Steamboat Springs When it comes to mountain bike races in Colorado, winning is nothing new for Barkley Robinson. The local biker dominates the Town Challenge mountain bike series - a winning streak that dates back to last season was only snapped last week when he had a serious crash early in the race.
But he said he has no illusions about what will happen when he settles into the saddle Saturday.
Robinson will be one of a strong group of Steamboat-based riders heading to Granby for the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships.
"This will be the best of the best," Robinson said, considering the men's pro field that could balloon to 100 riders. "All the best pros from around the country will be there.
"My goal is to try to make the top half of the field."
The championships, which get under way Friday, offer a very unique opportunity for local riders. This marks the first year the event has taken place in Colorado, moving to the trails built at SolVista Basin ski resort after several years in Vermont.
The event will draw more than 1,200 riders from across the nation to compete in five different mountain biking variations.
Robinson will lead locals in the cross-country race, which will cast riders six times around a 4.5-mile loop. Brad Bingham, Jamie Morgan, Nate Bird and Adam Park will join him in the pro division.
Kelly Boniface will ride in the women's cross-country pro division.
The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's summer mountain biking team also will field a team of riders. Linnea Dixson will ride in the women's Category 1. Sarah Dixson and Jamie Gay will compete in Category 2. Jeffrey Gay will ride in the men's Category 2, and Alex Chafer and Aiden Rohde will ride in the men's Category 3.
Ned Kajko also will represent the Winter Sports Club. A coach for the club's new downhill mountain biking team, Kajko will compete in the Super-D event.
Kajko will race in the men's 20- to 29-year-old division and said he's not sure what to expect when it comes to a potential place.
"This will definitely be the biggest race I've ever done," he said.
In Super-D races, the entire field launches in a mass start. Racers first sprint to their bikes, then tear down the trail to try to get an early advantage. The races last only 15 to 20 minutes, so a good start can be crucial.
Kajko placed sixth in his only other Super-D race.
"I decided it was a lot of fun, and it's the only event I qualified for nationals in," Kajko said. "There was no way I was going to miss this opportunity."
The weekend's events also will include short track, mountain cross and downhill races.
"It's going to be great just to be on the starting line with these women," Boniface said. "A lot of them are Olympians and back from Europe and the World Cup series. To have them come race in Colorado is a fantastic experience."