Town Challenge ends with lightning, party

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Chris and Mary Ann Keiss looked at each other and thought about leaving before the slideshow and prize drawing. The couple and their four school-aged children -- all of whom race -- live in Craig, so they like to get the 45-minute drive over as soon as possible.

But Friday was different. It was the final post-race party of the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series season, and the Keisses decided to stick around and wrap up the summer the right way.

Good choice.

Chris Keiss wound up the big winner of the evening after his name was drawn for the Moots YBB frame, valued at $2,100. Steve Martinson's name was drawn first, but Martinson, also of Craig, had left early. A person had to be present to win.

Chris Keiss said he hasn't talked to Martinson to let him know what happened. He feels like it would be inappropriate, but that doesn't mean he isn't enjoying the win. Race director Gretchen Sehler said there wasn't a person upset that someone from the Keiss family walked away with the Moots.

"I think everyone was excited," she said.

No one more so than Keiss.

"It's far more than I had ever planned on getting or riding," Keiss said. "It's definitely a dream bike. I never thought or considered I'd get a bike that expensive or nice. I'm a mere mortal. Some of my competitors are going to be expecting more of me."

Even if Keiss came out next year and won his division, he wouldn't be the first Keiss to pick up an age division title. For the second-straight year, Emily Keiss, 16, won the youth girls 16 to 18 division, allowing her to compete next year for free.

All division winners' entrance fees are waived next season.

The Town Challenge Series wrapped up Friday with the Christi Criterium on Mount Werner. Rain and lightning delayed the start and forced Sehler to shorten the course, but more than 100 mountain bikers showed up to take part in the crit sprint and the post-race potluck/party/prize drawing extravaganza.

"I was blown away with the people we had," Sehler said.

Twenty-four age division winners were announced during Friday's party at Olympian Hall, including the eldest of the Keiss children.

One was previous winner Marc Sehler, 50, who began competing in 1989, the first year of the Town Challenge. At the time, it was only a four-series race, but Sehler has watched it go from a 10-race series to the popular 8-race series it is now. For the most part, his competitors have continued to watch Sehler climb past them. This year he won the men's expert 40+ division.

"I just like to ride," Sehler said. "There is always someone to race with and against. I like going out and riding hard. I'm not necessarily out there to win, but I'm out there to push myself."

Marin Campbell, 25, has discovered a sport that allows her to push herself, as well. This year was Campbell's second in the Town Challenge series, but she made the jump from novice last season to a champion in the women's sport 19 to 29 division this season.

"I rode a lot late last year and early this season, so I was ready for sport," Campbell said. "I thought this year I had a lot of women pushing me. I get all nervous, and I'm always looking over my shoulder.

But Campbell said she had to be honest, that even while competing in sport, she was eyeing the times of the expert women.

"I'm ready to race expert," she said. "I think I'll place last next year, but they'll push me."

Other winners included: Barkley Robinson (pro/open), Mark-O Ross-Bryant (men's expert 19 to 29), Brad Cusenbarry (men's expert 30 to 39), Karen Tremaine (women's expert), Mitch Hamilton (men's sport 19 to 29), Cactus Beauregard (men's sport 30 to 34), Matt Heydon (men's sport 35 to 39), Kris Boyce (men's sport 40 to 49), Steve Colby (men's sport 50+), Jody Corey (women's sport 30+), David Pressgrove (men's novice 19 to 29), David Rudnick (men's novice 30 to 39), Michael Malone (men's novice 40+), Kim Boyce (women's novice 30 to 39), Michelle Isaeff (women's novice 40+), Jamie Gay (youth girls 13 to 15), Wiley Thayer (youth boys 13 to 15), Sean Geisler (kids 10 to 12) and Trent Naused (kids 9 and younger).

There was no winner in the youth boys 15 to 18 division because no racer entered the minimum four races this season.

In addition to handing out individual division awards, the race organizers were busy giving away other honors and prizes Friday night.

Kris Boyce won a trip to Las Vegas given by KIDN, a radio station, and Brian Paul (men's expert) and David Rudnick won 20-day ski passes from the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

Sehler thanked the local businesses for getting behind the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series, as well as the other local series in town. It isn't uncommon for prize drawings to include items from Steamboat-based businesses such as Smartwool, Bap, Honeystinger and Moots.

Awards also were handed out for those who put some effort into their potluck dishes. The post-race party included a potluck dinner, and racers were responsible for contributing the items.

The award for best appetizers went to Ian Prichard for his Triscut surprise and Kelly and Peter Boniface for their crustinis.

Steve Fleckenstein received top honors in the entree category for his spicy tortilla soup. The top dessert, as voted on by partakers, was Bridget Kelly's chocolate cheesecake.

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