Bicycle cowboy gets back in the saddle

What does every good cowboy do when he is bucked off his horse?

He gets back on, right?

Meet Gaige Sippy.

A modern-day Durango bicycle cowboy if ever there was one, Sippy is back on his “horse” after he was thrown from his mechanical mount May 6 at the annual Alien Run mountain bike race near Aztec.

“It felt great,” Sippy said from his Durango home this week after taking his first bicycle ride since his painful encounter with terra firma in New Mexico.

A fractured pelvis, a dislocated collarbone and out-of-this-world road rash sidelined one of Durango’s most avid cyclists – a rare occurrence for a longtime bicycle cowboy and director of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.

“I took a good, solid hit. It reminded me that I’m 43 years old,” said Sippy, who has been racing bicycles since his youthful days in Albuquerque and his college days at New Mexico State University. “Fortunately, your pelvis heals fast. There’s apparently lots of blood flow. And my (fracture) was not in the femur pocket … so I was lucky with that.

“I’ve been racing my bike for 23 years, and this is the first crash that put me on the sideline,” he said.

Just 2˝ weeks before the 2012 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, no less.

“It presented some challenges,” said Sippy, who was on crutches at the time of Durango’s biggest local cycling weekend of the year. “But I’m a stickler about having things ready ahead of time, so we were in really good shape.”

His assistant, Annie Cheeney, was invaluable, he said. Plus, the experienced members of the Iron Horse committees were more than ready to produce the 2012 event.

And to help Sippy.

“I put out a call for a motorized wheelchair ... on the website. And within an hour, there was one on the way,” Sippy said. “One of our volunteers who helps with registration somehow got me a wheelchair.

“The community of the Iron Horse has lots of tentacles,” he said.

Those same tentacles reached out and reeled in Sippy to take over as race director nearly a decade ago.

A longtime fan of the Durango area who came here to ski and mountain bike as a kid, Sippy visited even more frequently when his parents purchased a retirement home here – a house that happened to be next to Ed Zink, father of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic and Mountain Bike Specialists.

One bike ride led to another; Sippy even worked for a time at Mountain Bike Specialists in the early 1990s after having raced in the World Mountain Bike Championships in Durango in 1990.

Sippy went back to finish at New Mexico State before taking a project management position at Intel in Albuquerque, where he worked for eight years. He also developed a property management company on the side, which eventually created the flexibility to move back to Durango.

“I got married, and in 2002, we moved here,” he said. “It was very much driven by the cycling. ... That’s why we came here.”

And with his doctor’s OK, Sippy is back on his bike.

“It felt great to pedal,” he said. “I was slow as molasses, but it felt great.

“It’s one thing to not ride your bike because you don’t want to. It’s another thing to not ride your bike because you can’t,” he said.

dstrode@durangoherald.com