A youth movement

More youngsters competing in Town Challenge

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Jett Seymour is only 6 1/2 years old, but he knows what he wants.

He would like his first mountain bike with clips, and he would like to ride in the Tour de France. He will have to wait a while for both, but on Wednesday, he settled for first place in the 8-and-under division of the Town Challenge Series, finishing the course in the Eye 2 Eye Cross Country race in 31 seconds.

"I have really good sprint legs," said Jett, who is small enough that the popular yellow Livestrong bracelets fit around his ankles. "This is my first gear bike. I was on (gear) four the whole time."

Koby Vargas finished behind Jett in 32 seconds. Drew Williamson was third in 35 seconds. Competitors in the 8-and-un--der division pe--daled quickly from How-elsen Lodge to the tow house and back.

The Steam-boat Springs Town Challenge Series continues to grow in popularity with its youngest participants. On Wednesday, 22 children 12 and younger competed in the Eye 2 Eye Cross Country race. An additional 10 raced in the 13- to 15-year-old division.

Several Steamboat youths have surpassed their age abilities, so they asked race director Gretchen Sehler to let them compete in higher divisions or, at least, race longer courses. She obliged.

Erin Vargas, Koby's mother and a Town Challenge participant, said she always asks her son whether he wants to race. He always responds, "Oh, yeah," she said.

"His dad has done this for years, so he wants to do it," she added.

Koby, like many of the youth racers in the Town Challenge Series, is active with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club during the winter. Mountain biking offers the perfect summertime conditioning program.

It's fun. It's physically challenging. It has a race series to whet the children's competitive appetites.

Jamie, 14, and Jeffrey Gay, 12, stay active all year long, choosing to mountain bike on trails close to their home in Old Town. The two recently returned from a ski camp in Oregon. In addition to their skis, the sister and brother toted along another important piece of athletic equipment.

"We took our bikes," Jamie said. "We stayed in Bend and rode around there for like a week and a half."

While some of the youths who race maintain a competitive face and attitude throughout, Jeffrey Gay has a more laid back -- and arguably better -- attitude about mountain biking and athletics in general.

"I like competition," he said. "But if it's not fun, what's the point? You get to know the guys you are racing with and make friends. From what I've heard, Gretchen just does this. It's a great thing. The prizes are great. The Popsicles are great."

And the mountain biking is great, too.

The next race in the Town Challenge Series is the Howelsen Hill Dog Days of Summer Cross-Country on Aug. 3.

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