Youre leaving? Already?
Have you even taken the time for the ear-plugging elevator ride to the 121st floor of our skyscraper or to cruise our newly tiled subway system?
I bet you havent. If youre a rider or team mechanic, youve probably been sequestered up at Fort Lewis College on the outskirts of town.
Or maybe youre a bike race fan and youve been wandering around downtown but never bothered to look way up or underground.
Its possible youre leaving Durango and thinking, quite simply and ignorantly, What a great cycling town.
Is that all we are to you?
You come from foreign spots all over the globe Britain, Australia, Azerbaijan, Texas and then you ride around town for about an hour and whooshhh!! youre gone.
Is that any way to get to know a place?
Well, two weeks from now, when youre back on the Champs Élysées munching a croissant, or in the Outback hunting dingos or in Kazakhstan chasing women on horseback, dont forget about us. Dont forget what gracious hosts we were for the grand start of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
You wont forget this place, but I know what you will be talking about.
Oh, dat little Doo-rango. Eet vas so special. Vat a awesome place to bicycling.
Maybe someday youll come back to Durango, but not for our famed lobster sandwiches or caviar beignets. Not to thank the people who laid out the red carpet and made your stay so sweet (but short). Youll return for our cycling.
From casual riders to some of the worlds top pros, what makes Durango such a mecca for cyclists? Is it the location? Is it the weather? Is it the great community support for cycling?
Luck, answered Ed Zink, a member of the local group who talked Pro Cycling Challenge brass into making Durango this years launching pad.
Zink probably could have answered me, and there would have been some truth there. But, of course, that wouldnt be the full answer.
Its luck, Zink said, that we have a scenic and weather-friendly place in which to recreate. Its luck that we have not only a variety of paved paths for road cyclists, but a thousand miles of trails built by the extracting industry loggers, ranchers, miners. If Durangoans had been forced to start from scratch to build a system of cycling paths, we would never have gotten this far.
The right pieces fell in place, Zink said, so we, the community, could capitalize on it.
The first event to put Durango in the public eye, of course, was the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. Its genesis was Durango cyclist Tom Mayer, who figured out he could beat the train to Silverton much to the surprise of his big brother, train conductor Jim Mayer.
Tom Mayer convinced others, including sporting goods shop owner Zink, that it was a cool ride. The first Iron Horse race took place in 1972, and under the leadership of Zink and others, its still going strong.
The cycling scene continually lured new blood. Ned Overend moved here from California in 1980 to, of course ...
Ha! Gotcha. Overend didnt come here for the cycling. At the time, he was more into running, and really it was backpacking and mountaineering that drew him here.
In the next year or two, though, he realized he could keep up with folks on a bike.
Overend, who has won too many Iron Horses and other bike races to count and is now a member of the U.S. Bicycling and Mountain Bike halls of fame, said hes impressed at how the Iron Horse benefits not racers, but noncycling, overweight smokers who decide to shape up.
That race inspires them to get into cycling, he said.
For Durango cycling, the 1980s and 90s were a whirlwind, and mountain biking created the tempest. The attention from hosting four national championships and the first official world championships in 1990, combined with extensive coverage in cycling magazines and ESPN broadcasts, made Durango a magnet. Together with Moab and Crested Butte, it became a must-visit for cycling tourists blowing through.
Overend recently attended a convention of Specialized (his sponsor) dealers in Brazil. When he introduced himself as a Durango, Colorado, resident, he received a response not uncommon from industry representatives, whether hes in Europe or Japan or even South America.
Oh, Durango. Ive ridden Hermosa Creek.
Local organizations primarily Trails 2000 have bolstered the areas trails, giving us multiple options such as Horse Gulch and the Durango Mountain Park, right from town. The recently fully linked Animas River Trail works as a commuter route and trail connector.
Weve reached the gold standard set by the League of American Bicyclists for being a Bicycle Friendly Community. (Only three towns are at platinum, the next-highest level.) Were No. 3 on a recent Outside magazine list of top bicycling towns. Our residents include a whos who of cycling greats and now this burgeoning road race brings stars such as 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans.
We have a critical mass of success surrounding us, Zink said.
Through race teams, spectators and TV coverage enhanced by the Internet the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will undoubtedly blow another confetti-like wave of riders to Southwest Colorado.
Personally, I came here for the fantastic beach access, the jazz scene and the double-decker buses.
Alas, youre going to remember us only for our cycling. What can we say to this ignorance? Your loss.
firstname.lastname@example.org. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.