BMX is back in downtown Durango for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, and after a successful campaign during its first year in 2017, organizers believe this year’s version will be bigger and better in several ways.
“It was a new idea last year, and the overall concept is to create a spectacle and have something fun to watch downtown without having to go everywhere,” said Durango BMX’s Jordan Rupe, who was a key member of bringing BMX to the IHBC. “That’s one thing that’s so appealing about an event like (BMX), everything happens right in front of you.
“There are going to be some bigger jumps and even more exciting to watch. Hopefully, we’ll have a deeper pool of talent coming this year and we can put on an even bigger show.”
One of the major changes coming to this year’s straight rhythm event is a change in the course. Last year’s course ran along Main Avenue, while this year’s will utilize the hill on East Ninth Street, cross Main Avenue and finish on west Ninth near the alley. The change will allow the course to add speed and bigger features.
Moving the course off of Main also allows more time for the builders of AJ Construction, which was hired to build the course again this year, to get everything set up in time for the start of the race at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Last year, because the entire course was on Main Avenue, Grady James and his crew at AJ Construction had only the early Sunday morning hours after midnight to build the course. This time around, they’ll be able to build the bulk of the course during the day Saturday, saving the stretch across Main for the early morning hours Sunday.
“Having everybody that visits The Ranch (El Rancho) in the middle of the night was entertaining for a little bit, but it got old after a while,” James said. “It certainly helps having daylight and not having to work under lights. You can see the angles of all the features you’re building a little bit better, especially some of those lips. The angle for your trajectory is critical.”
The right angles and trajectory are more important this time around because of the size of the features and the speed at which the racers will hit them.
Whereas last year’s course design was limited by running on the flat Main Avenue, this year’s course will have bigger features – some of which will use wooden ramps covered by dirt – spread out more by using the hill on Ninth Street to give the riders more speed.
The biggest feature will be in the middle of Main Avenue. In order for pedestrians and spectators to get from one side of the course on Main to the other without having to walk around the entire course, a large storage container will be placed on Main. The container will be opened on both ends to allow people to walk through while riders go over the top.
“It should be, potentially, more spectacular than last year,” IHBC director Gaige Sippy said. “There’s an A and a B line to get over the container, but the A line, the ramp is serious hucking.
“We were looking at the stoplight (at Main and Ninth) and going, ‘Do we have enough height through that’? Jordan and I sat on the bench outside the Irish Embassy and asked each other what we thought. Last year, he called it perfect; he knew exactly what would work.”
Moving the course to Ninth Street also will allow more room and better vantage points for spectators, who lined last year’s course six or seven people deep.
“Coming down Ninth Street is going to give you a better vantage point,” Rupe said. “If you’re standing up on the hill, you’ll be able to look down and see over people. Then if you’re in the intersection (at Main and Ninth), the course is going to be widening, so you’ll be able to stand really anywhere on Main and be able to watch the show, as opposed to the racers zooming past you and not being able to see much beyond that.”
The 2017 invite-only field featured 32 racers, and this year Rupe expects more than 50. There are already several returnees from last year’s field, including overall champion Collin Hudson and runner-up Tomas Fernandez as well as mountain bike champion Ben Bennett and mountain bike runner-up Zach Graveson.
The women’s field will be highlighted by Fort Lewis College alum Rebecca Sheppard, and Rupe said fans should keep an eye on Rachel Mydock, a pro out of Chandler, Arizona, who flies on her bike.
The event will offer a unique competition for the racers, who go head-to-head with each other in a bracket format to determine the winner.
“The atmosphere was really cool. A race atmosphere can be tense at times, so having a really relaxed scene was probably the best part about it,” Fernandez said. “I think the people were super welcoming, and maybe for some of them they had never seen BMX before, so to see how many people were lined up on the side of the track was pretty crazy.”
Racers will begin with time trial runs to determine seeding for the bracket. In the bracket, racers are matched up head-to-head, with two runs in each grouping, one riding the A route and the other on the B route. They will then switch lines for the second run. The racer with the lowest combined time for the two runs will advance to the next round. There is a maximum-advantage of one second for the first run, which allows a racer who crashes on the first run a chance to still advance in the bracket with a good second run.
Sippy expects this year’s BMX races will take over as the largest spectacle of the IHBC weekend. The mountain bike races run through Steamworks Brewing Co. will always garner a lot of attention, especially now that the route has been modified to make it easier for more riders to make the run through the bar. But based on the feedback and excitement BMX drew in 2017, the second time around should be even bigger.
“Last year, the whole BMX course they put together overnight and laid out on Main was amazing,” said Mindy Caruso, who won the IHBC women’s road race last year. “I don’t even know anything about BMX, but I watched that for hours.”