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Old and new events highlight Iron Horse’s 50th anniversary

Lots of people participate, and Saturday’s events sell out
Riders compete in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Roostmaster women’s race on Sunday at Chapman Hill. After a long hiatus, the event returned to a huge crowd this year. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The return of classic races and the addition of new events highlighted the 50th anniversary of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.

Durango legends and its new class of stars provided the action, and the community was there to watch it all go down. The crowd for the return of the Roostmaster race at Chapman Hill was especially big, and the event allowed spectators the chance to see the riders race around pretty much the entire course anywhere they could find a spot to stand.

Savilia Blunk, former FLC cyclist and current elite World Cup racer who won the women’s race, compared the Roostmaster’s atmosphere to the rowdy World Cup in Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic.

Howard Grotts, this year’s King of the Mountain, said the Iron Horse was “extra special this year,” not just because it was the 50th year, but also because of the new events. He didn’t compete in the Roostmaster, but said he “will for sure” do it next year if it’s offered.

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic director Ian Burnett oversees the mountain bike race on Monday. Burnett took over as the director this year after Gaige Sippy stepped down. (Cody Olivas/Durango Herald)

After the Roostmaster, downhill racers got the spotlight for a bit in the dual slalom competition, racing head to head and catching big air in their full-face helmets.

“There aren’t that many dual slalom races in the country anymore, so it was nice to provide that. They love doing it,” said Ian Burnett, Iron Horse director. Burnett took the reins from Gaige Sippy, who stepped down after 16 years, but was still involved as a backup of sorts for Burnett. “I’ve done what I can do,” Sippy said, adding that was good for a new generation to take over.

Burnett also took over as Fort Lewis’ director of cycling this year after Dave Hagan stepped down.

Fans cheer on riders in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic men’s Roostmaster race on Sunday at Chapman Hill. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The dual slalom course at Chapman will stay up through the summer too, allowing the college and the community the opportunity to train and play on the jumps and bermed turns.

“Overall, it was really fun to bring back some events for the 50th that we have done in its history,” Burnett said. “Doing something for the first time is hard. We had a game plan, but some of it comes to day-of (decisions). Repeating them will be a lot easier.”

He estimated 1,500 spectators were at the Roostmaster.

“At the Roostmaster, all of those racers were over the moon; it was such a cool atmosphere,” Burnett said.

The Coca-Cola road race brought Quinn Simmons and younger brother Colby Simmons back to Durango. Quinn rides in the WorldTour for Trek Segafredo and is working for a spot in the year’s Tour de France while Colby signed with the Jumbo-Visma development team and has been racing in Europe. Ned Overend was also in the field again this year, flying down Coal Bank Pass without any fingers on his brakes for 38th or 39th year. He didn’t remember exactly how many times he had ridden in the Iron Horse, but called it “a classic.”

Quinn won the race for his first time;. The last time he rode it he was 16 and finished eighth.

In the women’s road race, Kira Payer scored her first Iron Horse win after trying for five years while living here.

While riders were racing from Durango to Silverton, riders also raced from Ouray to Silverton over Red Mountain Pass for the first time in an open division.

“It ran smooth,” Burnett said. “We started with a smaller field, capped at 300, but all of the people who rode it loved the scenery and the vibe of it. It was a laid back event, and hopefully we can keep Ouray in the loop.”

Out of the 300 cyclists who rode from Ouray, 40 men and 12 women raced.

Ivan Sippy, however, took the lead early and rode mostly by himself to win the inaugural men’s race in 1 hour, 22 minutes and 44.4 seconds. Sam Brown took second in 1:27:02.4, and Matt Rossman reached the podium in 1:29:28.6.

Sarah Haubert won the women’s race from Ouray in 1:54:11.4. Katheryne Carr (1:59:11.3) and Sabina Kuss (2:05:45.4), Sepp’s mom, joined Haubert on the podium.

Unfortunately, the Iron Horse wasn’t able to provide return bus shuttles for the cyclists because of a change in Durango 9R’s insurance, but Gaige Sippy said he was told the insurance was changing next year so they would be able to provide it again.

The Iron Horse then wrapped up with its mountain bike races again, starting at Durango Mesa and looping through Horse Gulch.

For some cyclists, however, it was their third race in three days. Partly because of that, Burnett said, many of the divisions did one less lap then previously planned. “That made for a better race, and not just a death march,” Burnett said.

And, of course, there were gravel rides and parades and citizens rides, so the community could get involved and ride in the Iron Horse as well.

“Selling out Saturday’s events was huge,” Burnett said. “Our turnout was pretty awesome, and the best part was so many were Durango-based. To bring such a high-level of competition was pretty cool. I’m looking forward to next year.”