year, there are already more than 225 registered with the chance of more walk-up registrants Friday. The cap is set at 250.
“We’re going to be solid with a significant increase in numbers,” IHBC race director Gaige Sippy said. “The gravel stuff is growing and growing. The routes are going to be cool, going up Horse Gulch Road and then on over.”
The long course will take participants all the way to Bayfield. Both races will start and finish at Ninth Street and Main Avenue in downtown Durango.
The event is not a true race because of the inability to close roads. However, with the help of legendary cyclist Ned Overend, the IHBC crew has selected four segments sponsored by Adventure Pro and timed on Strava with prizes going to the winners of each section.
Sippy said they wanted to make sure there was a diverse blend of bonus sections so they didn’t only benefit the strong climbers.
“We tried to pick a mixture of sections,” Overend said. “One is pretty flat, one has rollers and a couple have pretty good climbs in them. Because the roads aren’t closed, we’re trying to keep people from racing through town but give a competitive aspect that is something we can control the safety of. It’s cool because people can be competitive in those sections, but they can ride with their buddies and chat it up the rest of the ride. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Overend and three-time mountain bike Olympian Todd Wells will participate this year. Two-time defending marathon mountain bike national champion and 2016 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race champion Payson McElveen also will participate, as he is building up to the Dirty Kanza, a famed gravel race in Kansas.
Building new gravel bikes has been big for the bike industry in recent years. Overend likely will ride the new Specialized Diverge gravel bike, while Wells now uses Scott Addict. McElveen recently added the Trek Checkpoint gravel bike to his collection, and he’s had a blast riding it through gravel and dirt during the past week.
“I’m going to use the IHBC gravel event on Sunday as training,” he said. “In Durango, most of our best road rides have some dirt component, anyway. When you can throw 35c or 40c tires on that bike, you can ride singletrack. It’s fun to link loops together that would have been possible riding a mountain bike, but riding mountain bikes on road is not that fun. This bike, it’s a fun new deal.”