Steamboat riders ready for Nationals cycling challenge

SolVista mountain bike championship races begin today in Granby

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— It’s all about the atmosphere, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club cycling coach Ben Clark said Wednesday, taking in the enormousness of the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships, set to kick off today at SolVista in Granby.

“We are seeing uniforms from Texas to California. This competition will be national caliber,” he said. “It’s just super cool, just the scene. Every bike component manufacturer is here with a booth. All the top pros are here. It’s just super cool.

“This is bike geek paradise.”

A contingent of Steamboat cyclists hopes to find podium paradise at the massive event, which gets under way today.

The Winter Sports Club riders will start competing in the mountain bike cross-country C2 division race at 2 p.m.

That group will consist of Dane Dixson, Jeffrey Gay, Alec Schaffer, Evan Weinman, Erik Petersen and Sarah Dixson.

Linnea Dixson will race in the cross-country C1 division at 9:05 a.m. Friday, and Koby Vargus will race in the junior cross-country event at 3 p.m. Friday.

Saturday will introduce a new wave of Steamboat athletes. Sam Chovan will race in a cross-country event, and Tammy Jacques Grewal, Kelly Boniface, Nate Bird and Brad Bingham will lead the locals in the men’s and women’s pro divisions.

The women kick off at 11:15 a.m., and the men start at 2:30 p.m.

“It’s cool because it’s all the best women in the country,” said Boniface, who also raced in the championships a year ago at the same venue. “They’re changing the course some, and there will be a real short 2.7-mile course, and we’ll do a lot of laps. That’s kind of a bummer because I like long, sustained climbs, and I won’t get that.

“It’s not sounding like a great Kelly course, but you have to be good at all of them.”

Boniface was 22nd a year ago and said she hopes to break into the top 20.

Steamboat will also be represented by Jon Freckleton in the Super D and short track events. Bingham also plans to ride the short track.

Ned Kajko will make his second ride in the event representing the Steamboat Gravity Team.

This year, he’ll compete Sat­urday in 4X. Andrew Hick­cock, a 15-year-old member of the team, also will ride in the junior downhill Saturday.

“He just started, and he’s really fast,” Gravity Team coach Cory Prager said. “He’s a great rider, and we’re really stoked to see what he can do out there.”

The national championships rotate on two-year cycles, meaning this is the last year it will be nearby for local riders.

They are eager to take advantage.

“We are all super psyched,” Clark said. “There will be shorter laps, and it will be wicked fast. We will have the advantage of training at altitude on our side. Our riders are very powerful, so that should all work to their advantage.”

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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