When Gretchen Sehler is out and about on the trails of Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain, her mind is designing courses constantly.
It helps that she knows the downtown mountain better than most people in Steamboat Springs do, but she always is seeking to be creative and give Town Challenge mountain bike racers the perfect course.
"I wiggle things here and there," she said. "I go, 'I haven't used this trail. How can I tie this trail in? I haven't come down this way or we haven't used that one in years.' I have a few targeted trails I want to use, and it's how I can wind these others together."
Tonight's Dog Days of Summer Cross Country is the final race of the 2004 Town Challenge Series on Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain. After tonight's race, there are only two left -- the Buffalo Pass Hill Climb and the Mount Werner Criterium.
"I hope it's a popular one," Sehler said of tonight's race. "We are riding all the new trails."
The expansion and renovation of the trails on Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain has enabled Sehler to put together longer courses, something riders have asked for. In the past, courses more than 10 miles long would have been difficult to string together without going straight up and down several times.
Tonight, the pro/open and expert riders will ride more than 10 miles. The sport men and women and novice men will ride nearly 9.5 miles. The novice women and youth 16 to 18 will ride 8 miles and the youth 13 to 15 and Miller Lite riders will ride 5.5 miles.
In addition to meeting riders' desires, Sehler also is concerned with meeting riders' standards. She must take all ability levels into consideration when designing courses.
"I don't like someone coming up fast one me, just as pro riders don't like to come up on a slow rider," Sehler said. "With novice doing shorter courses, I have to get experts passing through so they are ahead the whole way, so they aren't coming up behind them. This is a length of course I can do and have it logistically work out."
The children will begin at 5:30 p.m. tonight behind the Howelsen Hill Lodge. Adults will begin at 6 p.m., though the final start order and times have not been set.
The pro and expert men and women are the only riders who will have to ride Stairway to Heaven and Root Canal.
This race also is the first time Sehler has sent riders through Heart Field.
Early registration is closed, but riders may register to compete today. Registration is $15 for adults and $10 for youths younger than 18. Registration begins at 5 p.m. at the Howelsen Lodge.