18th annual Steamboat Pentathlon starts today

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If you go

What: 18th annual Steamboat Pentathlon

When: 10 a.m. today

Where: Howelsen Hill, downtown Steamboat Springs

The Pentathlon combines Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking and running into one race. The event includes teams of two, three, four and five competitors, in addition to 67 participants who will compete solo.

— It comes as little surprise that it's the running that Barkley Robinson is dreading in today's Steamboat Pentathlon.

Robinson is a regular winner in the Steamboat Springs Town Challenge summer mountain bike race series. He turns his focus to cross-country skiing when the snow comes and often nets top finishes in that sport, as well.

"But the running, that's the biggest challenge for me," Robinson said Friday afternoon, preparing to chase yet another podium finish in the most Steamboat of all Steamboat Springs events today at 10 a.m. at Howelsen Hill.

The five-course event combines a little of each of the most popular outdoors disciplines in Routt County.

There's a sprint up the face of Howelsen Hill, then a dash back down on skis or snowboards. There's a snowshoe segment, four miles of cross-country skiing, 12 miles of mountain biking and five miles of running.

"I like running hills," he said. "The sprint up Howelsen is the most enjoyable part of the race - everyone running for their gear, then going back down. That part's exciting.

"The flat part at the end of the race, though, that's what gets me."

All the elements combine to create a truly different kind of sporting experience, the kind that will visit Steamboat Springs today for the 18th consecutive year.

"The pentathlon is so unique," city recreation supervisor Susan Petersen said. "I've done a ton of research, and there's no other winter multi-sport event like it. People just love it."

Robinson will be one of 267 athletes taking to the snow and street this year, up from the 234 who participated last winter.

There's little argument about who will be leading the way. Vail-based uber-athlete Mike Kloser will be in the field after winning the Pentathlon each of the three times he's entered it in the past six years. He finished last year's event in 1 hour, 46 minutes and 4 seconds, nearly nine minutes better than anyone else.

"He's pretty much unstoppable," said Robinson, who has logged four top-three finishes himself in the same period. "He's better than everybody at every event. He's just at another level.

"All you can do is hope to stay with him. I'm going to try and do my best, and I'm definitely going to try to get on the podium again. You can never count anyone out of this race."

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