Steamboat Stage Race shakes off 2011, returns Saturday

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Steamboat Stage Race schedule

Saturday

10 a.m. 20-kilometer time trial from the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge along Routt County Road 33.

Sunday

7:30 a.m. 82- and 55-mile road races starting at the James Brown Bridge, down C.R. 33 to C.R. 27 to U.S. Highway 40, back on C.R. 27 to Oak Creek, back to C.R. 33 and to the finish in Steamboat.

Monday

7:30 a.m. 1-kilometer criterium downtown between Fourth and Eighth streets and Pine and Oak streets.

By the numbers

Steamboat Stage Race attendance:

2009: 302

2010: 355

2011: 260

2012: 260 as of Tuesday with registration expected to increase

Online

For more information or to register, check out the race's website.

— Corey Piscopo was tired and he was frustrated.

As the man behind the final major cycling event of what had been a revolutionary summer of cycling events in Steamboat Springs, even he may have been a bit burned out.

After presiding over the third-annual, four-day Steamboat Stage Race that had featured fewer volunteers than in previous years, fewer fans than in previous years and fewer riders than in previous years, he wondered aloud whether it was all worthwhile.

“There just wasn’t as much excitement. We had it last year, and this year I just didn’t feel it,” he said in 2011. “I don’t know if it will be back.”

A year later, he said he’s tired again, but that just comes with the territory of being an event director. He’s a lot more optimistic; however, and he said he’s excited to be helping put on the event for a fourth year. The Steamboat Stage Race returns Saturday, with a weekend of cycling road racing that’s been a little bit rethought, a little bit retooled and a little bit reinvigorated.

“The motivation is still the same,” Piscopo said. “We want to do something great for the sport of bike racing, and we want to do something great for the town.”

The Stage Race, masterminded by Piscopo, burst onto the Steamboat scene in 2009, bringing 302 riders to town for the only big road race on the local calendar. It was a quick hit and attracted even more riders, 355, in 2010.

Last year’s race was a hurdle, and attendance dipped to about 260. The event came a weekend after the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge swept through Steamboat and swept away the hearts of many locals.

The atmosphere at the Stage Race events was quiet, and organizers questioned whether the town simply had seen enough cycling.

Piscopo said a few key changes to the race already may have helped leave last year’s sour taste behind.

Most notably, the event was cut from four days to three. The Friday leg was shaved off, leaving the event to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with a 20-kilometer time trial. A road race — 82 or 55 miles, depending on the classification — awaits Sunday, and Monday brings a criterium looping around four downtown blocks.

The day cut ended up being a criterium near Meadows Parking Lot and Wildhorse Marketplace.

The idea, Piscopo said, was to allow new riders who may have skipped previous years because they couldn’t get away from work Friday. It's somewhat of a fine line; however, and the change could come at the cost of elite riders, who often prefer four or five day events.

“We’re just trying to keep everyone happy,” Piscopo said. “Riders are customers just like any other business. They have demands, and they’ll come if you meet those demands.”

So far, their demands seem to be met. Piscopo said stage racers can be a notoriously late-registering crowd, but 260 had signed up as of Tuesday morning, already making the field larger than last year. Piscopo expects that number to jump in the remaining registration days, as well, with a $10,000 cash prize pool and Moots frame as prizes to be divvied among 11 divisions.

“We’re already in the clear as far as making the event feasible,” he said.

Piscopo said he’s kicked around the idea of a five-day event for the elite riders that mutates into a three-day race for the weekend warriors. That’s just an idea for now, but considering where Piscopo and his race stood a year ago, it represents an important step toward cementing the Steamboat Stage Race in as a Labor Day tradition.

“Everything looks really positive this year,” Piscopo said. “We are really excited about everything we have planned, and it’s all coming together nicely.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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