Steamboat Springs Increasing interest in the Town Mountain Bike Summer Series has forced director Gretchen Sehler to make a few alterations heading into this season.
Nearly 200 bikers entered each race in 2001, and Sehler said she expects that number to be "at least that and probably more" heading into the upcoming13th season of the summer series, so she is adding new divisions to create 11 adult classes.
Instead of one men's 30-39 sport division, there will now be a 30-34 and 35-39 division. There will also be some modifications to the way the kids are separated.
Also new to the summer series this year are the 13-15 and 16-18 boys and girls groups.
"It's getting more and more popular," Sehler said.
The eight-race mountain bike racing series begins Wednesday with the Howelsen Hill Criterium. All of the competitions, except the season's final race will be held on alternating Wednesday evenings at either Howelsen Hill or Mt. Werner. The final race of the year, the Mt. Werner Criterium will be on Friday, Sept. 6.
Registration has already begun for the season's first race and for each subsequent race.
Those interested in purchasing a pass into the entire season of the summer series can do so at the Steamboat recreational offices for $70.
Otherwise, individual bikers can enter on a race-by-race basis if they so desire for $10 if registered early, or $15 on the day of the race.
The competitive side of the summer series is similar to that of the local running series in that racers are trying to accumulate points over the course of the season.
Sehler said each race winner is individually acknowledged and prizes are drawn for all those that enter the contest after each event, but those looking to win the overall title are fighting for finishing points every other week.
The overall winner receives free entry into the 2003 Town Mountain Bike Summer Series slate of events.
"And they are also competing for pride," Sehler said with a smile. "Mountain biking is becoming more and more popular. It's gotten to really be hot stuff."
Sehler said she believes the reason mountain bike racing has grown over the duration of its 13 years in Steamboat is the level of organization, support and sponsorship that goes into each event from the rec department through the community ranks.
After each race, there is a post-event party at a local restaurant where bikers can enjoy drink and food specials, as well as win prizes.
Wednesday marks the opening of the season with the kids' races scheduled to begin around 5:30 p.m.
The adults will follow at 6 p.m. at Howelsen Hill.
Sehler said the course is slightly different this year compared to past events because she tried to incorporate some of the new Nordic trails.
The adults and the 16-18 kids division will start next to the tennis courts and eventually work as high as Horse Pond before riding over towards HoBo Park and returning on the road between the ball diamonds to the parking lot and the start/finish line.
Adults will make 2-4 laps, while the kids will ride a shortened version of the course.
A map and course directions are available on the recreation portion of Steamboat's town web site at www.steamboat-springs.net.
People with questions or those interested in registering or volunteering to help set and supervise the courses are asked to call 879-4300.