Ride report: Iron Horse provides epic course, weather for Arizona riders

Don’t like the weather? Wait a few minutes.

That was the weekend theme in Durango, Colorado, for the 44th Annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic last weekend.

It rained, it hailed, it snowed and there was sun. And that was each day.

Erin Morley Iron Horse

The weekend is jam-packed with events. It all started Saturday morning, with the Coca-Cola road race and the McDonald’s Citizen Tour. There were rumblings leading up to the event, that it may be canceled or shortened, due to weather conditions.

If you’ve never experienced summits of more than 10,500 feet in this neck of the woods, be prepared for anything! Luckily, the event went on and we had some chilly 41-degree temperatures to start the day.

I opted for the Citizen Tour, seeing as it was my first time doing this event. I mean, if you’ve never seen this part of the country, this is the best way to do it.

The road from Purgatory to Silverton is completely shut down for traffic, so why not enjoy the views? And views are abundant with snow when we reached Molas Pass – blowing, pelt-you-in-the-face, snow. It stung.

At 10,910 feet, the lungs suffer as it is. The blustery storm made things a far greater challenge. The two descents were cold. The last one down into Silverton was colder, and wetter, and more fun?

Iron Horse weather

Even while dealing with some extremes, the view of Silverton as you blast down through the corners is worth it all. Better yet, the town was lined for miles with spectators packed in.

The sound of all that cheering, more cowbell, and sprinting through a town established in the late 1800s, makes for an event that should be at the top of your list.

The weekend rounds out on Sunday with a circuit race, kids race, cruiser race and by far the greatest spectacle: 
Mountain Bike Specialists Cross Country race. This is a must watch. The course literally goes through Steamworks Brewery, and is a sight to behold.

So, what pointers can I give? First, pack everything. The weather is unpredictable. Second, start climbing. Ride lots of hills. Why? The course is 50 miles and 30 of it is uphill. The grades aren’t that steep overall, but they go on forever. Add in that altitude, and well…just climb a lot. Mt. Lemmon is perfect. Be prepared to smile. It’s impossible not to. Durango is a magical place and welcomes all lovers of bicycles.

The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic includes more than the citizen’s ride – racing is to be had as well. Several Arizona riders placed in the top 10 at Iron Horse:

  • Carlee Schmidt, 3rd, road race, women 19-34
  • Jimmy Matt 4th, road race, men 19-34
  • Steven Beeler, 1st, MTB race men 35-44
  • James Winebrenner, 9th, circuit race, men 34-44

Erin Morley (Tribe Multisport) lives in Gilbert, Ariz. and rode the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in Durango, Colo. last weekend. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic takes place each year on Memorial Day weekend.


Erin Morley