Measuring up to Iron Horse

For bicyclists, preparation time is over and the race is on

Last-minute preparations were common Friday afternoon with the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic looming. Miguel Ramos, 27, of Homer, Alaska, works on his mountain bike at 2nd Avenue Sports. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Last-minute preparations were common Friday afternoon with the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic looming. Miguel Ramos, 27, of Homer, Alaska, works on his mountain bike at 2nd Avenue Sports.

By Friday afternoon in Durango, bicycles seemed to outnumber people.

In 2nd Avenue Sports, Miguel Ramos, 27, said he helps out the shop “whenever they get busy. This is the busiest I’ve ever seen them.”

Ramos, who aspires to be a professional biker, said he was competing in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic’s Masters category this weekend because he wanted “to see how I measure up to everyone throughout the nation.”

Three days of racing and riding in the 41st annual Memorial Day weekend event begin this morning with the 47-mile bicycle challenge from Durango to Silverton on U.S. Highway 550.

Ramos thought his chances would improve with age.

“When you’re in your 40s and 50s, you get that old man strength. Look at Ned Overend,” said Ramos, referring to last year’s road race victor. “He was in his 50s.”

Kristin Romero, a concierge at the Strater Hotel, said the Strater was booked through the weekend, and that staff members had made special accommodations for guests competing in the Iron Horse. “We’re storing all the bicycles in our warehouse, right behind the post office,” said Romero. “There’s no fee. Right now, there’s only one bicycle, but it will be packed later today.”

Inside Mountain Bike Specialists, Drew Zimmerman was doing last-minute shopping to prepare for today’s race to Silverton.

“I only decided to race two days ago. It was really last minute,” said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman’s son, Dylan, seized an energy packet.

“Can I have one?” said Dylan, who said he was 5˝ years old, and plans to compete Sunday.

“Absolutely not,” said his mother, Abby.

Gaige Sippy, director of the Iron Horse, said that all early registration takes place online, and that Friday’s registration drive at Buckley Park would add another 100 people.

Sippy said that 3,800 people had registered to participate in the Iron Horse, of whom only 800 are from Durango.

Sippy said he had met people who’d come to Durango for the Iron Horse race from afar.

“I just met a man from Greece! I had a heck of a time trying to understand what he said. But he was an incredibly friendly guy,” he said.

Sippy, who has run the Iron Horse for six years, said the registration effort at Buckley – which involved multiple tents and 20 staff members – was a complex operation. “There’s always some challenge. It tends to be things we can solve on the spot. The goal is to get everybody on a bike tomorrow.

“We’ll have paramedics stationed at six locations between here and Silverton, and a Flight for Life helicopter parked at Molas Pass, plus four different law enforcement agencies. Our bases are covered,” said Sippy.

“There are 14 different race categories. People differ in ability. You have 30-year professional cyclists and people who have never raced before. It runs the gamut.”

Inside the registration tent, Ned Overend, last year’s winner, was bantering with Sippy about whether as defending champion he had to pay to enter the race.

Overend said he was “a little nervous” about today’s race.

“Not nervous like I used to be, but I never expect to win,” said Overend.

Overend said he had been seriously training.

“I try to ride in the passes as much as possible – they’re hard to access, but I’ll usually manage it a couple of times a week,” he said.

Overend’s race will start at 7:20 this morning.

“I’ll get up at 4:30 a.m,” he said.

Overend said he was not dining on energy supplements. “I’ll have spaghetti for dinner tonight and a banana and cereal for breakfast.”

Kris Johnson of Colorado Springs, who won the omnium prize at last year’s Iron Horse and is a member of the DNA Cycling Race Team, drove 6˝ hours to register for the Iron Horse along with two teammates. Her husband is the CEO of USA Cycling, the sport’s governing body.

“He thinks this event is just wonderful,” Johnson said. “He used to ride with (Iron Horse founder) Ed Zink, years ago.

“I’m really excited. I train all year long. This is what you train for. The Iron Horse is legendary, something people check off their bucket lists,” said Johnson.

George Backe of Cortez said he has raced in the Iron Horse eight or nine times. He brought his son Justin, who is 21, along for moral support.

“He’ll drag me over the finish line. Then again, if this wind keeps up, I expect to fly over the mountains,” he said.

Steve and Nichol Krysil came from Aubrey, Texas.

Steve said the drive “felt like it took about a year with these two screaming in the back seat,” pointing to their 14-month-old twins. Steve said he would compete in today’s race, whereas Nichol would baby-sit.

“Two years ago, she would have raced, and been faster than me,” he said.

Steve said, “I know the machine can make it, but I just hope the engine can pull it over the hill.”

Enlarge photo

DURANGO HERALD

“It’s my first time and I didn’t train. I decided last night I was going to sign up,” said Bronwyn Radcliffe, left, of Durango. Radcliffe signed up for the Quarter Horse while her dog, Carly, searched for food and attention Friday at late registration at Buckley Park. The Quarter Horse is a 25-mile road ride from Durango to Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. In back are Mint Henk, left, of Durango and John Warner, right, from Breckenridge. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

“It’s my first time and I didn’t train. I decided last night I was going to sign up,” said Bronwyn Radcliffe, left, of Durango. Radcliffe signed up for the Quarter Horse while her dog, Carly, searched for food and attention Friday at late registration at Buckley Park. The Quarter Horse is a 25-mile road ride from Durango to Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. In back are Mint Henk, left, of Durango and John Warner, right, from Breckenridge.

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