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Death Ride Tour - Silverton to Silverton Loop - 235 Miles
Since its inception to Ride To Defeat ALS...Ride For Life has started in the quaint little town of Silverton, Colorado. Settled in 1874 the current population is about 700, however, at peak tourists times the population can reach over 5000. Nestled in a beautiful valley, surrounded by majestic peaks you'll be starting day one at an elevation of 9,305 feet.
It is recommended to ALWAYS come prepared with the proper gear to handle rain, snow and inclement weather. 2015 was the first time the DEATH RIDE Tour ran into snow going up and down Red Mountain Pass.
Coming out of Silverton the first climb is Red Mountain Pass (Elevation 11,018). This pass straddles a divide that separates Ouray and San Juan counties. The pass is named for the nearby Red Mountain 1, 2 and 3 on the northeast side of the pass. The name is derived from the iron oxide laden rock that forms their slopes. The pass has a steep 8% grade (slope) on the north side facing Ouray, though the entire road is paved.
At times you may look towards cliffside, and see no road but only the valley 1,000 plus feet below. Many switchbacks and tight spots add to the difficulty. Roadside monuments mark where cars, trucks, semis and snowplows have plunged off the road, resulting in in death. The pass is traversed by the Million Dollar Highway, U.S. Highway 550 between Silverton and Ouray which is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.
After passing through Ouray and Ridgway you'll come upon climb number two, Dallas Divide (Elevation 8,970 feet). The pass takes its name from Dallas Creek which drains the basin on the north side of Mount Sneffels into the Uncompahgre River. Be prepared to face the wind both on the climb and the decent, it just seems that is always the case.
Once over Dallas Divide and a nice decent the next town you'll come to is Placerville. Originally established as a small mining town named after the placer gold mines. The final 15.7 mile leg of Day One takes the tour along the San Miguel River with the last Aid Station at the beautiful San Juan Skyway - Keystone Hill Overlook. From there you'll descend into Telluride and if you wish - end at the famous Last Dollar Saloon in the heart of Telluride. This beautiful mountain town sits at an elevation of 8,750 feet.
Day two, the longest day of the tour, 111 miles, starts in Telluride from the Mountainside Inn. Telluride settled in 1878 has a current population of about 2,200 people with thousands of visitors throughout the winter for world class skiing and summer for events such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Telluride is probably the most scenic of the cities visited on the DRT and stands at an elevation of 8,750 feet.
The USA Pro Cycling Challenge - "America's Race" came to Telluride in 2012 with the 111 mile Stage 1 going the opposite way that the DRT goes - Durango to Telluride. The pros did the 111 mile stage in 4 hours - 42 minutes won by American Tyler Farrar of Garmin Sharp Barracuda.
Twelve miles south of Telluride the tour comes up to the third of five passes on the ride, Lizard Head Pass - (Elevation 10,223 ft.) named after the spire of what looks like a Lizard head.
From Lizard Head Pass the tour now begins a nice long decent of approximately 71 miles through the towns of Ricco, Stoner, Dolores and Mancos before coming to a small climb at Hesperus Hill. This climbs seems like it last forever - especially since by the time you get here - you've already ridden about 95 miles.
The last 12 miles is a wonderful decent on U.S. Highway 160 into Durango. Durango was organized in 1880 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad to serve the San Juan mining district.
Day two stopping point and luggage drop will be at the Historic Stratter Hotel. For history about the Stratter Hotel - click here.
A group dinner in Durango will also be planned. Contact Tour Director Barry Sopinsky if you are interested. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Day Three is the same course of the Iron Horse Classic. Iron Classic Information supplied from: www.ironhorsebicycleclassic.com. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is held annually over Memorial Day weekend.
How the Iron Horse was Conceived
The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic was the brain child of Tom Mayer and his older brother Jim. Jim worked as a brakeman on the D & R G W railroad which had run the steam powered locomotive between Durango and Silverton since the 1880's. Tom was a young bicycle enthusiast who grew up alongside the tracks to Silverton. As the train came by the house, the steam whistle screamed and Tom climbed on his trusty steel framed 10 speed and pedaled up over the rim of the old volcano and descended into caldera to the mining town of Silverton. The train takes a shorter and easier route, but with limited speed, so it is truly a race between man and machine. When Tom became strong enough to win, the bragging rights were his, and the whole town knew it.
The First Iron Horse
In 1972 a group of 36 riders decided to celebrate the first run of the train in the spring by accepting the challenge. It's been all up hill since then. The Iron Horse has become one of the classic bicycle events in the country selling out in less than two days. Durango, the starting point, is certainly located between Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. The Iron Horse is an ideal early summer meeting of riders from each of these cycling centers as they attempt to bring home the glory to their own communities. In recent years the participants have come from every state and many foreign countries to ride the famed Iron Horse course. Each year thousands of riders will feel the thrill of descending into Silverton and looking to see if the train has arrived. Year after year, dedicated cyclists keep coming back to this epic event over Memorial Day weekend.
Day three will start alongside the Historic Strater Hotel with the passing of the train. In 2009 the inaugural tour had a total of 11 participants and as with the Iron Horse Classic, its been all uphill since then. This day could be considered by some the toughest day of the tour taking on the last two passes, Coal Bank Pass (Elevation 10,640 ft.) and Molas Pass (Elevation 10,910 ft.). The day starts with the passing of the train and for some the race is on. For the majority of us, we'll take a nice easy 16 miles that includes the river trail, then through some beautiful woods stopping for a break at Baker's Bridge. This site was used in the filming of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
It is approximately 20 miles of climbing from Baker's Bridge to the top of Coal Bank Pass. After 2 1/2 days of riding more than 200 miles, knowing that you only have one more pass remaining, you will certainly be happy to descend into Silverton after achieving Molas Pass on the last day.
After conquering Molas Pass, it's a short decent back into Silverton.
You will fully enjoy the feeling of accomplishment riding the last couple of miles back into Silverton after 3 days, 235 miles and 16,500 feet of climbing. Great job – well until next year. Now it’s time for some fun and relaxation at the DEATH RIDE Tour Rider Appreciation Barbecue and the presentation or you DEATH RIDE Tour Participation Medal.