The cycling community in Durango is often described as a family, and Sunday might as well have been a reunion.
Nearly 100 people gathered on the back patio of Carver Brewing Co. to watch Durango’s own Howard Grotts compete in the Olympic cross country mountain bike race in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Grotts’ parents, Don Grotts and Debbie Williams, were front-and-center in front of a big-screen television and were surrounded by family, friends and people who helped pave their son’s road to Rio.
“It’s a picture of Durango right here,” Don Grotts said while eagerly looking for his son on TV.
Grotts was only shown once by the NBC Olympics coverage on the USA Network much to the dismay of the watch party. He crashed during the slow start lap and suffered two flat tires and a broken bike seat en route to a 38th-place finish out of 49 riders. He was the only American in the race.
“I’m just glad he’s in one piece,” Williams said.
Durango DEVO hosted the watch party, and Carver Brewing general manager and owner Mike Hurst helped put the gathering together. DEVO gave Grotts his start in competitive bike racing when he was only 13 years old.
Representatives from Fort Lewis College cycling also were out in force to support their 2014 graduate and former cycling team member.
Williams was most excited to see Durango children in the crowd taking in the action.
“The best thing is seeing the kids, because Howard is all about the kids and getting them enthusiastic about the sport,” she said. “The message for them out of today is to try. Get back up on your bike like Howard did.”
Top professionals such as Todd and Troy Wells and Benjamin Sonntag also were on hand, getting a look at the action from the balcony above the large crowd.
Todd Wells raced in the previous three Olympic races in Athens, Beijing and London and has the top U.S. men’s finish in an Olympic mountain bike race with a 10th-place result in London.
“It was a lot easier watching it than racing it,” he said. “For me, it’s so cool to see all the support and all the people here watching the race supporting Howard and mountain biking in general. That’s one of the great things about Durango. If you’re from here, it seems normal that everyone is like that, but it’s very special and unique to Durango to support mountain biking so much.”