Durango will be home to another major cycling event in 2020.
In its 35th year, The Denver Post Ride the Rockies Cycling Tour will start June 14 in Durango. After a 418-mile clockwise loop that will feature 28,484 feet of climbing, the non-competitive ride that features 2,500 participants will finish in Durango on June 19. It’s the third consecutive year Ride the Rockies will start and finish in the same town. Last year, that was Crested Butte, and in 2018, it was Breckenridge.
Ride the Rockies last stopped in Durango during the 2017 edition that began in Alamosa and finished in Salida.
“We’re happy they chose us, and that change – I can’t say it enough – that loop concept is really good for Durango,” said Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement District and co-chairman of the local organizing committee. “There will be three or four nights that each rider, and other people with them, will be in our town one way or another.”
Since 1986, Ride the Rockies has served as a benefit for The Denver Post Community Foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations throughout Colorado. This year’s Ride the Rockies route will include Cortez, Norwood and Ouray County as host locations. Norwood will be a first-time host town for the event.
“For 35 years, Ride the Rockies has showcased some of the best places to visit, quaint back-road towns, beautiful mountains passes and iconic landscapes,” tour director Deirdre Moynihan said in a news release. “This year is no different. We are thrilled to welcome Norwood as a new host community and taking riders to a new place we haven’t experienced as a tour.”
Durango will play host to the prologue, the entire first day of riding; will be the starting point for the second day; and will serve as the final destination of the weeklong event.
With the ride diving deep into the San Juan Mountains, it will bring an added boost to the already busy June tourism season. According to a news release, the economic impact of Ride the Rockies is an estimated $250,000 for local businesses in each host community each day of the tour. The Denver Post Community Foundation also awards a $3,000 grant to a nonprofit in each host town.
Because some riders could spend three to five days in Durango, local businesses could see a massive economic impact. Walsworth said the goal is to get riders, their families and support personnel into local restaurants, breweries, hotels and other businesses. And, because the ride is a loop, some riders’ families may opt to stay in Durango for the entire week of the event instead of traveling with the athletes.
Bike shops likely will handle more tune-ups or small repairs, sell more merchandise, slightly increase bike rental business or see more bike shipping and assembling.
“It’s always popular here, and that has always brought big money to the economy,” said Pedal The Peaks bicycle shop owner David Howard. “Every year, the route changes, but it always stays here in Colorado, so that’s pretty cool. I know that event is run very, very tight. They do a very good job.”
The routeThe prologue will be held June 13 with a ride from Durango to Pagosa Springs. Riders will be given an option of completing a 62- or 79-mile ride. Once in Pagosa, participants will have access to Pagosa Springs Hot Springs.
June 14 will see riders conquer a 73-mile loop that will start and end in Durango with a pass through Ignacio, Bayfield and Vallecito. The second day will travel from Durango to Cortez for a 69-mile ride that will pass through the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park.
What will make the route so special is that it won’t simply follow highways; it will get cyclists onto more remote roads away from traffic and into beautiful surroundings.
“When Ride the Rockies does Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen – those are all great places – but they are a lot more congested than we are here in Durango,” said Durango’s Todd Wells, a three-time Olympic mountain biker and winner of double-digit cycling national championships. “Once you get a couple of miles outside of Durango, they are going to see minimal traffic out there and really be able to enjoy it.”
The third day will be a 100-mile ride, the longest of this year’s tour, from Cortez to Norwood with a climb over Lizard Head Pass. On Day 4, it’s a day to regain strength with a 40-mile journey from Norwood to Ridgway before a Day 5 loop of 50 miles that will begin and end in Ridgway.
The final day will travel from Ridgway to Durango with a journey over Red Mountain, Molas and Coal Bank passes, giving riders a chance to experience what it’s like to ride the final two passes the opposite direction of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic route.
“That’s a big day,” Wells said. “They have a couple of smaller days leading into that one to get a little break. That ride is so awesome, so scenic, and for them to ride Red Mountain Pass is incredible. They are going to be tired, but once they get to the top of Coal Bank, if the winds are favorable, it will be an easy ride back to town. If the winds aren’t favorable, it’s a tough finish for a pretty amazing week of riding.”
Those who don’t want to complete the six-day tour are also given the option this year for one-day rides June 14 in Durango and June 18 in Ridgway. There is also a two-day option to ride June 14-15 around Durango and from Durango to Cortez.
“I’m truly excited about this year’s route,” said route coordinator Jason Sumner, author of the book “75 Classic Rides: Colorado,” in a news release. “It has a little bit of everything – high mountain climbs, quiet country roads, amazing scenery and some great host communities. It’s definitely going to be a ride to remember.”
This year’s route announcement is a big win for Southwest Colorado businesses and is a great chance for Durango to continue to show the rest of the state its rich cycling tradition.
“It’s a great week to showcase our town,” Wells said. “A lot of times with Ride the Rockies, they’ve been here and gone. People are tired after riding for days, go to bed, get up and get on the bike again and leave. Now, we get a chance to have people explore our town a bit. It’s going to be great for the community and a chance to have a really positive impact maybe we haven’t had for all the businesses before. Getting more cyclists exposure to our area will be great for everybody.”