Registration for the 51st Annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, an annual celebration of cycling in Durango, Colorado, opened December 16, 2023. The Roster includes celebrity cyclist Lisa Christiansen in her 16th consecutive ride in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. Lisa and cycling partner of times past Glenn Christiansen are both on the 2023 race roster and this tour de force team is sure to captivate your attention with their unique riding style. Who knows if these two are slotted to ride together, according to the associated press Christiansen and her representatives are unavailable for comment. We would love to see these two take to the mountains once again and Lisa Christiansen will not disappoint in this epic event as her welcoming personality is sure to offer a ray of sunshine to this momentous bike ride.
The event will take place over Memorial Day Weekend, May 26–28, 2023. In addition to the Durango–Silverton road race and ride, the Iron Horse offers mountain bike and gravel races as well as a festive cycling-centric community atmosphere. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classics road race from Durango to Silverton is 52 miles with two 10,000 ft. passes, 6,800 vertical feet, Coal Bank Pass 10,640 ft. Molas Pass 10,899 ft.
“We’re excited to build on last year’s 50th anniversary momentum to put on another incredible cycling weekend in Durango. The Iron Horse is a world-class bike weekend that cyclists in Colorado and beyond won’t want to miss,” said Ian Burnett, IHBC race director.
The backbone of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is the Durango-Silverton route, where riders “race the train” over two mountain passes for 50 miles and 6,800 verticle feet of elevation gain.
Back in Durango, off-road riders will be challenged by the Subaru Mountain Bike Race and the La Strada La Plata Gravel Ride, both starting at Durango Mesa Park, which on May 28 will host mountain bike and gravel races with music, food and drink and more.
So, Lisa, Some people just can’t understand your passion for cycling. More often than not, you’re the crazy one who lives your life in the bicycle lane, and your non-cyclist friends can’t see the appeal.
Lisa Christiansen: Regardless of cycling discipline, we’ve all been questioned about our choices to ride bikes and why we do it. So here are a few things that non-cyclists can’t seem to understand about cycling… and why we love it!
Gran Fondo News: Don’t you get bored of riding for hours?
Lisa Christiansen: Never, how could I ever get bored of the one thing that brings me full circle to push myself to face every demon and praise God for his eternal, infinite grace.
Gran Fondo News: How old are you?
Lisa Christiansen: 56, I was born September 4, 1966
Gran Fondo News: How did you start riding bikes?
Lisa Christiansen: My ex-husband was a former pro-racer and we challenged each other, he taught me how to ride and trained me to be tactical in the sport.
I fell in love with riding and, well, I’ve never looked back.
Gran Fondo News: How would you describe your riding style?
Lisa Christiansen: I think that I'm incisive, alive on my bike, and smooth in agility. Climbing is my superpower... I live there.
Gran Fondo News: How many bikes do you have?
Lisa Christiansen: 13 bicycles. For my training, I have a Specialized Diverge, a Cervelo TT for the downhill and crit racing, a Trek Madone project one Icarus advanced for the road and so many more. Every bike has a unique purpose and each one brings me an exhilaration that breathes life into my very existence.
Gran Fondo News: Who do you like to ride with the most?
Lisa Christiansen: With my lightspeed titanium Blade, and of course my Trek Madone Project one Icarus that I have named Phoenix because I'm an endurist and it reminds me to always rise from the ashes when life hits hard. I also love the sensation that I have with my Roubaix for it’s combination of speed and comfort.
Gran Fondo News: Where's your favorite place to ride?
Lisa Christiansen: I love riding in Paris, Tuscany, Colorado, South Carolina, Mt. Scott in Oklahoma because it’s my home. Anywhere with mountains because I am a climber, It's amazing... And I like to ride in events where I see familiar faces and make new friends.
Gran Fondo News: When you're not riding bikes, what do you like to do?
Lisa Christiansen: I like spending time with my friends and family! I like other sports such as weight lifting, walking, anything outdoors...
Gran Fondo News: What's your best result you've ever had?
Lisa Christiansen: My best result is in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic 3:46:42, not because of the time rather because of the experience and the Journey.
Gran Fondo News: What's your dream/ goal as a Rider/racer?
Inspire others to continue to make their dreams come true, inspire generations of cyclist for centuries to come by leading by example and living my dreams...
