Thinking about riding to Silverton this year with the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic? Nervous because you've never done it before? This year, among the estimated 2,000 riders doing the race and the citizen's ride, there will be many first-timers.
Rich Fletcher, 49, is a professional broadcaster and has videotaped the IHBC for everyone from CNN to Inside Durango TV, but has never attempted the ride.
With a little encouragement from friends, Fletcher started riding his bike regularly, which he had not done since he was 16.
"I sold my race car that was taking a lot of time as a hobby and bought a new bike from Mountain Bike Specialists," Fletcher said.
New bike in hand, Fletcher signed up for the IHBC training program. "The IHBC program was a complete course in cycling," Fletcher said. "We learned everything from how to adjust the bike to fit your body, to fixing flat tires, proper spin technique, riding in a group and pacing."
While training, Fletcher has ridden Coal Bank twice and Hesperus twice. He'll still be filming the event this year, but he'll do it while riding the bike, using a lipstick camera and small recorder.
Peter Marshall, also 49, has been the general manager of the Doubletree Hotel for four years. Marshall is always looking for new challenges, whether it's playing in a rugby tournament or running a footrace.
After mulling over the race for a few months, Marshall decided to buy a new bike and start training for the race.
"My wife has been very supportive of me doing this," Marshall said.
"The training has been going pretty well, even though it usually finishes up at Steamworks."
Marshall is a little nervous about next week's ride, but he's also excited.
Kirk McLaughlin, 55, is a retired Bayfield elementary schoolteacher who has been inspired by his children.
McLaughlin has been riding with a group at the Durango Sports Club three days a week. While he's been having lots of fun, McLaughlin has also dropped 20 pounds since he started riding regularly.
"I didn't want to jump right into a hard training program, so I had a physical in November to make sure that everything was OK," McLaughlin said. "After seeing others in my age group complete the ride, I thought that maybe I could do it, too."
McLaughlin's training has been going well. While making gradual progress, McLaughlin started by riding to Trimble Lane before graduating to harder rides up old Shalonah, Haviland Lake and Coal Bank Pass.
"Cycling is addictive, and it's not a pounding activity, like running," McLaughlin said.
Jackie Ellis, 44, hoped to make her IHBC debut last year, but a few weeks before the race she tore her ACL while hiking in Sedona, Ariz. After surgery, recovery and a lot of spring cycling, Ellis is ready to race this year.
When Ellis makes it to the start line she'll have plenty of motivation to power her over the passes. Husband, children and parents will all be waiting in Silverton.
"I've been using a heart rate monitor during my training, and I can see when I need to gear up or down," Ellis said. "I've also practiced changing a flat tire, but I hope I don't have to do that on race day."