Steamboat Springs One of the best things about the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series, said race organizer Gretchen Sehler, is that anyone can enter and it's as much of a social gathering as a competitive race.
The first race in the eight-race series is tonight at Howelsen Hill and features a 1.3-mile circuit course with less than 100 feet of vertical rise. The course cruises by the sulfur caves and Hobo Park and buzzes past the BMX track and the batting cages.
"You win recognition," Sehler said of the winners' spoils in each of the numerous racing classes.
The prizes are awarded in a drawing that all the racers are entered into.
"If you just enter the race, you have as good of a chance as someone who won the race to win a prize," she said.
Winners of each race earn points. The person with the most points in their class at the end of the summer is recognized as champion.
But the real purpose is to get people together to do some competitive racing for the enjoyment of the sport, Sehler said.
"The whole thing is pretty much a social get-together," she said.
Since the city of Steamboat Springs first adopted the race series in 1989 from a request of former local Rod Worrell, the series has grown from eight racers to more than a hundred.
"We've seen the race grow in numbers and also in the level of competition," said Chris Wilson, Steamboat Springs director of the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. "This is one of those things in our business where we get to see how people in the community run the other part of their lives."
The growth of the race is a reflection of the healthy lifestyles of people in Routt County, Wilson said.
About 90 percent of the racers in Town Challenge are locals, Sehler said.
The remaining 10 percent are usually people passing through town who find out about the race and want to participate.
"We just do it for the fun of it," six-year Town Challenge veteran Dave Miller said.
Miller races in the 50 and older class.
Each race costs $10 for preregistration or $15 the day of the race. People who want to race in all eight races can pay $70 for the season.
The second race in the series is the Mount Werner Hill Climb, on June 13.