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For more than three decades, cyclists have pedaled their way through some of Colorado’s most beautiful—and intense—mountain terrain as part of the Ride the Rockies ride, stopping at host communities along the way. Tour organizers announced Saturday that this year’s six-day, 418-mile loop will begin and end in Durango, and for the first time the roughly 2,500 riders will stop in Norwood, an off-the-beaten-path town with fewer than 1,000 residents.
Norwood doesn’t boast the name recognition of other communities along the route like Cortez, Ridgway, or Ouray, as it’s not an obvious destination for visitors to the San Juan Mountains, many of whom flock to cities like Telluride. But for the ride organizers, including Norwood allowed them to lengthen the third day of the tour (103 miles) which ends with a steep climb up Norwood Hill. It also offers fresh scenery for riders who do the tour every year.
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“Norwood became a really attractive option,” says route coordinator Jason Sumner. “The community ended up being really gracious and excited to have us, and at the same time it introduces everyone who rides the tour to a part of Colorado they’ve probably never been to.”
The town of 762 full-time residents doesn’t have the robust tourism infrastructure of nearby communities, and as such it doesn’t have the hotel beds necessary to accommodate all riders and their families when the tour comes through. Some riders will camp (which is common on the tour) and others will sleep in a yurt village brought in by the tour organizers. Regardless of where riders sleep, community members are eager to see thousands of new people come through Norwood.
“I think that economically it’s going to be a boon,” says Patti Grafmyer, a town administrator for Norwood. “And socially, we’ll be able to showcase what we have to offer here and hopefully those riders who come through will put Norwood down as a place that they want to come back and visit.”
The nearby San Miguel River is a draw for fishing, plus the area features miles of mountain biking and hiking trails that are sometimes overlooked. Moreover, Norwood was recently named an international Dark Sky Community, the first on Colorado’s Western Slope to receive the designation.
“It’s something I look for every year,” says Deirdre Moynihan, Ride the Rockies tour director. “Part of what we do is to showcase new areas and places where we haven’t been.”
If You Go: The 2020 tour begins and ends in Durango and will run from June 14 to 19, stopping in the host towns of Cortez, Norwood, and Ridgway. For more route information and to register for the tour, visit the tour website.