Durango will be the home of a brand new mountain bike team for next season.
The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory DEVO Sweet Elite will hit the trails next spring with a team of five professional riders.
The team is the result of combined efforts from all corners of the Durango cycling community, notably Durango DEVO, Fort Lewis College cycling, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic and primary sponsor Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
“We think the whole package will be very good,” said Gaige Sippy, the director of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. He announced the formation of the professional mountain biking team this week.
“We have a lot of DEVO riders and Fort Lewis College riders who are not quite ready to join a full pro team ... riders in that 17 to 24 age range,” Sippy said.
“For these riders, we’re trying to fill that gap,” he said, then added the five-member pro team will race a regional pro schedule with a focus on the USA Cycling National Championships.
“Ned, of course, has been a big part of making this happen,” Sippy said about Durango cycling legend Ned Overend.
Through his affiliation with Specialized, the members of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory DEVO Sweet Elite team will ride Specialized bikes.
Mountain Bike Specialists, through John Glover, will handle the maintenance and service for the cyclists and their Specialized rigs.
Sippy said Matt Shriver of Fort Lewis College helped set up the new pro team along with former pro mountain biker Travis Brown.
Veteran pro cyclist Chris Wherry of Durango, recently retired from the pro racing circuit, will serve as the team manager, bringing more than two decades of racing experience.
Joey Thompson, a former FLC cyclists, will serve as the head coach.
“They’ll do local and regional races like the Mountain States Cup and the mountain bike races at the (40th annual) Iron Horse,” Sippy said.
“And we’ll be focused on the National Championships,” Sippy said.
He said the team has oral commitments from five cyclists, all local, to fill the first team roster.
He said the riders are led by national age-group cycling and cross country skiing champion Tad Elliott, a Durango native.
He’ll be joined by Durango riders Alicia Rose Pastore, Teal Stetson-Lee, Howard Grotts and current FLC cyclist Colton Andersen.
Stetson-Lee is a former Fort Lewis rider.
Grotts, a former Durango DEVO rider, recently won a national collegiate title for Colorado School of Mines, where he is a freshman. Grotts won the Division II cross country title in California last month. Grotts also won the 2010 Squawker Mountain Bike Classic in Durango.
“They will be getting top of the line bikes and coaching ... and some travel,” Sippy said.
“We see opportunity out there,” Sippy said.
“It’s a chance to get Durango out there. It’s a chance to market the Durango cycling community by getting these guys out there to races.”
He said the big players all wanted to make the team become a reality.
“Specialized has an interest in making this happen. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, which has always supported local riders, has an interest in making this happen,” Sippy said. “And Fort Lewis College sees a good tie-in with this.”
Other sponsoring organizations include Spine Colorado/Durango Orthopedics and the Fort Lewis College cycling team.
“The sponsors, really, stepped up to make this happen,” Sippy said.