The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is back to a three-day format in 2020.
Registration for the 49th IHBC is only a week away for the general public and will come a day earlier for locals who attend a special early registration party Dec. 6 at Mountain Bike Specialists.
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The IHBC had been reduced to a two-day event when the Memorial Day individual time trial was eliminated from the schedule after the 2016 edition of the cycling festival. Now, professionals will have a chance to enter a fat tire criterium – a circuit race on mountain bikes – the Friday night of race weekend. Participation in the fat tire criterium will be required for the pros chasing the King and Queen of the Mountain omnium championships for combined results in the fat tire crit, Saturday’s 47-mile road race from Durango to Silverton and the Sunday mountain bike race that famously rolls through Steamworks Brewing Co.
“Durango is a mountain bike town, and adding more to the mountain bike aspect of the Iron Horse weekend is a good idea,” said Durango professional mountain biker Stephan Davoust, last year’s IHBC mountain bike race winner. “The fat tire crit is a road circuit race but on a mountain bike setup. It’s really cool.
“I didn’t get to do a road race last year. This year, I’m looking to do all three and get that King of the Mountain classification.”
The Friday night event will be a spectator-friendly contest around Buckley Park in downtown Durango. Men and women will have their own 20-minute races, with women to race at 6:10 p.m. and men to follow at 6:30 p.m., with a first-place prize of $300 on the line. Second place will be awarded $150, and third will receive $50.
“This is going to be great, I love it,” said 2019 IHBC women’s road race winner Sarah Sturm. “It makes sense to bring that style of racing to the weekend, and it keeps it interesting. There are such different dynamics doing a road crit with flat bars, and it can be kind of sketchy. It will be cool to mix it up and will be a lot of fun for the fans to see.”
Fat tire criteriums have been a staple of the Epic Rides series of mountain bike events. Road racing tactics, ripping fast speeds and tricky corners are a staple, and riders have to risk going all out for the win or playing it safe to avoid a crash that could be costly to their hopes of racing the rest of the weekend.
Fans will be able to enjoy the race following the registration party held in Buckley Park.
“Now that we are centered down by Buckley Park for our main area, this event is a nice fit,” said IHBC director Gaige Sippy. “If anyone has seen the Epic Rides events, they are a lot of fun to watch. We have such a good, strong pool of riders who come to the Iron Horse. With fast, younger riders and older veterans, it will be a great way to showcase that on the Friday evening with so much energy going on.”
There are a couple more additions to the IHBC this year. There will be three gravel courses offered Sunday, May 24 with lengths of 55, 80 and 93 miles. The short course will feature nearly 5,000 feet of climbing, while the long course will feature nearly 7,400 feet of climbing.
“Apparently if you’re going to do gravel, you have to do a lot of gravel,” Sippy said. “So, we are adding longer distances to go further out toward Bayfield and Ignacio where there is such great riding. Ian Burnett has been working on adding the longer distances because people want to ride longer. All these big gravel events are 100 to 200 miles long, so we are going to bump into the 90-mile range.”
In recent years, an e-bike category has been offered for road cyclists going from Durango to Purgatory Resort during Saturday’s big day of road racing. This year, there will be an opportunity for those on an e-bike to ride from Durango to Silverton as well as the e-bike event to Purgatory.
“There are a lot of people who want to ride an e-bike who may not be able to ride a regular bike,” Sippy said. “We’ve had a lot of the Davis Phinney Parkinson’s folks ride to Purgatory. I think an e-bike option to Silverton with the growth of e-bikes was inevitable. We are already closing the road, so why not add that?
“E-bikes to Silverton will have a different start location and take off before the McDonald’s Citizen Tour. Our goal is to have them on and out the front instead of bringing up the rear. Some people like e-bikes, some don’t. We want to have them off the front, across the road and won’t start them at the same location or same time as the Citizen Tour riders.”
Sippy indicated a point north of town is likely for the start of the e-bike riders, possibly the Iron Horse Inn, but nothing has been officially determined.
This year, the IHBC will also add 25 to 50 slots for each of its men’s race categories that have routinely sold out. The general public will get a chance to register for those spots Dec. 7, while the locals’ party at Mountain Bike Specialists is set from 1 to 7 p.m. Friday.
Making a special appearance at the shop from 3 to 6 p.m. will be Durango’s own Sepp Kuss, a World Tour pro cyclist with Jumbo-Visma and winner of Stage 15 of the Spanish Vuelta. Kuss, the 2017 IHBC road race champion, will sign autographs, and Sippy said Kuss will be part of a live podcast interview with Durango pro mountain biker Payson McElveen, host of The Adventure Stache podcast.
“Sepp is our hometown boy and is competing on the largest scale in cycling on the biggest roads,” Sippy said. “To have him here downtown with all of us is going to be fun for everyone. We are hoping to get a lot of our young juniors and all the big racers in town together for a group photo. It’s amazing how many riders Durango has who are successful on a global scale, and it will be fun to kind of celebrate that.”