Biking the day away

24-hour race ends at noon today

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It was seven minutes before the inaugural Rio Grande 24 Hours of Steamboat was scheduled to start, and each racer responsible for the first lap -- or all the laps in the case of the solo riders -- was at the start line.

There they stood. Five minutes. Two minutes. 30 seconds. Go. And the nearly 50 mountain bikers took off running in the Le Mans start. It separated the group slightly. The first lap -- a climb to the top of Thunderhead and a quick descent back down -- did the rest.

After the first lap and the first hour in The Rio 24 Hours of Steamboat, Team Pampers had a narrow lead courtesy of Jon Cariveau's stellar downhill ride. He has climbed Mount Werner hundreds of times but admitted that his ride Saturday had a unique feel.

"Looking back and seeing that many people come up Mount Werner is pretty awesome," Cariveau said.

The 24 Hours of Steamboat mountain bike race began at noon Saturday and ends at noon today. It's the first of its kind in Steamboat, and judging by the enthusiasm shown from the bikers and spectators -- albeit early in the event -- it has been well received.

By Saturday afternoon, the base of the Steamboat Ski Area was littered with color and color commentary. Tents had been set up to allow the riders a base area to sleep, eat and get out of the sun.

Some riders, however, are doing the race solo and without sleep.

Katie Lindquist, a veteran of 24-hour races and one of the race organizers, said bikers can't train for sleep deprivation, but Cariveau said he and his three teammates on Team Pampers -- Billy Van Ness, Mark Runinski and Rob Orozco -- have come close.

"We are Team Pampers because all four of us are new dads within the last 12 months," Cariveau said.

But children aren't just watching the 24 Hours of Steamboat this year. Five -- Adam Parke, Bryce Gordon, Greg Ingalls, Wiley Thayer and Peter Daley -- are riding in it. Gordon, 12, got things going for The Flying Flapjacks on Saturday afternoon, climbing to the top of the gondola and back down in roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes.

"It's not normally where we ride," Gordon said of Mount Werner. "We ride up Emerald or up Mad Creek or in Moab. This is mainly for the fun of it."

While some may not necessarily consider 24 hours of mountain bike racing "fun," there are plenty of people in Steamboat and surrounding areas who could think of no better way than on a bike to spend a Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, Saturday late night, Sunday early morning or Sunday morning.

Fans are encouraged and welcome to come out this morning to cheer on the cyclists through the final hours of the race. A post-race party featuring Worried Men is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at the base of the ski area. Prizes and awards will be handed out at that time.

The mountain bike trails will remain closed to the public until the race is completed.

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

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