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Iron Horse Bicycle Classic co-founder Ed Zink dies at 71

Ed Zink, co-founder of Durango's Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, has died at age 71.

Ed Zink, the co-founder of the iconic Colorado bicycle race the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, has died at age 71. The news was reported by the Durango Herald.

Zink was a cornerstone of the cycling community in Durango, a hotbed for American mountain bike and road cycling. He owned a local bike shop, called Mountain Bike Specialists, and also led the project to bring the first UCI World Mountain Bike Championships to Durango in 1990.

Zink also organized that event, which helped cement Durango’s spot as a global mountain biking destination.

It was the Iron Horse Classic road race that first propelled Zink to prominence in the cycling community. The race was born from a challenge between brothers Tom and Jim Mayer in 1971. Tom Mayer bet Jim he could ride his bicycle from Durango to Silverton faster than the train that connected the two towns. Jim was the brakeman on the train.

Tom Mayer beat the train, and decided to turn the challenge into a race.

Zink became involved in the event in 1972 after Tom Mayer approached him for help turning the challenge into an organized event. According to a blog post written by Mayer, Zink helped convince local authorities to let the event use the highway to Silverton.

“Ed was able to convince them how much benefit this would have for Durango,” Mayer wrote.

Under Zink’s leadership the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic grew into a regular event on the long Memorial Day weekend, and the race grew to have a professional category, as well as amateur fields. The race also supports a mountain bike race.

A lifelong Durango resident, Zink was named Citizen of the Year in 2005 by the Colorado town. In 2018 Colorado Governor John HIckenlooper named March 1 as Ed Zink day to commemorate Zink’s efforts for the state’s cycling culture. Zink’s bike shop was also named the Best Mountain Bike Shop in the United States at the Interbike trade show.

The Iron Horse Classic’s list of winners includes Mara Abbott, Rishi Grewal, Ned Overend, Juli Furtado, Lennard Zinn, and Howard Grotts, among others.