Crossing a mountain range

Denver resident gets a 326-mile jump-start on Saturday’s ride

“It’s always been a joke ... I’ll ride my bike to Durango one day,” said Paul Jaramillo, a Denver resident who cycled to Durango to participate in Saturday’s Iron Horse Bicycle Classic’s  50-mile citizens tour. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

“It’s always been a joke ... I’ll ride my bike to Durango one day,” said Paul Jaramillo, a Denver resident who cycled to Durango to participate in Saturday’s Iron Horse Bicycle Classic’s 50-mile citizens tour.

Paul Jaramillo, 25, mapped out quite a training regimen for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic ride this weekend.

He pedaled 326 miles over the Continental Divide to Durango from his home in Denver, taking four days for his bike ride along U.S. Highway 285 with his father, Alex Jaramillo, either trailing or driving ahead in a car.

Traffic was not so bad. They stayed in motels, and he never rode at night. By the time he reached Wolf Creek Pass on day three, his legs were exhausted. He was questioning himself.

“Like, what am I thinking? Why am I doing this?” he said.

When the Durango High School graduate arrived in his hometown May 16, he was ready to celebrate with family and friends.

The feeling of accomplishment was delicious.

“(Serious Texas Bar-B-Q) was the only place I wanted to go,” said Jaramillo, who works as a sous chef at The Corner Office restaurant in downtown Denver.

In comparison to his ride to Durango, the citizens’ 50-mile ride to Silverton on Saturday is looking very “doable.”

On his ride to Durango, he replaced one tire on his 14-pound Cervélo road bike. Before Saturday, he will replace the back tire, too.

“Then I should be ready to go,” he said.

By bicycle, airplane or car, cyclists are converging upon Durango for Iron Horse weekend.

There are 4,300 participants signed up for the weekend’s eight cycling events Saturday through Monday. Because some do more than one event – local cyclist Brendan Cusick, for example, is in three different rides – there are 3,100 cyclists registered for the weekend.

Iron Horse Director Gaige Sippy estimated that 1,900 cyclists are from outside Southwest Colorado, representing 46 states and five foreign countries.

One cyclist is trying to ride in from Alaska. Iron Horse officials say they got an email from him saying he is trying to make it to Buckley Park by tonight to register in time for the mountain-bike race Sunday.

Iron Horse participants are “into bicycles. They like the romance of riding to the event,” Sippy said.

Sometimes they pedal home, too. Sippy knew someone who rode 400 miles home to New Mexico.

Jaramillo, who has to be back at work Tuesday, said he is catching a ride, but he wants to pedal home next year.

Everybody approaches the Iron Horse a little differently.

While local cyclists such as Cusick and Rebecca Balboni have been preparing for the Iron Horse with long mountain rides, out-of-towners don’t always have the luxury of a mountain.

Sippy knew a cyclist from Houston who practiced by riding up the ramps of a parking garage.

“It’s whatever the terrain has to offer,” Sippy said.

Every year, the Iron Horse proves too much for some. A school bus will typically pick up about 30 cyclists who cannot finish in time or are too exhausted to continue to Silverton.

Finishing is an elusive goal for some regulars.

“We know people who have tried many times and have not made it, but they’re still trying,” Sippy said.

Sippy thinks a common mistake is that people dillydally too much at the rest stops. They lose momentum.

There are those who seem to take to the sport.

Jaramillo remembers thinking as a teenager that road biking was not that cool partly because of the spandex attire. Now he’s looking to race more competitively. He also is training for the Boulder Ironman.

Rebecca Balboni, who never competed in a road race until three years ago, is looking forward to Saturday. She will be riding in the “A” category of the women’s road race.

“The weather looks good. It’s always fun. There’s music at the mountain passes. It’s so festive. There’s nothing like racing in your hometown,” she said.

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