Routt County Gretchen Sehler wasn't surprised. She knew Wednesday's Town Challenge bike race, the first in a frustratingly weather-plagued season, would be one of the most popular the series had ever hosted - and it was, drawing more than 220 riders.
Why? That's easy, she said. It had nearly everything to do with the event's location - the Marabou ranch preservation subdivision west of Steamboat Springs.
"Most of our racers have never ridden here before," she said afterward. "A lot of people were really excited to get out here and ride, and it went very well."
The only downside to the race on the Elk River-front property was a swarm of mosquitoes. It was nothing a can of repellant couldn't fix, and given the trouble the Town Challenge bike races have had so far this season, it was a blessing. The series' first two races were canceled due to weather on three separate occasions, and one event was canceled all together. Finally given the chance to race - and on the pristine singletrack trails of Marabou, no less - few turned down the opportunity or left unsatisfied.
Unofficial results had Barkley Robinson winning the men's pro division, finishing the 12.5-mile course in 52 minutes, 31 seconds, more than a minute ahead of second place Brad Bingham and third place Peter Kalmes.
Kelly Boniface took the women's expert title, finishing in 1 hour, 24 seconds.
"It was fun. It was really fun," said Boniface, fresh off wining the cross-country mountain bike race at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail. "This was different than a lot of the other races. Usually, we go up something like Howelsen, but this time we were pedaling the whole time."
The course offered racers plenty to gawk at as they pedaled. Each of the four courses began and ended at the subdivision headquarters and the trails all spun up into the rolling green hills of the ranch, laid out across a meadow at the foot of Sleeping Giant and along the Elk River.
Dust marked the riders' progress over the hills before they descended back toward the finish line.
"It was really great to be able to ride out here," Boniface said. "It was a lot of rolling hills and just a beautiful course. I dropped my chain and had to stop and do a little maintenance, but other than that, everything was great."
Even when things went wrong Wednesday, they worked themselves out. One racer fell with an injury midway through the event, but Sehler said she was doing well, thanks in large part to the generosity of her fellow racers.
"Racers are pretty darn amazing folks. We had two EMT guys at the top and then right behind her. Two of the first people that came upon her were an EMT and a nurse, then we had an emergency room doctor racing who went up there, too," Sehler said. "She was in great hands immediately.
"We had no major hiccups. People were jazzed about it and things went OK."
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