Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Thunderhead Peak looms large as Scott Kempers works his way up toward it Wednesday in the Thunderhead Hill Climb Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race.
Steamboat Springs Glance at the results from Wednesday's Thunderhead Hill Climb Town Challenge Mountain Bike race, and it might be easy to miss Karen Tremaine's astonishing accomplishment.
Tremaine isn't listed anywhere among the top finishers in the women's expert category, the most competitive of the women's divisions.
That's because Tremaine proved to be in a class all her own again Wednesday. She easily won the women's single-speed bike competition, and in dominating fashion, won the women's overall race, as well.
She surged up the steep trail that led racers from the bottom of Steamboat Ski Area to the top of the gondola, and she did it with just one gear. She finished the challenging climb in 42 minutes, 28 seconds.
"I've done this race a lot, and this time I felt like I pushed the hardest," Tremaine said. "I just felt good today."
The Town Challenge veteran said she changed out a gear on her One Cycle single speed, opting for an easier climbing gear. Still, there were parts of the course where one gear didn't feel adequate.
"I had to be standing a lot. You can sit more on a geared bike," Tremaine said.
Tremaine wasn't the only racer to enjoy a strong showing. Barkley Robinson won the men's race, setting a new course record with a time of 33:52.
Tremaine also wasn't the only rider forced out of the saddle for Wednesday's grueling climb. Many racers hopped off their bikes to push around corners and up tough sections of the trail.
Don Jones, a 14-year-old rider in town from Wyoming, tackled the trail with his friend, 12-year-old Tilden Zars. Both were doused in sweat after reaching the summit.
"It's steep," Jones said. "At the start, I could see the top, so I knew where I was going. I didn't know if I'd be able to bike the whole thing."
He paused, casting an eye toward the top of Storm Peak, still an imposing height even from the Thunderhead summit.
"I didn't realize we were so close to the finish. I thought we were going all the way to the top of that one," he said, pointing up.
Racers handled the terrain in all different manners. Brad Bingham and Essam Welch filed in behind Robinson, finishing at 35:25 and 35:30. Kelly Boniface, meanwhile, was second among the women. She finished at 42:39. Kate Rench was third at 48:48.
No matter whether racers were fast or slow or racing with nearly two dozen gears or just one, after reaching the top of Thunderhead they all agreed on one thing.
The best part of the race still awaited.
"Hill climbs are tough," Tremaine said. "My favorite part is when it's over and you get to go down."