Town Challenges Steamboats youths

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Sometimes sacrifices have to be made to mountain bike.

For Bryce Gordon, it meant giving up summers of baseball and soccer so that at the age of 12 he could concentrate on riding.

It was his decision, and he seems content with it.

In Wednesday's Howelsen Hill Circuit, Gordon finished first in the Youth 10-12 division with a time of five minutes, 30 seconds.

"This year I've been concentrating on my biking," Gordon said. "This is my first year seriously competing. My time has been spent training and racing."

Town Challenge race director Gretchen Sehler designs the youth courses and, like the longer adult versions, doesn't make them particularly easy for any racer, including the children.

Wednesday, the younger racers weren't free from the dust, either.

Adam Parke, 13, last year's overall winner in the 10-12 age division, wore a bright smile surrounded by a moustache and beard of dirt.

"It was like riding through a sand pit," Parke said. "Gretchen told us on Monday the course was flat. It wasn't."

Jamie Gay, third overall and the first girl across the line in the 10-12 division, is an avid mountain biker.

She and Parke have ridden Fruita's technical tracks together.

"Racing is fun," Gay said. "I don't train. I just ride a lot. I enjoy challenging myself."

Twenty riders age 8-15 took part in Wednesday's race. The children kick off each Town Challenge Series race with a 5:30 p.m. start. The race length and course difficulty changes with age.

Parke, Gordon and Gay are thankful Sehler takes time to set a course for them, allowing them to compete because the desire to ride hard and challenge oneself doesn't have a minimum age limit, at least not in Steamboat.

Wednesday's Howelsen Hill Circuit -- adult-version -- started behind the stables near the rodeo grounds and required riders, depending on division, to make one or two loops along Howelsen's tracks before finishing near the base of the ski jumps.

The haze that developed near the base of Howelsen Hill can be attributed to the dust kicked up by 181 registered participants in the fourth race of the year.

Kris Cannon won the women's expert division in 55:35 seconds and amazingly avoided caking her teeth with dust unlike many of her competitors.

But she was all smiles.

"The course was really good," she said. "Gretchen sets great courses. This time of year she can only do so much. She can't make it rain."

Cannon said for those interested in winning, as everyone in the expert division usually is, on a short track like Wednesday's, it's pointless to drop back to avoid inhaling dust kicked up from the bikes in front.

Besides, people come out for the enjoyment of competing, regardless of conditions.

"This is a fun thing to do in a town this size," Cannon said. "You meet so many people."

The next Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series race is the Mount Werner Sunshine Loop on July 23.

Racers can pre-register for the remaining four mountain bike races, including the Buffalo Pass Hill Climb, at the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation offices near the Howelsen Ice Arena.

Race day registration also is available, but riders are advised to show up in plenty of time to sign up, warm up and arrive at the finish line before your group takes off.

--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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