The Durango Derby brought racers from all over to experience the mountain bike pedigree of Durango and its surrounding mountains. We sent Reportage affiliate Kyle von Hoetzendorff out for the weekend to report back on its vibe and he delivered a stellar piece, including an interview with the event’s co-founder, Dylan Stucki, and exceptional photos by Alex Roszko, so read on to check it out!
There are few places as steeped in mountain bike lore as Durango, CO. Since hosting the very first mountain bike world championships way back in 1990, Durango has accumulated local legends, world and Olympic champions, and grand tour-winning alumni. There’s even a liberal arts college that boasts the best collegiate mountain bike team in the nation. Once you consider the surfeit of singletrack that surrounds this former mining train depot, the depth of talent and reams of Palmares only seem fitting.
Starting in town and climbing up the Colorado Trail into the San Juan Mountains is a nearly endless amount of high-quality trails. Good thing the town has more than enough burrito spots and food co-ops to keep riders out of calorie deficit. This place is, or should be, at the top of any mountain biker’s must-ride locations, but even the golden draw of a place like Durango sometimes it takes a little push.
Vernacular photos above by Kyle Klain
For this hapless rider that push came in the form of the first officially sanctioned Durango Derby. An XC mountain bike race styled after Enduro stage racing that treated competitors to a healthy serving of the best from town trails was all I needed to collect a few pals, book a ticket, and head to the Colorado high country. Did I plan on covering the race? No, no I did not. But after racing I felt it was only right to share my experience and convince you to join me next year at the second official Durango Derby. I caught up with event co-founder Dylan Stucki to give us the real dirt on what went into making the DD.
Here are some insights that might help you prepare for next year.
- The Durango Derby is much more an XC than an Enduro race.
- Yes, yes all the information says this, but if you’re me – then you read “enduro style event” and just assumed knee pads and DH casing. Don’t assume.
- 6500’ in the sky is high if you live 50’ in the sky. My experience was a drumline heart rate and hacksaw breathing. You’ve been warned.
- Be prepared to ride, a lot. The Derby is just the tip of the glacier. We were fortunate/unfortunate to have Brendan Shafer; a friend, guide, and resident leg torturer on hand to treat us to two-a-day ride experiences in town and up to 13000 feet. Find a guide, read some maps, and get out there.
- If you can – visit the Fort Lewis Cycling Office — more on that to come ;)
- Also, visit the Durango Cyclery and take a minute to check out their bathroom. It’s a Greg Herbold shrine.
- Run what you brung, but if you can brung a mid to short-travel mtb – you’re lungs and legs will thank you.
To give a little more information I tracked down race co-founder Dylan Stucki.
Who is Dylan Stucki? Can you give us a little background ?
Who me? Haha, I’m just a guy who really likes bikes. From Gunnison, CO, now stuck in the velvet rut that is Durango.
What is the Durango Derby? Why now? What makes it a Derby? Is there a history around the idea of a “Durango Derby”
Durango Derby (the race) and the history of Durango Derby (a bike-centric party) are two different things. We’ll start with the history, which predates my time at the local college and goes back to local legend and DGO cycling spirit animal, Chad Cheeney along with local vintage bike collector Mike Wilk, who started the chaos that is DD the party. DD the party has been the local college cycling team tradition for over 20 years, but it’s essentially the night cap for the fall MTB season.
It’s a grand celebration that takes place near the trails, in the woods, in an undisclosed location, and usually starts around 3:20pm on a weekday. There is always a theme, and college kids, local pros, and other bike fans congregate in costume to partake in a pixie bike DH race, a bike toss, and other wild ideas that spawn from twisted minds. Thanks to the rad generations coming up, the party still very much happens, and will continue to happen, but they’ve been catching some heat lately, specifically because of some fun-hating, power-tripping locals. So, that’s what bring us to the race, like I said the party will continue, maybe under a different name, and most certainly in a different location, but myself and my business partner Dave Hagen, both as alumni of the local college, wanted to pay homage to the OG derby with this race.
