Steamboat Springs The opening race of the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race series is always a popular one.
Last year, more than 120 racers showed up for the opening event at the Skyline trail despite threatening skies that eventually gave way to a spring thunderstorm.
The year's first race will take place at Howelsen Hill tonight starting at 5:45 p.m.. While organizers are hoping for better weather than last year, they are expecting another large crowd for the opener.
The criterium format race will take riders around the base of Howelsen and will utilize the already-dry lower mountain trails, the BMX track and even the pavement of the parking lot.
The juniors will hit the course first at 5:45 p.m. and will race up to two laps. All of the novice riders will start at 6 p.m. and will race 20 minutes, plus two laps.
The women's experts, men's and women's sport classes will hit the dirt at 6:30 and will race 25 minutes, plus two laps.
The final group, the expert men, will start at 7 p.m. Those riders will complete 30 minutes of racing plus two laps.
"This will be a high-paced race which is very spectator friendly, so come on out and cheer on your favorite racer, " race director Gretchen Sehler said.
In this format, racers will be pulled during the course of the race if they are lapped by the leaders. Sehler said this makes the race more exciting since the first rider to cross the finish line in the final lap will be the winner.
A post-race party will be held at the Chart House following the race.
Sehler said participants can save money by registering at the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreational Services Department before noon today for $10. Riders can also register at the race site from 5 p.m. until 5:45 p.m. for $15.
Last year, Ben Zambrana topped the men's expert class in the season opener. His sister, Katherine Zambrana, recorded the fastest women's time in a race that was shortened by rain and lightning.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org