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Iron Horse Bicycle Classic postponed because of coronavirus

Memorial Day weekend in Durango is synonymous with the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. It’s the symbolic start of summer tourism season, as thousands of cyclists line up in a 47-mile road race from Durango to Silverton to try to beat a locomotive from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

It’s been that way for 48 years, but not this year.

As the new coronavirus pandemic has continued to bring the world to a halt in all walks of life, the famed cycling event wasn’t spared. In uncertain times with no clear picture of when the COVID-19 outbreak will slow down or be controlled, the IHBC was forced to announce a postponement Thursday in an email to all registered riders.

“We just want everyone to understand this is based on obvious safety concerns. We don’t want to be part of the problem,” said IHBC Race Director Gaige Sippy. “We hope what we do is get through this and be part of the solution for our community. At some later date, if things look good and we can do an event, hopefully we will get people out on bikes and get a boost to our local economy and reset the clock a little bit to something that resembles normal.”

No new date has been selected for the 2020 race, which is to be the 49th edition of an event that mixes road cycling, gravel riding and mountain biking for professionals and ordinary citizens alike.

Originally slated for May 22-24 this year, the IHBC has been held on Memorial Day weekend every year since 1972 with only one road race cancellation in history in 2008 because of weather. Twice, in 1997 and 2014, the road race was shortened to finish at Purgatory Resort instead of downtown Silverton, and both times that was because of snow. Even in those years, the IHBC held mountain bike races through Steamworks Brewing Co., time trial events or downtown circuit races.

“Never in our planning was a pandemic on the radar screen. We are doing something we never thought we would have to do for this reason,” Sippy said. “It’s been hard for us to make this decision. It’s been 48 years that we have had something Memorial Day weekend with regards to the Iron Horse. It’s a big deal on a lot of levels. There’s an emotional piece, and then there is looking at a practical application of how to move an event of our size to a completely different date on the calendar unexpectedly and then have all the great organizations who support us make the transition with us. Luckily, we have received great support and feedback from our partners.”

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