Expo gets cycling spectators geared up in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Expo gets cycling spectators geared up in Steamboat Springs

Thousands pack downtown for vendors, music and people-watching

Nicole Inglis

SmartWool's Marketing Manager Gardner Flanigan blows up noise makers that the local company handed out at the finish line of Stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Friday in Steamboat Springs.

John F. Russell

— A group of Soda Creek Elementary School students had a tough morning Friday, spending their class time cutting out shapes and drawing on signs to display to the 120-plus pro cyclists who rode into Steamboat Springs for Stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

"From our pack to yours," the signs read.

"We're showing our school spirit for the bikers," gushed 10-year-old Delaney Ziegman. "We're really excited to hold up our signs. This is going to be so cool."

It was still hours before the riders would finish Stage 4 on Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat, but a several-block-long Lifestyle Expo and Sierra Nevada Beer Garden already had drawn thousands to Main Street in addition to the group of elementary school students.

Starting at Ninth Street, where a stage was set up and local band Loose Change rocked Jimmy Buffett tunes, the expo ran up until the finish line at Sixth Street, featuring 60 booths from national cycling and apparel companies and 25 local businesses ranging from real estate agencies to restaurants.

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Tie-dye clad volunteers poured beer after beer while spectators and their families milled around the street, keeping their eyes on one of the several large-screen TVs that broadcast coverage of the race as it inched closer to town.

"This is fantastic," said Steamboat second-home owner Berry Allen. "We love Steamboat, and it's a great place to have this race come."

He and his wife, Gail, said that in the 20-plus years they've been traveling to Steamboat, they've never seen an event on this scale, with its giant televisions, colossal archways and crowds of locals and out-of-towners.

"We're stunned," Gail Allen said. "We're really excited about the race."

Also in the "stunned" category was Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett, who was busy during the expo handing out brochures and answering questions for visitors.

"It's a year of planning that has finally paid off," Barnett said. "The people we've gotten at our booth, it's amazing so many of them have never been to Steamboat before. There's a lot of people from out of town. I'm in awe."

At one local vendor booth, Bob Yepello was methodically turning the crank on his manual-powered ice shaver, churning out pounds of refreshing frozen treats for the crowds basking under 80-plus degree skies.

"This is great. It brings a lot of business to Steamboat," he said.

His wife and Yepello Chocolate & Confections co-owner, Kelly, agreed.

"We were trying to be bike city, and now we are," she said.

With fewer than 30 minutes left before the cyclists crossed the finish line, most of the crowds had drifted as close to Sixth Street as they could.

But 10-year-old Wyatt Stempel still was entranced by the hand-cycle showcase booth, which gave him the opportunity to ride around on the type of reclined bicycle that professional paracyclists use.

"It's really fun," he said. "It's just like using your feet."

He said he liked biking because you can go off jumps and race, and he said he was mostly looking forward to the sprint for the finish line.

"I want to see who wins," he said. "I'm just going for whoever comes in first."

— To reach Nicole Inglis call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

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