Steamboat Springs When Katherine Ingalls made her first excursion outside of her house since her July 3 surgery, her destination was Wednesday night's Town Challenge mountain bike race.
The 16-year-old rider was contending for the top expert women's overall spot in the eight-race summer series before a June 30 road bike collision with a logging truck left her with a broken pelvis and femur.
At the start of the Wednesday night cross-country bike race, dubbed "A New Root Canal," Ingalls was in good spirits while cheering the racers' start from the base of Howelsen Hill from her wheelchair.
"It's very weird to sit in a wheelchair and not be racing," said Ingalls, who is healing fast and already thinking about the 2008 cross-country Junior Olympics. "I feel good. If I can't be out there, I want to be here and see how Katie (Lindquist) and everyone does."
Lindquist didn't disappoint Ingalls, taking off on the fast course that went for a quick, steep climb up Emerald Mountain straight into a winding, technical downhill descent that she said featured a whole lot of "power riding."
But Kelly Boniface charged ahead on the uphill and created distance from the rest of the expert women's pack, "thinking every time I heard someone behind me it was one of (the women) coming to catch me." Boniface held on for the overall women's win in 1 hour, 7 minutes, 10 seconds. Lindquist followed in 1:11:57, and Karen Tremaine took third in 1:12:42.
On the men's side, it was another 16-year-old, Bryce Gordon, who had the attention of the top pro/open division as he cranked a solid lead ahead of Barkley Robinson on the uphill. But a wrong turn had Gordon give up precious seconds as Robinson gained the downhill lead with Brad Bingham on his tail.
"I was right on his wheel the whole time, but I figured I would be able to get more speed to pass on Mile Run," Bingham said of his pass on the home stretch. "This course makes you a lot more focused on the descent - it brings in all the skills in mountain biking."
Bingham barely held on to edge out Robinson in 54:49, followed seconds later by another tenacious two-man sprint to the finish with Gordon holding off Nate Bird to the line.
"I was right on (Gordon's) wheel the whole downhill, but it was too sketchy to try to pass, but I thought I had him at the end, when I fish-tailed on that turn - I was lucky to stay upright," Bird said, looking right ahead to his and Gordon's Mountain States Cup competition this weekend in Telluride.
"That was definitely an intense race," Robinson added.
Early evening rainfall did little to turn away the sizeable Town Challenge competitor pool showed up to race the course that women's sport division racer Tara Nultemeier called, "by far (her) favorite race of the year."
For full results, see page 28. The next town challenge race is Wednesday at Howelsen Hill. Visit www.townchallenge.com for more details.