A tricky Town Challenge

Riders in Thursday's race might want to take practice runs

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— Gretchen Sehler spends the weekend before a Town Challenge mountain bike race setting the course, giving race participants ample time for practice rides.

Anyone planning on taking part in Thursday's Bluffs Cross-Country race on Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain might want to take advantage of their trial rides.

For the race, Sehler has set eight courses based on ability. Though the trails are clearly marked, a rider could end up taking a wrong turn costing time and possible points.

"My courses on Emerald are never the same," Sehler said. "Every turn is marked but since I have eight courses, if you don't pre-ride you might have to stop at intersections and read the directions."

The eight courses were required for the safety of riders. The professional and expert divisions are riding a challenging 10.5-mile course, using the Stairway to Heaven and Root Canal trails.

Less-skilled riders would have a difficult time navigating those, and Sehler isn't interested in riders exceeding their technical abilities during a Town Challenge race. Instead she has designed a course challenging for each level from professional to novice.

"It's one, big long loop for everyone," Sehler said. "This is one of the longest races of the year. There are some pretty technical single-track down hills. This is more for your overall rider, not just your specialist."

Thursday's race starts at 5:30 p.m. for the youth near the Howelsen Hill Lodge. Adults begin in waves about 6 p.m. The course begins at the base of Howelsen Hill and works its way over to Emerald Mountain, using the new Nordic trails that have added more mileage to Sehler's courses.

"Anytime you can ride a different trail it's kind of fun," she said. "It opens up more areas where I can link loops in different areas. I love it. To me, the more trails, the better off we are."

Preregistration is available through 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation office near the Howelsen Ice Arena. Adults can pre-register for $11 and $6 for youths.

Race-day registration is available until 5:45 p.m. at the Howelsen Lodge. Registration cost on race-day is $15 for adults and $10 for children.

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