Racers licking lips for Lamb Chop

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— In a comic tribute to the sheep that have made a home on Emerald Mountain this summer, Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series director Gretchen Sehler has named the next race the Lamb Chop Cross Country.

Just as sheep tend to follow each other and stay in a group, the mountain bikers taking part in the fourth race of the series will leave en masse from the start area near Howelsen Hill on Wednesday. The long course, however, figures to separate the riders quickly.

"This is the longest race we've ever done on Howelsen," Sehler said.

In addition to picking up a new name, the cross country race will feature 1.5 miles of new trail for riders to try out. The Community Youth Corps constructed the new Lupine Loop from the gas line to the top of Loop 3.

"It's somewhat technical," Sehler said. "It doesn't go straight and the grade has been reduced but it winds and changes direction. It has some technical turns in there which is kind of fun. It's definitely a new trail. The (Community Youth Corps members) worked their tails off, and I'm pretty proud of them."

The pro/open, and expert riders will complete 10.93 miles. The sport and men's novice riders will complete 8.72 miles. The course for the women's novice and juniors ages 16 to 18 is 6.2 miles, while the juniors ages 13 to 15 and the Miller Lite riders will complete 4.33 miles.

Children ages 10 to 12 will ride 1.5 miles, and riders 9 and younger will ride .25 miles.

"The kids have asked me to do a longer course," Sehler said of the increased distances for the youth rides. "I'll take feedback, but sometimes when you are trying to link, you have to do a certain distance to get back to the bottom."

The youth will climb no higher than the top of the chairlift on Howelsen Hill. The Pro/open and expert riders, however, will climb to the top of Emerald Mountain on the Lane of Pain.

"The skills have to be more balanced in a cross country race," Sehler said. "You have to have good climbing and good descending skills."

Early registration for Wednesday's race is available until 5 p.m. today at the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation office near the Howelsen Ice Arena. People registering early will pay $11 for adults and $6 for children, which is any rider in the junior divisions.

On race day, it's $15 for adults and $10 for juniors at the Howelsen Lodge.

The children are scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. at the base of Howelsen Hill. The adults, beginning with the pro/open and expert divisions, will take off at 6 p.m.

"It's been going real well," Sehler said of the summer mountain bike series. "The trails have been awesome, just absolutely awesome. With the rain, it has kept the dust down and it's been great riding."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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