The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is looking for some ideas, and there are plenty of them out there.
Quickly approaching their 50th anniversary event to be held Memorial Day weekend 2021, the IHBC board of directors wants community input as it begins to brainstorm the return of old events or the creation of new races and rides to include in its golden anniversary celebration.
“For the 50th Iron Horse, it’s obviously going to be a big one,” said Todd Wells, a three-time mountain bike Olympian who now serves as assistant race director to Gaige Sippy on the IHBC board. “We really want to commemorate 50 years of the second-longest-running bike race in the country. We are looking for input from everybody. We have a core group of people who put on the race, and we have a board that is involved heavily, but we are looking for some ideas from the community of what people might want to see for the 50th Iron Horse.”
Wells said ideas have been floating around for a few years, covering everything from races to events and festivals as well as ways to celebrate longtime participants and some of the legends of the Iron Horse.
“We are looking into all options and looking at doing more stuff during the entire week,” Wells said. “Whether that’s a parade or showing movies and honoring past winners. We want to party and commemorate those people who have come and done five, 10, 20, 30 Iron Horses. People travel a long way every year because they love the Iron Horse, Durango and Silverton.”
A couple events guaranteed for the 50th IHBC are the road race from Durango to Silverton, the event that started it all, as well as the mountain bike race in downtown Durango that zips through Steamworks Brewing Co. Mountain bike events have been included at the IHBC since 1984. The gravel ride is also likely to remain on the schedule.
In 2017 and 2018, the IHBC experimented with BMX events, and a downtown BMX spectacle is something fans would like to see return. Wells acknowledged that BMX is especially tricky because it comes with logistical challenges of bringing in dirt and creating a track in the late night and early morning hours of the Saturday and Sunday of race weekend.
“BMX is awesome and we had a lot of people who obviously loved it,” he said. “It’s hard with the crew we have to do the work that Saturday after the road race. We basically bring the dirt in Saturday evening, and the crew that puts on the road race works on the dirt track all night. Then Sunday, they put on the mountain bike race, gravel and BMX and then tear it down because we have to have the street clean the next morning. It makes for an intense weekend to make that happen with such limited time to have dirt on the street, but it’s super cool, just more complex.”
Sippy is pushing for the return of a unique event at Chapman Hill known as the “Roostmaster,” a truly one-of-a-kind event in which mountain bike racers compete in cross-country, dual slalom and downhill all together on a single course. That event was won multiple times in the 1990s by mountain bike legends Juli Furtado and John Tomac, but there is no record of a Roostmaster at the IHBC weekend since 1996.
“That was ahead of its time, kind of like a crazy short-track but with more jumps and stuff,” Wells said. “We’re also talking about slalom racing at Champman. That’s such a cool venue, and it would be nice to utilize it for the Iron Horse. We’ve had World Cups there, and it would be cool to bring that venue back into the fold.”
More events for road racers also have been discussed, such as the return of criterium racing in downtown Durango.
True to Durango’s form as a mountain bike town, many ideas that have been mentioned this week are centered around fat-tire events. Local mountain biker Liz Carrington suggested a “Chainless Klunker” race down Junction Creek. Sarah Sturm, the 2019 IHBC women’s road race winner, would like to see a high-country enduro mountain bike race, potentially at Purgatory Resort. Payson McElveen, a pro mountain biker and 2016 men’s road race winner at the Iron Horse, suggested a 50-mile backcountry mountain bike race.
“Epic Rides style 50-mile mountain bike race that showcases our amazing trails, 50 for 50,” McElveen said in a message to The Durango Herald.
The IHBC is looking for feedback now and hopes to have the 2021 event schedule finalized no later than the 2020 race so that it can inform next year’s participants of what to look forward to at the 50th.
“Some events come and go, but the Iron Horse always has great community support, so we want to know what everybody would like to see,” Wells said. “Events take a while to put together, and adding events adds layers of complexity. We want to get a jumpstart on this now so we have the extra time and get an idea of how much money and resources we are going to need. The further out we can plan it, the more likely it is to be successful.”