Durango’s annual Fall Blaze cycling event will begin with a cannon blast and a police escort on September 28th, 2019. Hosted by Fort Lewis College, the Fall Blaze is less of a race and more a community celebration of the scenic southwest. All skill levels and abilities are welcome on this full-day event hosting 37, 60 and 100 mile rides. 

As the 2019 women’s 1st place Iron Horse and 2nd place Leadville 100 champion, Sarah Sturm is one of the biggest up-and-coming names in endurance cycling. We spoke with Sturm, a Fort Lewis alumni, to learn more about the event and what makes Durango such an epic cycling destination.

When did you first fall in love with cycling?

SS: I grew up in Albuquerque and even though I’ve always been an athlete, I didn’t truly get my start in cycling until I moved to Durango. I joined the cycling team as a freshman at Fort Lewis College and a whole new world opened up to me. When I first started, I was one of the slowest racers. Some people didn’t even believe I would stick with it, but I did and here I am today. I’m a more adept racer at 29 than I ever was when I was younger. Getting a late start had no impact on my cycling career.

What makes Durango such an attractive destination for cyclists?

SS: There is a special energy here in Durango. The locals care and are actively involved in creating a positive culture for athletes. At the most recent Leadville 100, there was an incredibly impressive showing for local names on the podium. It’s a unique and special place to live with infinite access to incredible trail systems and outdoor activity. Because of that, the motivation is different. Regardless of a racing career, we would all continue to ride. 

What should we expect from the Fall Blaze?

SS: I rode the Fall Blaze for the first time as a student athlete and my favorite part about the event is the camaraderie. It’s a day of purely fun riding with cyclists of every skill level. It’s a challenging ride -- all routes around Durango are -- but it’s very much for the community and anyone can sign up.  Student athletes chat and ride with the riders, we eat tons of snacks, and the event ends at the beautiful Fort Lewis campus. It’s all very enjoyable.

Do you have any tips for first-time riders?

SS: The ride can take the entire day, so be prepared to be out there a while. Bring water and go at your own pace. Look less at the mileage and treat it like a fun day to be outside, meet new people, and hang out with friends.Your mindset will make or break the event, so mentally prepare yourself for a long haul and your body will follow suit.

What is your favorite way to recoup from a big race?

SS: There is nothing like a day on the Animas river, where you can go soak your legs and enjoy the water. I love a day of active recovery, and Durango has plenty of opportunities for that. I will go paddleboarding with my dog or go on a hike. I’m always keeping my body in motion, because really, there is just so much to do!

As for food, I am a frequent visitor of Doughworks, 11th Street Station and 80301 Coffee. There is a new Thai food truck (Mariana’s Authentic Cuisine) at 11th Street that is awesome!

What is the most important thing riders should remember about the Fall Blaze?

SS: There is an incredible team of locals working every day to make events like the Fall Blaze a success. Dave Hagen is the director of the Fort Lewis Cycling team and he puts in an unbelievable amount of work for the local community. Respect individuals like him that work behind the scenes to make the magic happen. If you see him, give him a high five or buy him a Ska Pinstripe Beer.