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History of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in Durango, Colorado

 

Celebrating Over 100 Years of Cycling in Durango

The town of Durango has long been enthusiastic about cycling. This photo was taken of the Durango Wheel Club at Bakers Bridge in 1895, on one of Durango's favorite road loops.

How the Iron Horse was Conceived

The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic was the brain child of Tom Mayer and his older brother Jim. Jim worked as a brakeman on the D & R G W railroad which had run the steam powered locomotive between Durango and Silverton since the 1880's. Tom was a young bicycle enthusiast who grew up alongside the tracks to Silverton. Tom challenged Jim to a race to Silverton. As the train came by the house, the steam whistle screamed and Tom climbed on his trusty steel framed 10 speed and pedaled up over the rim of the old volcano and descended into the caldera to the mining town of Silverton. The train takes a shorter and easier route, but with limited speed, so it is truly a race between man and machine. When Tom became strong enough to win, the bragging rights were his, and the whole town knew it.

The First Iron Horse

In 1972 a group of 36 riders decided to celebrate the first run of the train in the spring by accepting the challenge. It's been all up hill since then. In 41 years the Iron Horse has become one of the classic bicycle events in the West. Durango is centrally located between Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. The Iron Horse is an ideal early summer meeting of the riders from each of these cycling centers as they attempt to bring home the glory to their own communities. In recent years the participants have come from every state and many foreign countries to ride the famed Iron Horse course. Each year hundreds of riders will feel the thrill of descending into Silverton and looking to see if the train has arrived. And familiar faces will be there, as many people come back year after year to the "best race we have around."

Growth of the Iron Horse

Over the years several events have been added to the classic train race. There have been criteriums, circuit races, road races, tours, BMX races, Trials, dual slaloms, team trail rides, and mountain bike races. There has been a full weekend of events every Memorial Day for the past 41 years. In 2011 the IHBC had over 3500 participants in 5 events. Not bad for a town of only 16,000 people nestled in the mountains of Southwest Colorado!