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Sabotage deflates experience for Iron Horse Bicycle Classic riders

Sharp tacks scattered on road puncture tires for about 50 riders
About 50 riders in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic were forced to stop in the Animas Valley to fix flat tires caused by sharp tacks that someone scattered in the road Saturday morning. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The pedaling dreams of as many as 50 riders participating in the 52nd Iron Horse Bicycle Classic on Saturday were temporarily deflated by a tacky saboteur, it seems.

An unusually high number of riders got flat tires during the early miles of the race, and some reported finding metal-headed thumb tacks protruding from the rubber.

Colorado State Patrol Capt. Angela DeGuelle said patrollers responded to reports of thumb tacks on U.S. Highway 550 in two locations, one early in the race before the intersection with County Road 203, and another near Trimble Crossing.

The highway was closed to vehicles for the ride.

DeGuelle said initial reports indicated about six bicycles and four cars got flat tires – however, riders say there were many more, possibly over 50 IHBC participants, impacted.

Troopers had swept the road looking for debris before the start of the race, DeGuelle said, meaning the sudden appearance of the tacks appeared to be an intentional act of sabotage.

Colorado State Patrol is investigating allegations that someone spread industrial tacks along the route of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic on Saturday morning.

Michael Neukirch, of Lincoln, Nebraska, came to Durango to ride in the Citizen Tour with his daughter and a group of her co-workers, which included Ande Lloyd. In their party of eight people, five or six got flat tires, including Neukirch and Lloyd.

The party got a 6:52 a.m. start and made it about 2 miles from the start line – right where CR 203 intersects 550.

“All of a sudden I started seeing multiple people on the side of the road changing their tires,” Lloyd said.

Neukirch said it was “awfully odd” that there were so many riders with flats in the same spot.

It was around that point that he started to hear the “thwack, thwack, thwack” of something in his own tire.

Shortly thereafter, Lloyd heard the same. Both men made it a few more miles before their tires went fully flat and they had to stop. Neukirch was able to repair his bike and keep riding, but Lloyd was not.

Lloyd described finding an industrial, heavy-duty tack protruding from his wheel.

“I couldn’t get it out with my fingers, and so I ended up pulling it out with my teeth,” Neukirch said of the metal barb that punctured his tire.

Race Director Ian Burnett said the sabotage appears only to have impacted riders in the Citizen Tour who left the start line early. The first call reporting the interference was made at 6:29 a.m., according to a Sheriff’s Office call log. By the time the road race riders got in the saddle at 7:30 a.m., CSP troopers had cleared the highway.

Bike mechanics from Mountain Bike Specialists were able to assist some riders with tubes and other repair materials. Burnett said he received reports that 40 or 50 people got flats, however, some estimates have put the number over 100.

“The IHBC remains disappointed, yet mindful, (of) how this purposeful act caused many to have abruptly changed their long-term plans, objectives and goals,” Burnett said in a written statement.

The organization is working with CSP to investigate the matter, he said.

However, DeGuelle said there is little hope of catching the perpetrator.

“At this point, we don’t have any information to go any further with it,” she said.

Law enforcement will continue to investigate if more information surfaces. The perpetrator could be issued a citation for illegal dumping or could even face criminal mischief charges.

Although the motive for the crime remains unclear, Lloyd has a simple message: “Just get over it.”

“Let the bikers have their one day a year they can ride to Silverton,” he said. “Why the hate?”


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