Facing the Challenge

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— The first race of the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series is just more than two weeks away, but many local cyclists are already pumped to get going.

"I'm exited to get back at it again," mountain biker Jamie Morgan said. "I know a lot of locals who are traveling to out-of-town races and I've seen a lot of new people out on training rides, so I think everybody is pretty pumped."

For those locals who have that fat tire twitch, the local racing series will begin May 30 with the Howelsen Criterium.

"This is the second time we will start off at Howelsen," said Gretchen Sehler, race director. "We started there last summer and it was very popular."

In fact, the entire Town Challenge series continued to grow in popularity in 2000. An average of 162 riders took part in each event and the series recorded 1,298 starts during the summer.

The largest race drew 203 riders to Mount Werner in June for a hill-climb event. Other races in the series include criteriums and circuit races.

The eight-race series will begin May 30 and continue every other Wednesday (weather permitting) during the summer. The final event of the year will be the Buffalo Pass Hill Climb on Sept. 7, which is the only Friday night race in the series.

"I think there are some bigger series in other towns like Winter Park and Vail, but this is a quality event which draws lots of local riders," Morgan said. "It's just a lot of fun."

Morgan said that there are a lot of top-level riders in Steamboat and many of those same riders are competing in expert and pro divisions in the National Off Road Bike Association (NORBA) sanctioned events around the state and the region.

"The level of competition is very high in this series," Morgan said. "It's a great training tool for those of us who like to go to bigger races on the weekend. I can't go out on a normal ride and train at the same intensity (as when I take part in one of these events). "

Despite the large number of top level riders here in Steamboat, Sehler has designed the local series to appeal to a wide range of talent and ages.

There are five novice ( three men and two women), six sport ( four men and two women) and four experts ( 3 men and one women) divisions in the local mountain biking series. There is also an open pro class. This year the series will also offer more for the young riders as it increased the number of youth divisions to four.

Points for race finishes are kept throughout the season and division and overall winners are named at an awards banquet following the last race of the season.

Morgan said Steamboat has a large group of cyclist who are strong supporters of the event here in Steamboat. He also thinks the series will continue to grow this year.

Also new this year, riders can log onto the web at www.ci.steamboat. co.us and check out the latest race results and get information on upcoming events.

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