Steamboat Springs Nearly 145 mountain bikers took part in the opening race of the Town Challenge Series Wednesday, including a record number of youth riders.
Race director Gretchen Sehler said the Howelsen Hill Criterium was run under near ideal conditions. Wind speeds were minimal and the temperatures were perfect. Her lone complaint was the condition of the course, which was a tad dry because of the shortage of early spring precipitation.
Bikers turned the dirt into flying dust around 5:30 p.m. when the youth races got under way. Thirty-one boys and girls ranging in age from 7 to 16 took part in Wednesday's race a number that excited Sehler.
"This was the largest youth showing since I've been around," said Sehler, a 12-year worker for the Summer Series. "It's that innocent excitement. They are so into it so it's fun to watch them."
Sehler said she tries to emphasize fun rather than competition with the children by handing out a sweet post-race award to every participant.
"They all get Popsicles," Sehler said. "I don't know if some race for the schwag or for the Popsicles."
Winners in the children's groups were Bo Randolph, 14, in 7:33; Marty Cowell, 16, in 13:27; Emily Keiss, 14, in 13:05; Jackson Coe, 9, in 1:31; and Taylor Coe, 12, in 4:00. Those racers under the age of 16 obviously ran a modified course, while those ages 16 to 18 rode a shortened version of the adults' course.
Sehler said she was pleased with how the adults' races went as well. Those bikers over the age of 18 were required to complete four laps for a total of 10 miles on Howelsen Hill. Unlike many criterium races, Sehler said the appeal of Wednesday's race was the course design. Instead of trekking uphill then descending, Howelsen's race was marked up differently.
Each lap consisted of a first-quarter climb, a quarter stretch of rolling hills, more climbing, another quarter of rolling hills and a flat final stretch.
"It's one of our shorter races," Sehler said. "Everybody is getting back out and getting warmed up for the season. People were extremely excited and liked our new course."
Some impressive times were still turned in despite the newness of the mountain biking season.
Ian Prichard, 27, finished first overall in the Pro Open with a time of 44:45. In the Men's Expert division, the top finishers in each age group were as follows: Ian Roberson, 27, in 37:03; Jon Freckleton, 30, in 36:05; and Marc Sehler, 48, in 37:13.
The race's largest division continues to be the Men's Sport group, and to better accommodate the increasing number of participants, Sehler split the 30-39 group in half, dividing the field of 16 into eight.
Top finishers in each age group were Bucky Schafer, 21, 38:18; Kevin Hendrickson, 31, 39:02; Todd Wilson, 37, 41:27; John Cowell, 49, 38:53; and David Miller, 51, 42:56.
In the Men's Novice Division, Andy Pratt, 29, finished first in his age group with a 28:10. Walter Magill, 33, and Michael Peilet, 41, followed suit with 27:37 and 29:44, respectively.
Katherine Zambrana, 26, was the top finisher in the Women's Expert division with a 38:44. Kristen Cannon, 29, and Amy Brown, 32, crossed the line first in their groups with a 31:02 and a 29:21, respectively.
In the Women's Novice division, April Christie, 29, was tops in her age group with a 35:06, as was Stacy Cannon, 33, with a time of 30:44.
The next race in the Town Challenge Series is the Thunderhead Climb, which takes place on June 12. Those interested in registering can still call the Steamboat Rec Department at 879-4300.