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Gusty winds could give Iron Horse Bicycle Classic riders a boost Saturday morning

Road race and McDonald’s Citizen Tour begin at 7:30 and 8 a.m., respectively
Gusty winds are expected during the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race going between Durango and Silverton on Saturday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic competitors won’t likely have to worry about drizzly conditions Saturday, but they could face somewhat gusty conditions going up the mountain passes – which will fortunately be at their backs.

A cold front came through Southwest Colorado on Thursday, and a second front is expected to make its way through the San Juans on Saturday evening, bringing with it a chance of thunderstorms and isolated heavy rain showers around 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Clouds are also expected to pop up in the higher elevations during that time, and that storm system is expected to clear out overnight.

The IHBC road race and McDonald’s Citizen Tour begin at 7:30 and 8 a.m., respectively, on Saturday at the intersection of 33rd Street and East Second Avenue, just west of Animas City Park. Drivers should expect brief traffic delays Saturday morning along north Main Avenue, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

U.S. Highway 550 between Purgatory Resort and Silverton will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday for the race.

U.S. Highway 550 between Purgatory Resort and Silverton will be closed from 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race. (Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation)

Southbound traffic between Hermosa and Durango will be detoured from Highway 550 onto County Road 203 at Hermosa Creek to Animas View Drive, according to CDOT. Northbound traffic will move into the southbound lane of Highway 550 between northern city limits and Hermosa, then merge back into the northbound lane near the railroad tracks just north of Hermosa.

Erin Walter, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the Saturday morning forecast appears clear and calm, with the exception of some 15 to 20 mph winds coming in from the southwest traveling in a northerly direction at around 11 a.m. or noon. The higher elevations could see wind gusts closer to 30 mph by midafternoon.

“Unfortunately, not the best forecast for the bike race, but it does look like that clears out by Sunday,” she said. “… The sun’s warming up the ground, and we see those higher winds reach the surface. That’s when we tend to get the gusty conditions.”

Walter said the gusts will come as tail winds for riders, which could help the cyclists rather than hinder them.

“In the morning, they may be able to use that to their advantage to pedal uphill,” she said. “So, at least a southwest flow is in their favor.”

Should thunderstorms enter the picture around 3 p.m., per the forecast, Walter said outflows from that could accelerate the wind speed and make the direction a bit more “erratic.”

“In terms of wind direction, it gets pretty tricky, especially when you’re funneling through the higher terrain along 550,” she said.

Saturday morning temperatures in Durango are expected to be in the lower 40s, while it could dip to the freezing point, which is 32 degrees, in Silverton, Walter said. Low temperatures for Coal Bank and Molas passes – the mountain passes between Purgatory Resort and Silverton – will range from 30 to 32 degrees, but that’s usually around 6 a.m.

It is expected to warm up nicely as the day progresses.

Saturday afternoon’s highs are expected to be in the upper 60s for Durango and the upper 50s for Silverton, Walter said.

In the wake of the secondary front Saturday evening, Sunday morning’s temperatures are expected to be a bit colder, including a low of 39 degrees in Durango, around 30 degrees for the higher elevations and a low of 28 degrees for Silverton. Sunday’s high temperatures are expected to mirror Saturday’s forecast, Walter said.


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