FARMINGTON — The Durango 100 is not a race, but more of a tour that focuses on the joy of road biking.
That distinction is what gives the event an entirely different atmosphere from other events such as the Iron Horse.
"It's a chance for people (from different regions) to get a taste of the high desert. They see a lot more by bicycle than from a car," said Durango 100 Director Keith Ashmore, who is also the manager of the Colavita Southwest Cycling Team. "Some are going slow, looking around."
Last Sunday at 7 a.m., 120 cyclists passed the starting line at Santa Rita Park in Durango. They were advised by Ashmore to warn each other of obstacles in the road and to have fun.
The route went south on La Posta Road, jumped on to U.S. Highway 550, crossing the state line and then turned off again onto Ruins Road in Cedar Hill.
Once in Aztec and on U.S. Highway 550 again, some turned off onto North Light Plant Road to complete an 85-mile loop. The rest continued south toward Farmington, where they turned right on Piñon Hills Blvd.
The 50-mile tour ended at the intersection of Piñon Hills and La Plata Highway, and the rest continued back to Colorado to complete the 100-mile tour.
Going through La Plata and then into Marvel and Breen, Colo., the final stretch took riders through Wildcat Canyon on County Road 141 and ended at the starting point at Santa Rita Park.
Four rest stops were scattered throughout the ride, about every 25 miles. Cyclists pulled up to the second rest stop, in front of the La Plata schoolhouse, where volunteers Julia Levy, the director of government affairs for B.P., and Trey Duvall, a cyclist for Colavita, were offering water, Gatorade, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, orange slices, bananas and trail mix.
Most riders came up from La Plata Highway but some also came in from Aztec on North Light Plant Road as they rejoined the main circuit. Some riders minded their timing chip diligently, filling up water bottles and continuing the ride without dismounting. Others stopped for a bit, snacked and chatted.
"Every time you pass someone it's, 'Hi, hello, how ya doin'?'" said first-time Durango 100 rider Kenny Briggs of Gallup, a long-time mountain biker who was drawn to the Durango 100 for its beautiful scenery and the atmosphere of the event.
Briggs said the Durango 100 gave him a new-found appreciation for road biking.
The majority of cyclists were from different parts of Colorado, ranging from Denver to Glenwood Springs to Cortez and, of course, Durango. New Mexico was also well-represented with riders from Farmington, Albuquerque and Gallup in attendance. Some even came from Window Rock, and one came from as far away as Crystal Beach, Fla.
To ensure safety of the riders, sag vehicles drove throughout the group to offer support and signs marked key points along the road to warn drivers of a bike tour in progress.
In the 11-year history of the Durango 100, there has never been an incident involving a vehicle.
The tour was postponed in 2012 because of the disbandment of its former host, the Velo de Animas Bicycle Club. This was the first year for Colavita to host it.
"I figured, I've got 30 people on the roster, I've got 30 volunteers, let's just do it ourselves. Revive it," Ashmore said
The tour's date has always fallen in line with the finale of the Tour de France, but, in hopes of drawing in more cyclists, Ashmore said he plans to have it at a later date in 2014.
Molly Maxwell covers outdoors for The Daily Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.