For road cyclists in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, there’s nothing more motivating than the sonorous whine of a faraway train whistle. That’s the sound of their top competitor: the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The road biking race was born in the early 1970s, when beating the train to Silverton on a bicycle was deemed impossible—until cyclist Tom Mayer pulled it off in a bet with his brother, a train worker. Now, the race has expanded to a full weekend of festivities, including a kids’ race, mountain bike race, and the Cruiser Criterium, a cruiser-bike parade and costume contest held on Main Street.
The Silverton race is still the marquis event, with around 1,000 racers who compete in pro divisions and 1,500 amateurs, who race the train over a 50-mile course with two 10,000-foot passes and 6,650 feet of climbing. Though pros have sped through the course in as little as two hours, most riders take a more leisurely pace to enjoy the cheers of locals on the roadsides and ogle the views of 13,000-foot snowcapped peaks.
“The flame was pretty gnarly,” recalls 23-year-old telemark freeskier Chris Ewart. “But the size of the jump itself was enough to make me completely forget that there was even a flame there!” The local freeheeler took first place for landing a huge double front-flip off a 70-foot jump during the Telemark Big Air competition last Saturday on Golden Peak during the inaugural Winter Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado.
In the first event of its kind, the skiers alternated with ten of the world’s best freestyle mountain bikers, who dazzled the crowd in the Best Trick Bike competition. BMX rider Chad Kagy took top honors for his backflip tail whip. Many of the riders had never practiced on snow until the day of the event.
Likewise, Ewart had never tried this trick in competition before, but decided to go big. “All the bikers and freeheelers were super positive in the drop-in gate and it was crazy to see people from both sports throwing down. The crowd was cheering and getting excited. The whole mood of the night got me really stoked up to try it out,” says Ewart, who is also an EMT.
Such audacious feats happening in the air come with some carnage in the landings. Yet after each crash, the competitor shook it off with great style to the delight of the crowd of 5,000 people. “I crashed a couple of times,” says Ewart. “Some of the other guys had some nasty falls, but props to them for continuing and throwing down hard even afterward.”
For the mountain bikers, the frosty terrain brought some benefits. “The snow makes it much harder to land, but it doesn’t hurt nearly as bad when you don’t,” says rider Cameron Zink.
The festival’s events included races for elite and amateur athletes in mixed climbing, Nordic skiing, ski mountaineering, snow biking, snowshoeing, and running, as well as gear demos, bands, parties, and great conditions for skiing and snowboarding.
Nordic Freestyle Races, Winter Teva Mountain Games, Vail, Colorado: Olympic skiers Leif Zimmerman and Rebecca Dussault won the men’s and women’s 10K nordic freestyle race respectively on Friday.
The Winter Teva Mountain Games is attracting some of the world’s best athletes to Vail as a cadre of Olympians, national champions and young phenoms lined up to compete in nordic skiing and mixed climbing events on day one of the three-day festival.
The first Winter Teva Mountain Games comes to Vail, Colorado, this weekend with competitions in big-air bike, ski mountaineering, mixed climbing, and much more. Top athletes and weekend warriors will compete their chunk of a $60,000 cash purse. Stay tuned for updates.