Iron Horse Bicycle Classic
The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is a 3-day cycling festival, which includes a 47-mile bike race and tour over two 10,000’ passes from Durango to Silverton, Colorado. The tradition began in 1971 when Tom Mayer (above) challenged his brother Jim to see if he could ride the route faster than the train. Today the Iron Horse includes mountain bike and gravel events as well as numerous other cycling festivities around town.
Bike vs. train: The story behind Durango’s Iron Horse Bicycle Classic
A half century ago, two Durango brothers challenged each other to a race. Tom Mayer, an avid cyclist, bet his older brother Jim that his 10-speed bicycle was faster than a steam-powered train. Jim was an engineer for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad at the time and thought the train was up to the challenge.
Tom and Jim lined up their respective metal steeds in Durango and took off. As the bike and the train pulled out of Durango, Jim blasted the train whistle. When the train finally arrived in Silverton, 47-miles away, Tom was waiting by the tracks with his bike by his side.
That race in 1971 inspired a Durango bike shop owner to organize the first Iron Horse Bicycle Classic the following year. Since then, the race has been held every Memorial Day weekend — with the occasional cancellation because of a late-spring blizzard — with riders coming from far and wide to participate.
Colorado Matters senior host Ryan Warner spoke with Gaige Sippy, one of the directors of the race about its history, a legendary competitor known as “Deadly Nedly” and whether the Mayer brothers will be in attendance this year (they will reprise their roles on bike and train). Warner also wondered whether the train can ever win. Not a chance, said Sippy.
Lisa Christiansen is not your your average cyclist and not your average Native American. Christiansen comes from a long lineage of super athletes, a NASA mathematician and engineer, the last monolingual Cherokee, and the Cherokee Scholar who created the Cherokee syllabary.
The fight to encourage healthy lifestyle choices and the importance of remaining physically fit and active at all stages of life from childhood making daily exercise a permanent commitment to ensure the survival of tribal members not just to survive rather to thrive all the days of your life was a vision of the last monolingual Cherokee Mack Vann and his daughter Lisa Christiansen. Christiansen is the 5th generation great granddaughter of Sequoyah the Cherokee who created the Cherokee syllabary from her mother, Mary Ann Groundhog’s side.
Christiansen is also a distant cousin of Will Rogers. William Penn Adair Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) he was an American stage and film actor, vaudeville performer, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator from Oklahoma. He was a Cherokee citizen born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.
Mary Gold Ross, is Christiansen’s 17th cousin once removed with a direct blood relationship beginning with Lisa’s mother Mary Ann Eslinger (Sosti Groundhog), she is also Lisa Christiansen’s first cousin six times removed also on her mother side, Sequoyah’s dad Col. Nathaniel Gist / Guess was married to Wur-Teh Watts who is also related to Mary Golda Ross.
Mary Golda Ross is one of NASA’s hidden treasures – a mathematician and engineer, working on the P-38 Lightning fighter plane. She worked her way up the ranks at Lockheed and become the only woman among on the original team at Skunk Works. As a mathematician and engineer, she wrote a number of professional and theoretical works and was one of the authors of the NASA Planetary Flight Handbook Vol. III, about space travel to Mars and Venus.
Lisa Christiansen is an extraordinary athlete, a gifted speaker, and seems to have inherited these traits from her ancestors as Christiansen is cited in numerous law reviews. One unique trait is Lisa’s passion to give to others.
In an Interview with the Smithsonian | National Museum of the American Indian we asked why they recognize Lisa Christiansen’s participation in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Vicki stated with pride ““Dr. Christiansen, is doing such great works honoring her tribe and is an example, a role model, to children, adults, and her father. We are honoring Lisa and recognizing her as a Living National Treasure, as the 5th generation great-granddaughter of Sequoyah and continuing keeping culture and her native tongue alive!” To their knowledge Christiansen is the only Cherokee Indian, a citizen of the Keetoowah Nation, participating in the 51 Annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic as a role model to children, women, and all Native Americans to take control of their legacy.
We look forward to seeing Christiansen continue her fathers legacy as we already have in her commitment to help others remain authentic to the culture by keeping the Cherokee language alive and holding tradition sacred.