For many mountain bike racers in the Town Challenge Series, tonight's race is the longest and most popular of the summer.
The Mount Werner Sunshine Loop covers 14 miles for those in the pro/open, men's expert and men's sport 19 to 49 divisons. Those riders will ascend Valley View and ride the Sunshine Loop near the top of the ski mountain before descending Zig Zag.
In addition to being the longest race, tonight's race also will be the most beautiful -- if anyone cares, race director Gretchen Sehler said
"Man, the wildflowers up there are awesome," Sehler said. "It's not like they will be seeing them, but Sunshine is in awesome shape."
The racers in the men's sport 50-plus and novice divisions, as well as the expert and sport women, will do a 10-mile gondola loop ride. The women's novice riders will ride four miles on the Sitz/Yoo Hoo loop, and the younger riders will do a series of loops near the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.
The children start things off at 5:30 p.m. today. The adults begin at 6 p.m. All riders will begin and end in Gondola Square. Race day registration is $15 for adults and $10 for youths.
The Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series is at the mid-way point, as is the summer tourist season. Despite heavy traffic on the ski area's trails, Sehler said the riders should enjoy the condition of the trails.
She attributed the quality of the trails to the summer rains that have helped keep the dirt compact and intact.
"Yoo Hoo is in as good a shape as I've ever seen it this time of year," Sehler said. "Valley View is in pretty decent shape. It holds up to gondola traffic better than Zig Zag. (Zig Zag) is a little stutter bumpy, but it adds the challenge. Above the gondola you are away from the traffic, and you can tell the difference in the trails."
The Mount Werner Hill Climb, the first race of the season on Mount Werner, usually attracts one of the largest riding field of the season, but tonight's Sunshine Loop ride is also among the most popular for area bikers.
"The racers, people I've seen around town, said this is their favorite race," Sehler said. "They get to compare times against last year's race. It has, by going up Valley View, that challenge, and they like the length."