Steamboat Springs It’s safe to say no cyclist has ever done it like Rafael Montiel did it Saturday during Stage 5 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
If you live in or around Steamboat Springs, you know the climb to the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass along U.S. Highway 40. The ascent even has its own place in local athletic lore.
It’s no small feat to make the climb on a bicycle, as many locals have throughout the years.
Montiel did it in impressive fashion Saturday by sprinting to the King of the Mountain points win at the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass.
But it wasn’t just that he was the fastest pro to make it to the top; his tear up the highway more than impressed some of Steamboat’s best homegrown climbers.
There were reports from officials during the race that Montiel and the lead group were averaging 18 mph up Rabbit Ears Pass.
“That’s impressive. That’s super impressive,” said Steamboat’s Barkley Robinson, who holds the town record in a time trial, making the 7.9-mile ride from the base to the west summit in 33 minutes, 19 seconds. “But that’s the level of those riders.”
The race didn’t provide official splits for the King of the Mountain line, so it was impossible to tell exactly how fast Montiel rode it. And considering it was the beginning of Stage 5, it’s likely most of the pros weren’t going as hard as they could have.
“My thinking is, it’s such an early climb,” said Andy Kerrigan, who made it from his couch to the summit of Rabbit Ears in 70 minutes Saturday. “It’d be hard to exert all that energy early.”
Had Montiel been able to maintain the early pace of 18 mph, he would have finished Steamboat’s time trial in 26 minutes, 20 seconds.
“It’s a lot faster than the casual rider, that’s for sure,” local cyclist Jeff Minotto said. “From where they were four miles away it seemed like they were up here in like 15 minutes. That’s why they’re the best in the world.”
During Robinson’s record ride in 2010, he averaged 14.2 mph. Robinson said unlike the riders Saturday, during the time trials in Steamboat riders give maximum effort. He just chuckled when asked if he could average 18 mph up the climb.
“It was just impressive to see,” Robinson said. “I’ve been to see the Tour de France and this event had a Tour de France feel to it and right in our hometown. It’s the same caliber event. It’s an awesome thing to see.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com