All-out ascent

Thunderhead Hill Climb next race in Town Challenge

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— As director of the Steamboat Springs Town Challenge series and one of the organizers for the upcoming Rio 24 Hours of Steamboat mountain bike race, Gretchen Sehler carefully watches the course conditions on Mount Werner.

She didn't bat an eye when snow lingered during April and May.

"I never was worried," she said. "I have lived in this town too long. Even in 1996, when we had this almost-record year, we still ran the (Thunderhead) Hill Climb without any problems. It's always on this date. I was not worried, and neither were my partners, but everyone else in town was."

The Thunderhead Hill Climb, an all-out ascent from the base of Headwall ski run to the top of the gondola, will be held as scheduled Wednesday.

It is the second event in the eight-race Town Challenge series.

The Rio 24 Hours of Steamboat, a full-day mountain bike race, also is expected to run as planned Saturday and Sunday.

"The mountain is in really good shape," Sehler said.

A pile of snow is still on the face of the Vagabond ski trail, and there are several large, felled pines that need to be cleared. Sehler said both issues will be addressed before this week's races on Mount Werner.

Many regular participants in the Town Challenge series plan to compete in the 24-hour race, as well, Sehler said. Doing both shouldn't be a problem.

"People will have plenty of time for recovery," Sehler said.

The Thunderhead Hill Climb begins at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday with the youth races for bikers 15 and younger. The non-competitive Miller Lite adult division also begins at 5:30 p.m.

Most of the youth riders will start in Gondola Square -- at the bottom of the gondola -- and proceed to the Christie lifts or the Thunderhead chair.

All adults and juniors ages 16 to 18 will climb from Gondola Square up the Zig Zag ski trail and on to the top of the gondola.

The course is 4.73 miles and has been marked.

Pro/open riders will leave at 6 p.m., a change from the first race of the season.

"I'm sending the fastest racers up first," Sehler said.

Ian Prichard holds the course record of 35 minutes, 17 seconds, which he set in 2004.

Early registration takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the Parks and Recreation Department office at 245 Howelsen Parkway. The cost is $12 for adults and $7 for youths.

Race-day registration is $16 for adults and $11 for youths.

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