Challenge turns sweet 16

Annual mountain bike series begins May 25

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Gretchen Sehler has wa--tch--ed the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series grow from eight riders a race to nearly 200 a decade later.

To continue accommodating the growing number of bikers, Sehler, the director for the past 11 years, has made several changes heading into the 16th season of the popular summer series.

First, the new children's classifications are 8 and younger; ages 9 and 10; ages 11 and 12; and ages 13 to 15. The increased interest of younger mountain bikers prompted the added youth class.

"I think it's just awesome that the interest is there," Sehler said. "The more kids that come, then we will separate out classes."

Sehler also has separated the Men's Expert division into ages 30 to 34 and ages 35 to 39 to reflect the growing interest in that classification, as well.

The Town Challenge series has divisions for riders of all ages and ability levels. Last year, there was waning interest in the novice division, and Sehler wanted to remind riders that the series is open to everyone.

"I think it's a hugely social event," she said. "It's a friendly atmosphere, and everybody waits until everybody finishes before they go on."

She also is keeping the introductory race division, which was known as the Miller Lite division. A name has not been set for this season.

Every race ends with a party and a prize drawing, which is open to all who registered.

Sehler has been out checking the status of the mountain bike trails in the area, but nothing is ready to ride.

"They are easily three weeks away," she said. "We didn't get a lot of snow this winter, but it stayed cold in the spring."

People are reminded that riding wet trails causes permanent damage to the trails.

The Town Challenge series uses Emerald Mountain, How--elsen Hill, Steamboat Ski Area and the roads to Buffalo Pass.

Sehler had wanted to eliminate the Buff Pass Hill Climb this season because of weather concerns and logistical issues that come about from having such a difficult race late in the season at higher elevations.

She struck a compromise, however, when surveys from last season came back showing overwhelming support for the race.

"This year, everybody will start down low and finish at Dry Lake, then that way, we can have a finish at the second gate, and I don't have to take people up higher if the weather is nasty," Sehler said.

Riders can register for the 2005 Town Challenge series May 18 when a season-opening party is being held at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.

From then on out, they can register for the season or per race. They can pull an online form off the Town Challenge Web site accessed at www.steamboat-springs.net and fax it to the city of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Offices with a credit card number attached.

Otherwise, riders can take the forms into the Parks and Rec office with a check or cash. The Parks and Rec offices are at 245 Howelsen Parkway by the Howelsen Ice Arena.

This year's series tentatively begins with the May 25 Howelsen Hill Bluffs Circuit and ends with the Mount Werner Valley View Circuit on Aug. 26. There will be no races after Labor Day this year.

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