Jeffrey Gay, a 17-year-old member of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s elite cycling program, races Saturday during the second stage of the second annual Steamboat Springs Stage Race at Marabou Ranch.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Jeffrey Gay, a 17-year-old member of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s elite cycling program, races Saturday during the second stage of the second annual Steamboat Springs Stage Race at Marabou Ranch.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club team competes in stage race

Riders known for their work on the mountain take to the roads

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Stage Race Day Two

Cyclists took to Marabou Ranch on Saturday for Day Two of the four-day Steamboat Stage Race.

Cyclists took to Marabou Ranch on Saturday for Day Two of the four-day Steamboat Stage Race.

— Predominantly, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s elite cycling program takes to mountain bike trails across the state, races and occupies spots on the podium.

The team has competed in most of the Mountain States Cup events this year, making a case that it’s one of the top junior mountain bike teams in the region. But as cycling expands at nearly every front, it comes as no surprise that the Sports Club’s elite cycling program rapidly is taking to road racing.

The team — six deep — participated in the second stage of the second annual Steamboat Springs Stage Race on Saturday, the Marabou Ranch Circuit Race that took junior riders four laps and 18 miles around a loop.

“We’re mainly a mountain bike team,” said 17-year-old member Jeffrey Gay, who has been riding with the team for three years. “Moots sponsors us, and we mainly do Mountain States Cup events. This is the one big road race of the year. We’re getting more and more into road racing. Previously we went to the state time trials, but this is mainly the first, and only, road race of the year for us.”

And for a team that’s spent a good portion of its season in the saddle of a mountain bike, things seem to be going better than just well.

Ben Berend and Alec Schaffer tied for second Saturday, finishing the course in 47 minutes, 37 seconds.

Gay was seventh in 49:04, Dane Dixson was eighth in 49:15, Evan Weinman was 12th in 51:36 and Erik Petersen was 14th in 52:26.

Road biking already is an essential part of their training in the spring, when mountain bike trails are limited because of weather. Program director Ben Clark and coach Ian Gale start and conduct practices in April. The team meets five times a week with the assignment of a weekend ride.

The rides are focused on different aspects each day, but riders can expect to log 200 miles a week on their bikes.

“It’s nice to try road ride riding when we do so much mountain biking,” said Weinman, 14.

The team started to focus on the Stage Race and learn techniques all week. Top Steamboat road riders such as Barkley Robinson and Amy Charity came out and helped the team with road racing strategies.

The team rode the Marabou course with Robinson on Friday, developing a game plan.

“It’s a lot different than mountain biking,” Dixson said. “It’s more strategic and less just the best man always wins. You’re working together, drafting and working as a team.”

Expectations for the Stage Race were tempered, with most of the team still green to team road cycling. On raw talent alone, and judging from the team’s performance on the mountain biking circuit, the Winter Sports Club is more than likely to end up with one or two podium finishes.

But embracing the team aspect, the six riders were already putting together a plan for today’s Moots Road Race, a 22-mile ride out and back on Routt County Road 33.

Ride in a pack and then try to break out at the end.

“I hope to get myself on the podium or help my teammates get on the podium,” Gay said. “Definitely one of those two things.”

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