For Phoenix resident John Romero, bike races - or "torture fests" as he calls them - are a way of life.
So, Ro-mero and six friends camped in the rain Friday night at
United Campgrounds on Animas View Drive. This morning, they planned to ride from Durango to Silverton in the 37th
Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.
The pouring rain and accumulating snow wasn't overly concerning, he said. As bicyclists,
their lives revolve around these events.
"Unless they call off the race, we're on," Romero said Friday at the La Plata County
Fairgrounds. "We're a bunch of gluttons for punishment. For us, it's just a badge of honor to complete it. Most of
the guys involved in this know all about pain and suffering - which is all about the sport."
The energy and anxiety among bicyclists was high Friday afternoon at bike shops and during
registration at the fairgrounds. Some cyclists have trained for months, and they were anxious to know whether their
hard work paid off.
Lynn Ristedt, a teacher from Phoenix, planned to participate in her first-ever Iron Horse
race. She has been training for six months, she said, including a ride in the pouring rain Friday from Durango up
Shalona Hill and back.
"It was very sleety and snowy," she said. "I'm used to 105 degrees. My feet are freezing.
(But) it was good. I was just real careful. Cars were respectful. They are a lot nicer than drivers in
Racers are scheduled to begin at 7:20 a.m. at Durango High School, and the traditional
citizens ride at 8:15 a.m. at College Drive and Camino del Rio with the train whistle.
The Colorado State Patrol has ultimate control when it comes to canceling the race. But as of
Friday afternoon, race officials were optimistic the event would occur, although it might be cut a little
"Weather is supposed to be nicer (today)," said Patti Zink, a spokeswoman for the Iron Horse.
"We are planning to do something; we just don't know how far we are going to go based on road conditions. If it's
just cold, I think people can dress warm enough to do it. But if they get wet, that's when the trouble
In 1996, riders grew hypothermic and were forced to abandon their bikes on Coal Bank and
Molas passes. But those riders were caught by surprise, whereas this year's riders know what to expect, said Ed Zink,
"If people are prepared, this is a doable thing," he said.
Andree Behrens traveled from Germany for today's event.
"If they open the road, I'll go," he said Friday at Mountain Bike Specialists on Main Avenue.
"I've heard so much about it, I want to do it."
His friend, Bobby Vigil of Minnesota, was equally committed.
"We've come a long distance, so we want to meet the challenge," Vigil said. "We've trained
for it. We anticipate doing it - and doing it well."
Click here to send an email to the author