Few locations figure in the mythology of mountain biking’s early-1990s heyday as Durango. To an impressionable young mountain biker living thousands of miles away, the southwestern Colorado town seemed to be the epicenter from which the sport exploded. Site of the first-ever Mountain Bike World Championships in 1990, Durango was home to unfathomably high peaks, events covered (with a two-month lag) in black & white on thin glossy paper, and more mountain biking luminaries than one could count. The town’s concentration of terrain, events, and personalities are simply legendary.
Twenty-five years on from the inaugural Worlds, first-ever XC world champion Ned Overend, three-time Olympian Todd Wells, and promoter Gaige Sippy joined forces with what at times has felt like the entire town of 17,500 to organise Todd & Ned’s Durango Dirt Fondo- a noncompetitive 25- or 45-mile event taking in the best of the town’s singletrack. And coinciding as it did with the silver anniversary of competitive mountain biking’s legitimisation, it wasn’t difficult to convince a who’s-who of mountain biking’s glory days to attend.
In addition to the event’s hosts, Julie Furtado, John Tomac, Cindy Devine, Travis Brown, Elladee Brown, Lisa Muhich, Sara Ballantyne, Ruthie Matthes, Elke Brutsaert, and Susan DiBiase were all on hand for the weekend- many if not all riding in the event itself. On the eve of the ride, Greg Herbold held press and riders in thrall with a colorful recounting of the events of the first Championships from memory- with occasional good-natured corrections from the assembled crowd. Soft-spoken 1990 Worlds promoter and local bike shop owner Ed Zink and his wife Patti, who still figure prominently in the local mountain bike community, were credited with corralling the town and the riders’ energy and enthusiasm, making that first weekend possible.
Starting at 9:00 AM on a warm autumn Saturday, the Dirt Fondo itself was wonderfully brutal, a thorough sampling of the world-class singletrack circling the town. After a neutral, police-escorted roll-out, some three hundred riders funneled into the first climb of the day, with various levels of aggression. Despite the inevitable congestion, riders eventually sorted themselves by ambition and ability in time for a freshly-built singletrack descent. As the day warmed, aid station break lengths increased and most embraced the non-competitive nature of the event. Informal groups formed and dissolved as individuals’ energy levels rose and fell. At the riverside finish, riders were greeted by snacks, grass to lie on, and (having completed the loop hours earlier) the ride’s enthusiastic hosts.
While the town’s terrain, weather, and local personalities could make near anywhere a fantastic riding destination, it was clear throughout the weekend that the strength of its mountain biking community is what makes Durango truly unique. From the marshals, volunteers, spectators, and dog walkers lining the event course to local collectors whose vintage mountain bikes decorated pre- and post-event functions, it was very clear that the Fondo and anniversary celebrations had the unreserved support of the town as a whole.
Keep an eye on toddandnedfondo.com for details on next year’s event.