Routt roadies keep thin-wheel tradition alive

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Every Tuesday night, a small group of dedicated cyclists arrive at the Orange Peel Bicycle Shop to carry on a tradition founded on two thin wheels.

These riders know they are a minority in mountain-bike happy Steamboat. It's doubtful that road cycling will ever match the popularity of its high-altitude cousin in this community.

But that hasn't stopped Steamboat resident Jon Cariveau and 15 to 20 other riders from discovering some of the best road riding opportunities anywhere in the state. They meet at 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday to ride.

"Everyone knows that Steamboat is a great mountain biking town, but a few of us have discovered some great road rides out there, as well," Cariveau said.

Cariveau said the group is normally littered with elite riders such as Ian Prichard, Barkley Robinson and Dave Fisher who are competing across the state in high-level races. Prichard is a Category I rider, which means he is just one step below the professionals. The Category I and pro groups normally start and finish the race at the same time -- the only difference is that the pros get paid to compete.

Prichard owns Black Tie Ski Rentals, a ski rental business that delivers skis to the renter's door in Steamboat. He said the business allows him to focus on racing in the summer as a member of Team Schwab/Torelli Cycles, and make some money in the winter.

But Cariveau maintains that Steamboat's weekly rides are normally low key, socially motivated events formed around a love of road bikes.

Prichard agrees.

"I think there are a lot more cyclists out there who like to ride road bikes, but they may feel intimidated about coming out to the weekly rides," Cariveau said. "They shouldn't be. It's not like we are out there to race or leave anyone in the dust."

He said it's just a chance for riders to get out and enjoy a friendly ride with other cyclists who enjoy the sport.

Prichard normally gets his fill of competitive riding on the circuit from January through April. The last two years, he has warmed up for the season with his teammate, Robinson at the Tour of the Gila, a five-day, national-level race in New Mexico.

"We go down there with the idea that it is a training camp," the 27-year-old Prichard said. "It's a great way to get into shape."

After that, the life of a road racer takes them exactly where you would guess -- on the road.

Prichard said he travels to events in the Denver and Boulder area regularly. He also spends a lot of time driving to regional and national events.

He says driving is worth it because Steamboat is a great place to live and train. He said rides, such as the 115-mile Gore Pass Gruel, are easy to access here in Steamboat. There are also plenty of country roads to get away from traffic.

He also said there are a number of other talented riders who live in this area and travel regularly to other races. He said seeing Cariveau, Fisher and Fisher's wife, Sara, and other Steamboat riders at an event is not uncommon.

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