Having hosted four DD parties myself when I was in school, I want to see the name live on, but have it evolve into a marquee race that helps bring big time racing and big time fun back to Durango. Obviously, Dave and I certainly would not have evolved the concept of the OG Durango Derby into the brand and race it has become without talking to the originators, who are totally stoked on the idea. Mike Wilk actually raced, and unfortunately, Chad Cheeney was out of town mentoring and coaching the local college cycling team riders because of a last minute collegiate schedule change. (By the way, I’m purposely leaving out “Fort Lewis College”, cuz derby, the party, is a sensitive topic up at harvard on the hill up there).
Describe the concept and how it works ?
The concept, which was originally my partner Dave Hagen’s idea, is totally rad, and totally unique (or so we thought). Geoff Kabush, ever so Kabushly pointed out on our Insta that the Whistler Back 40 actually has a similar format to their race, to which we say “great minds” I guess. Anyway, the idea was to take all the in-town trail systems and race them all in one day. So the best way to do it was to mimic a rally race or an enduro MTB race and break it up into four stages, with un-timed transfers across town to the next stage. I should add to avoid confusion that the racing is XC style, not enduro, however we will incorporate some timed DH segments next year. This format not only made for tactical racing with the pros because they’re used to being able to pace off each other, but also allowed us to create a more fun-forward aspect of the event by having two and four person relay teams partake. This way we can have serious PRO and amateur racing with the SOLO categories, but also some really fun racing for everyone else.
What events inspired you to create the Durango Derby … tell us about your partner(s)?
Dave Hagen, my biz partner at Durango Derby, was also my course manager for SSCXWC22DGO, and while we were cleaning up after that madness last november, he somehow convinced me to do another race. Really though, the concept is rad, and Dave and I both want to see more big time racing happening here in Durango, so we just went for it. Oh, and money, haha, we’re doing it for the money… is that a hole in my wallet? The other reason is we think the gravel fever will swing back towards MTB, lots of domestic MTB pros say they want MTB racing (where you at?)
Why Durango – tell us what makes the place so special?
Durango is the velvet rut, a term from a local radio show, describes this place so perfectly. Plus, the biking community here is rich. Sure we have racers galore, just google Vuelta, World Cup, Asa Vermette, etc. but we also have bicycle recycleries like Velomancer out of Channel 37, a rad weekly cruiser ride, Bike Durango advocacy groups, etc. People always ask what’s in the water, and aside from tons of nuclear mining waste, thanks Gold King, it must just be a collective love for bikes.
Do you think you could do a Derby style event in other places – would you want to?
Oh absolutely, it’s ripe for franchising. However, that is one very unique thing that Durango has, literally trails all over town. There are other places, but not as many as you’d think.
Have you thrown other events? If so, what did you learn from them that you brought to this event?
Yea, I helped run our local town series for years, with a good friend of mine, Grady James as part of a bike team we were running. Also, SSCXWC22DGO, that was a big one.
What were your big takeaways from putting together the Durango Derby?
Durango is awesome. We could not have done this without the support of the community, and we’re super thankful of everyone who helped us with permits, volunteering, sponsorship, etc.
Is the Derby on for next year?
Oh yea, big time. Still working on a date. If some gravel events fell off the edge of the earth we wouldn’t be bummed.
Who do you want to thank – these things take a community, and the Durango community, from what I can tell is pretty supportive – was there anyone or any org in particular that comes to mind?
There are too many to list, but Chaz, Nico, and Declan from ZIPP for believing in the event, as well as Maxxis tires, local fresh-mex joint Zia Taqueria (Major cycling community supporters), Natural Grocers, Durango Cyclery, Yeti Cycles, MRP, and Ron from King Cage. Aside from the sponsors, we had almost 40 total volunteers helping us pull off this insane logistical nightmare of a race, and the Durango community showed up big time. Our course managers absolutely killed it! Visit Durango, the City of Durango, BLM, Durango Devo, and Durango Trails. HUGE HUGE thank you to everyone who helped make this event super smooth…
Anything else you’d like to share?
See you all next year!