Three-time Olympian Todd Wells retired from professional mountain biking after the 2017 season. While the nation’s top mountain bikers tackle the trails in West Virginia at the national championships this weekend, Wells has joined forces with a different Durango team with bigger obstacles to tackle.
Wells will join more than 50 others on the Durango Derailers team for the 2018 Children’s Hospital Colorado Courage Classic Bicycle Tour, a fundraising event for Children’s Colorado that features more than 2,000 riders and hundreds of volunteers. The event will be held Saturday and Sunday and is based at Copper Mountain.
The Courage Classic has been held in Colorado since 1990. The Durango Derailers have had a fundraising team in the event for the last 11 years. In that time, the group has raised more than $405,000 for families in Southwest Colorado to aid in travel expenses for trips to the Children’s Colorado in Aurora. That money helps more than 500 family per year.
“If we can raise $50,000 for the Courage Classic, we can designate the funds we raise specifically for families in Southwest Colorado,” said Durango Derailers team captain Laura Shelton. “That can go to pay for lodging and transportation. We don’t have special pediatric care here in rural Colorado. Our kiddos have to go up there. Children’s Colorado serves one to two families from our area a day, and we’re trying get them access to that care.”
Shelton took over the Durango Derailers captaincy two years ago and has ridden in the Courage Classic for six years. Kelly Miller, who is still on the team, started the team. Through the funds raised by the Durango Derailers, they have also created opportunities for specialty doctors to meet patients in Durango or offices closer to Durango so families don’t have to travel as far.
The Derailers must raise $50,000 each year to ensure those funds go directly to Southwest Colorado families and not into the general fund. This year, the team has raised nearly $49,000, and it has until the end of August to continue fundraising. Last year, the team raised $68,000, but those funds were used by April.
“That’s how heavily it is used,” said Shelton, whose son, Chase, has regularly gone to Children’s Colorado for multiple complications after he was born two months prematurely.
Chase, 8, is one of 18 child ambassadors at this year’s Courage Classic. Durango’s Jaden Brown, 8, is another ambassador. He suffered a stroke at birth that led to brain damage. Like Chase, Jaden has hydrocephalus, an incurable condition in which fluid builds up deep within the brain.
“This weekend is very meaningful for Laura because Chase spent five years struggling to learn how to ride a bike so he could join his mom in the Courage Classic,” said Megan Lane, the senior marketing communications manager for the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation. “Last year, he rode the Durango Derailers team across the finish line for the first time – without training wheels – a true testament to his strength and perseverance against all odds. This weekend, Chase will once again ride the Durango Derailers team across the finish line at Copper Mountain.”
While not every member of the Durango Derailers will ride their bike at Copper Mountain this weekend, many will, ranging from 6-year-old children to Wells, a multi-discipline national champion.
The rides are broken into two days. On Day 1, the Copper Loop of the Courage Classic is a 78-mile ride that starts and finishes at Copper. It loops from Copper to Ski Cooper in Leadville to Minturn and Vail. There is also a 40-mile option to Vail and back, as well as a 10-mile family ride around Copper. On Day 2, there is an 84-mile ride up Ute Pass, a 41-mile ride to Keystone and back and a 16-mile family ride to Frisco.
Wells said the rides are similar to the Citizen’s Tour at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.
“I have some friends that help run the event that I bumped into in the fall, and I talked to them about doing it,” Wells said. “They suggested I get in touch with the Durango Derailers because they’re one of the biggest fundraising teams in the entire state. They do a great job, so I decided to join the team and see what it’s all about.
“We’ve been lucky our kid hasn’t had to go up to Children’s Hospital, and as a parent that’s your worst nightmare, to have something happen to your kid. Secondary to all that is the huge cost incurred. This group ride does an awesome job of raising money for kids and families that need it. I couldn’t think of a better cause to help raise some money.”