A favorite event in Durango among Wells Group brokers and Southwest residents, The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, an annual bike race from Durango to Silverton, Colorado, where cyclists race over mountain passes to beat the steam engine train, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, that runs the same route. Colorado’s oldest, largest, and most renowned cycling event, the Iron Horse has been a beloved tradition for half of a century.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
The inspiration behind the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic started as a bet between Jim Mayer, a brakeman for the steam-powered line between Durango and Silverton that has run since the 1800s, and his brother Tom. In 1971, Tom challenged his older brother to race: Steam engine vs. bicycle.
When Jim pulled into the Silverton depot on the train that day, his brother had beat him there by bike and won the bet, clueless that he had planted the seeds for a race that would draw thousands of riders to Southwestern Colorado for decades to come.
THE FIRST IRON HORSE
Tom enjoyed the ride from Durango to Silverton and the thrill of racing the train so much that he wanted others to be able to experience it too. So, a year later in 1972, a group of riders took on the same challenge. Of the 36 total riders, five managed to beat the train, the Iron Horse, to Silverton. From here, the race has grown bigger every year. More events and races have been added to the weekend-long celebration year by year.
Durango, Colorado is located between Denver, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix. Over the last 50 years, the Iron Horse has become one of the premier bike events in the West. Local riders and visiting cyclists alike participate in mountain, gravel, and road races, festivities in Downtown Durango, a "Quarterhorse" race, and numerous other events. For the 50th Anniversary there are more events than ever including a Ouray to Silverton Tailwind race, dual slalom course, and new kids races. Of course, there are celebrations at the finish line and around town with lively bike culture.
The original and most popular event of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is, of course, along the same route that Tom Mayer initially rode. This includes 50 miles of serene landscape between Durango and Silverton, two grueling mountain passes both above 10,000 ft in elevation, over 6,000 ft of vertical climb, and two huge descents down Coal Bank and Molas passes.
The Durango Coca Cola Road Race is the main competitive event while the McDonalds Citizen Tour offers a non-competitive opportunity to tackle the great feat. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Train from Durango to Silverton takes around 3.5 hours to travel the entire route, so if riders want to reach Silverton before the steam engine, they need to pedal hard!
NEW THIS YEAR
Riding from Ouray, the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Colorado”, a new race will take place up and over Red Mountain Pass, also finishing in Silverton. The new race will have riders cruising 23 miles up over the Million Dollar Highway, a 3,300 elevation gain. Ouray and Durango both get to cheer on riders at the same time as they travel up and over some of Colorado’s classic mountain passes, with Silverton congratulating them at the end of their journey.
LEARN MORE ABOUT UPCOMING IRON HORSE EVENTS
Memorial Day Weekend, is an overall fun and celebratory weekend in Durango. With all of the biking events being held as well as a Veteran Memorial Train, there is a plethora of activities to last the weekend. This year, the 50th Anniversary of the first Iron Horse will take place from Saturday, May 28th to Monday, May 30th.
To learn more about the race itself and all the accompanying events, visit the Iron Horse's website.
Look for our real estate brokers cheering on the riders throughout the weekend!
Sponsored by Wells Group Real Estate, the largest locally owned brokerage, for over 36 years. Happy 50thAnniversary to The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic!