DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
This year’s Iron Horse Bicycle Classic went off without a hitch, though a bear briefly joined the riders on their trek to Silverton on Saturday near the Needles Country Store.
The bear broke out of the trees on the west side of U.S. Highway 550 before bolting across the road in front of a group of riders and into the forest just before 9 a.m., said Kim Cofman, an Iron Horse cyclist.
“We had a good laugh about it,” she said. “It was definitely a highlight. There’s not many road races where a bear joins you for a little bit.”
The bear wasn’t the only one wanting to get in on the weekend’s activities.
This year appeared to be busier than previous ones with people coming into town a few days before the race and staying later, said Anne Klein, spokeswoman for the Durango Area Tourism Office.
Kris Oyler, co-founder of Steamworks Brewing Co., also noticed an increase in tourists before and after the Iron Horse.
“It was quite the weekend for us. Our numbers were better this year than last year,” he said. “It’s a good kickoff to the summer, and it sets the table for the Pro Challenge.”
Stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge kicks off in Durango Aug. 20.
Oyler said the brewery saw about a 10 percent increase in sales.
The restaurant was packed Sunday afternoon as riders competing in the mountain bike race went inside the brewery and down a ramp off the balcony into a packed crowd cheering them on.
The brewery first had a race go through the building in a 2001 race, and the crew decided to resurrect the idea for last year’s 40th Iron Horse.
“We had a ton of people comment on the ride through Steamworks. A lot of people hadn’t seen that before,” said Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Area Chamber of Commerce.
The ride has become a quick favorite.
“It’s gaining momentum for sure,” said Gaige Sippy, Iron Horse director. “All the riders gave positive feedback about coming downtown and interacting with the crowd. It’s hard to predict, but I would surmise we’ll do it again.”
Sunday proved to be another success for local businesses with races being held downtown.
Attendees started showing up at 7 a.m. and were there throughout the day, Sippy said. There is typically a break in the day between the morning’s kid races and the professional races in the afternoon, he said, but people were out all day long this year.
The races prompted Carver Brewing Co. to stay open for a full day on a Sunday for the first time this season, and it paid off.
“I’m really glad we made that decision this weekend because we were packed,” said Michael Hurst, Carver’s owner.
Restaurants weren’t alone in their sales; local hotels also experienced the weekend’s rush.
“We had a fabulous weekend,” said Barb Richter, front-desk manager of the Strater Hotel. “It was right on par with last year.”
This biggest problem this year was out of the organizers’ hands.
“Other than the gnarly wind on Saturday, we had a nice Iron Horse weekend,” Sippy said. “Overall, Mother Nature was pretty darn kind. From our perspective, everything went well.”