The early spring snow and continued moisture caused Gretchen Sehler to sweat a bit, but warmer temperatures over the past several weeks have left the bottom portion of Howelsen Hill ready to host the first race in this year's Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series.
"Mother Nature always wins. We just get to play along," Sehler said.
Entering its 14th season, the Town Challenge series has grown from eight racers and four races to nearly 200 racers of all ages and abilities competing in an eight-race series.
"It's been quite popular," Sehler said. "People are getting excited about it and it seems to be a fun event for everybody. It's a good social time."
Tonight's race -- the Howelsen Hill Criterium -- is a 2.8-mile course that wraps around the bottom of Howelsen Hill, using Nordic trails, bike trails and pavement.
Each class will have its own start time, and laps will range from two for the novice women to four for the pro/open racers.
The race starts at 5:30 p.m. for the juniors and 6 p.m. for the adults. Participants can register at the race site for $15.
The growth of the mountain bike series in Steamboat is linked to the popularity of mountain biking in Northwest Colorado.
Unlike other race series in the state, Steamboat's is unique in that nearly every participant is from town or the surrounding area.
"You move to town ... and start riding and then racing," Sehler said. "We also have a couple kids racing and now their moms are racing. We have a family from Craig come and they might have four kids racing plus mom and dad. It's pretty neat."
One new addition in the race series this year is a Miller Lite course designed for riders who want a race atmosphere without the competition.
Sehler said logistics should be worked out by tonight's race.
"We are keeping times, but it's not a race format," Sehler said. "The objective is not to win but be a part of the race atmosphere."
The next race in the eight-race series is the Thunderhead Hill Climb on June 11 at the Steamboat Ski Area. Race times are the same.