Brayden Harms and his father, Dan, knew that Saturday’s Citizen Tour as part of the 48th Iron Horse Bicycle Classic would present a unique challenge: beat the train and get a run in down Paradise at Purgatory Resort.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Brayden said.
While they didn’t beat the train, the father-and-son duo managed to complete a rare double feat of getting a run in and finished the ride without being forced out because of time constraints.
“We made it to Purg and were one of the first ones up on the chair lift, skied and got back down on our bikes by 11:30,” Dan said. “It was absolutely exhausting. We got through Coal Bank with eight minutes left, and then only made it to Molas Pass with less than five minutes left.”
The Harmses brought their skis at the start of the Citizen Tour and biked up to Purgatory, and while the race was still going on, exchanged their bike clothes for skiing gear and hit the slopes, only to then continue the Iron Horse.
Over the last week, a late spring storm has dumped nearly 20 inches of new snow, including at Purgatory, which announced it was open for Memorial Day weekend. On Saturday, the skies cleared as temperatures hovered in the mid-40s along Coal Bank and Molas passes. The Harmses knew they’d be cutting it close, as the first chair at Purgatory went up the lift at 11 a.m., while Coal Bank closed at 12:40 p.m.
Dan Harms said the conditions at Purgatory were good for spring skiing, and said despite not beating the train, he was super pleased with how he and Brayden did.
“We were pushing it, but we got it,” he said. “Going 40 miles per hour with skis down your back, it got pretty squirrelly, but I’m glad we got it all in.”
The Harms family has participated in the Iron Horse six times, but it was Brayden’s first. The 13-year-old at Mountain Middle School said adding in a run at Purgatory would solidify a memorable first full Iron Horse.
“I’ve done the Quarter Horse a lot, and we figured with the weather we’ve been having, it’d be fun to try and ski as well,” Brayden said. “It’ll be a tough ride, but I think it will all be worth it.”
While the Harms family opted to ride with skis, Patrick Severy went with a Hawaiian floral-patterned shirt and was also looking forward to his first Iron Horse.
“I figured I was going to be down here anyways this weekend and wanted to give it a try,” said Severy, who competed in one of his first road races. “I just want to beat the train and decided to rock the flower shirt because, why not?”
Severy and his friend Adam Markham both were successful in their attempts up to Silverton and said that the conditions were ideal for racing.
“I put in a little bit more effort in than last year and was able to beat the train again,” Markham said. “The passes were great. It was a bit cold coming downhill, but going back up, everybody was super supportive and it was a great community event. It was great to ride with friends.”
Stuart Buergler pulled off a full business suit – red tie and all – and said that despite his appearance, it holds well when the temperature drops on Coal Bank.
“I don’t want to take it too seriously, and it’s fun to be a little bit goofy and cut loose,” said Buergler, who was competing in his third Iron Horse. “I wore the suit last year and was very concerned that once I started sweating heavily, it would be a big problem, but actually, it traps all the moisture on my skin and it’s kind of a pleasant experience.”
Buergler said he had no major issues again being in the suit and said it was a fun talking point.
“People came up to me throughout the ride and got a good laugh out of it, so I’m glad that counts,” Buergler said. “Again, the suit held up well, it was a great day and it was just fun to be around.”
Another pair of friends who decided to ride together were Khem Suthiwan and Stephanie Grover, who came down from Denver for the race.
“We do a lot of charity races together and long-distance rides,” said Suthiwan, who also races for Denver-based Palmares Cycling Team. “We train for triathlons and are always in pseudo-shape to do these sorts of things. This is my second year doing this, and looking back, we definitely could have trained a bit more. Coal Bank and Molas pass are tough, but we’ll get through it together.”
Dan Harms said that the spirit of Durango was alive and well, from the starting line to the finish.
“It was great cheering from everybody and it really helped us get up those passes,” he said. “The spirit out there was awesome, everybody was excited, it was fun and it was a day we’ll always remember, that’s for sure.”