Town Challenge's Sunshine Loop takes riders on tour of Mt. Werner

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The Sunshine Loop, the fourth of eight Steamboat Springs Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series races, usually starts and finishes at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.

But that changes tonight, when the popular mountain bike race starts at the Thunderhead chairlift because of ongoing construction at the base area. From there, open and expert riders will head up Valley View, Spur Run and Elkhead Trail to the Rendezvous Saddle before topping out "about three-quarters of the way to the (Mount Werner) summit up the Sunshine (lift) side," series director Gretchen Sehler said. The racers will then cruise down Zig Zag and back to the Thunderhead base to complete the 12.15-mile course.

Because Barkley Robinson won the longer, pro/open division course last year in 1 hour and 15 minutes, Sehler estimates this year's fastest riders should finish in about an hour.

But with Robinson abroad following the Tour de France on his road bike, the pro/open men's field, which he leads, should be wide open. Essam Welch and Brad Bingham are tied for second with 44 points, and Nate Bird is on their heels with 35 points.

"People are looking at the points and seeing where they're placed - they know how hard they have to go," Sehler said, pointing out that with three races in the bag, many of the riders have begun to consider division point standings.

The expert women's division racers may be riding with heavy hearts. Katherine Ingalls, who leads Katie Lindquist in the division by one point, will be absent from her first race of the season. Ingalls was involved in a collision with a truck while biking on June 30 along Routt County Road 129. She suffered a broken femur and pelvis, but her father reported July 3 that doctors at the Denver Health Medical Center were confident in her full recovery from recent surgery.

The kids (ages 15 and younger) as well as the Miller Lite division will start between 5:25 and 5:34 p.m. The pro/open, men's and women's expert, sport and novice divisions will have staggered starts running from 6 to 6:14 p.m.

Limited parking is available at the Thunderhead base. Sehler encouraged racers to ride their bikes to the start if possible. The race cost is $16 for adults or $11 for youths.

For full start times, point standings and a course description map, visit www.townchallenge.com.

- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253

or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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