Challenge ends tonight

Valley View race starts at 5 p.m.

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The last Steamboat Springs Town Challenge race will be known for its firsts, as well.

The 2005 mountain bike series wraps with tonight's Valley View cross-country race at Steamboat Ski Area. Race director Gretchen Sehler said it's the first time the final race has been held in August. It's also the first time the final race will be a one-lap race for nearly every competitor.

"We've never had the last race this early in the season," Sehler said. "We decided to do that so we didn't have to wait until after Labor Day and have such a big gap between races. ... This year, we are doing one big lap. Everyone, except for a couple, does the same course."

The staging area for tonight's race is the Thunderhead chairlift, and Sehler estimated it had been six years since she had used Thunderhead as a start and finish line.

"I don't like doing the same thing," she said. "I like figuring out something different. Per-sonally, I get bored setting the same course."

Tonight's race begins at 5 p.m. with the children's, youth and Miller Light divisions. The remaining adults, beginning with the women's novice riders, start at 5:30 p.m. The pro/open riders leave at 5:33 p.m., and the remaining divisions will leave in minute increments, ending with the novice men at 5:46 p.m.

People are asked to note the early start time and plan accordingly, especially if they still need to register.

The Valley View cross-country race will take most of the racers from Thunderhead up Zig Zag to the top of the gondola. From there, racers will head toward Huffman's and descend on that trail before turning right on Spur Run.

Riders will go down Spur Run and turn right and continue to descend on Valley View. At the snow-making building, racers should turn right and go down Boulevard. Racers will need to make another right and head down the Bashor road toward the finish back at the Thunderhead chair.

One lap is 7.9 miles. All pro/open, expert and sport divisions, as well as the novice men and 16- to 18-year-olds, will race the same course.

The remaining adults and the youth 13-15 riders will ride a modified version of the course and do one or two laps, depending on their division.

Although the date of the final race has changed, the post-race festivities have not.

This year's season-ending party will begin at about 8 p.m. at Olympian Hall in the Howelsen Hill Lodge.

It's a potluck dinner. Sehler is asking all pro/open and expert riders to bring a dessert or salad. All sport and youth riders should bring an appetizer, and all novice riders are asked to bring a hot dish.

"Potato chips is not considered a dish," Sehler said, reminding people to give as well as they expect to get at the potluck.

"I'm hoping we have all the results and everything by 8," she added. "People can arrive earlier. We have a DVD that we are going to show. A guy has been taking movies all year long and that also will be for sale."

The post-race party concludes with awards and prize drawings. The top three finishers in each division will receive a gift, and the division winner receives free entry into next year's series.

Most of the divisions are locked up, but the women's sport 19-29 division still is up for grabs. Kiki Hutchins and Emily Keiss are tied heading into the final race.

"That's the race to watch," Sehler said. "That's the race within the race."

A person must have raced at least four times in one division to win its title.

This year, the Town Challenge Series is giving away a Moots frame, ski passes and two trips to Las Vegas, among other things.

A racer's name will be thrown into the pot once for each race he or she entered. People can win only one of the big prizes but are free to decline any prize if they want to stay in the running for something else.

"People did that last year, and nobody got pulled a second time," Sehler said.

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

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