Steamboat Springs The final race of the Steamboat Springs Stage Race came down to a surprise ending Monday, with one finisher throwing up his arms in celebration — an ill-advised moment before such an act was warranted.
Whether the entire event is in line for a similar fate remains to be seen after the four-stage race delighted the 270 participating athletes but did comparatively little to enthuse Steamboat Springs.
“As far as the event itself, racers were really happy,” director Corey Piscopo said. “Everyone who does this event walks away raving. We have something really unique and special, and we’re happy about that.
But, Piscopo added, “my gut tells me there’s Bike Town burnout. We’re coming down to the end of the season and there’s been so much go on this year. There just wasn’t as much excitement.”
Piscopo said that manifested itself a number of ways. There was a lack of volunteers, and race staff had trouble finding the necessary 40 to 50 daily helpers needed for the four full days of action. There was a lack of spectators and even a lack of riders, with race registration dropping from 360 in 2010 to 270 this year.
“We had it last year, and this year I just didn’t feel it,” he said. “I don’t know if it will be back.”
Whatever the race’s problems, lack of racing excitement isn’t one of them as the final two days of the event offered thrilling, standings-altering finishes.
Monday’s finale was a perfect example. A half dozen riders broke from the main group early in the men’s pro, Category 1 and Category 2 criterium, which cut laps around downtown Steamboat Springs.
The riders in that group jockeyed for position as the time ticked down and it appeared Keith Harper would win a dash to the finish. He certainly thought so, anyway.
Boulder rider Colby Pearce didn’t stop and cut around to claim a narrow victory.
“It was really cat and mouse for the last three laps,” Pearce said. “Then we went around that last corner, I kicked super hard with everything. I wanted it and I could see we were wheel to wheel, and I saw him celebrate and I knew the line wasn’t there yet. I knew I had 12 meters at least.
“I pulled it off by a couple of inches. … It was a super fun way to close up a road weekend in Steamboat.”
Scott Moninger, another Boulder-based rider also on the Horizon Organics/PB Panache team with Pearce, didn’t ride in the breakaway, but did everything required to make an advantage gained on Day 3 stand up.
He won the general classification, finishing 41 seconds ahead of Nathan Wilson and 1:14 ahead of Pearce.
“It was pretty basic strategy. We had a pretty strong team and on a course this flat, the speed can stay pretty high and it’s easier to control breakaways,” Moninger said. “The guys kept the speed up and kept me out of trouble. We got the stage win and kept the overall, so it was a really good day.”
Nicole Duke won a sprint to the finish in the women’s top division, edging Amy Dombrowski and Kasey Clark. Steamboat’s Amy Charity led late in the race, but finished fourth in the stage.
That third-place finish left Clark on top of the GC standings, 27 seconds ahead of Duke and 1:03 in front of Dombrowski. Charity was fourth, 1:24 behind the leader.