Steamboat Springs rider Ned Kajko rides Sunday in the Buffalo Pass Enduro event in Steamboat Springs. The inaugural event drew about 50 riders for a dash from the top of Buff Pass to the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Springs rider Ned Kajko rides Sunday in the Buffalo Pass Enduro event in Steamboat Springs. The inaugural event drew about 50 riders for a dash from the top of Buff Pass to the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

Buff Pass race a hit for riders in Steamboat

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Results

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— They described the course as “difficult,” “grueling,” “long,” and, time and time again, “fun.”

By all accounts, the on-the-dirt portion of the inaugural Buffalo Pass Enduro, which took place Sunday morning on and behind Steamboat Ski Area, was a hit.

“We couldn’t have asked for better racing conditions,” director Keith Darner said. “There were no medical situations. No one got lost. The race was awesome.”

Afterward, Darner said his only regret was that more riders didn’t ride that dirt and race the race.

In all, 53 riders completed the course, which began with an 8 a.m. start at the top of Buffalo Pass, traced the Continental Divide to Mountain View Trail, came up and over the top of Steamboat Ski Area and tumbled down, partially through the newly completed downhill bike park, to a finish near the ski area base.

For a race that had a cap of 200 riders, a quarter of that registered is disappointing.

“We weren’t happy with the numbers,” Darner said. “Those will definitely grow over the years.”

Those that did take part sang the event’s praises. The race was called an “enduro”, which usually means mostly downhill riding. The long stretches along the Divide and leading up to Mount Werner’s crown made it more like a cross-country test, however.

“That was my end sight. I kept thinking, ‘I just have to get to the top,’” Steamboat racer Liana Gregory said. “Then coming down was a lot of fun. The trails were all great.”

Nathaniel Hills, of Dillon, won the men’s pro/open division, finishing in 1 hour, 39 minutes and 51 seconds. Leland Turner was second, and Steamboat’s Marko Ross-Bryant finished third.

“It was really pedaly, fitness-based and it had a really fun descent at the end,” said Hills, who didn’t arrive in Steamboat Springs until 1 a.m. Sunday after competing in a race in Utah on Saturday.

Sarah Rawley was first for the women, in 2:03:51. Julia Kintsch was second in 2:11:19, and Ashley Eyre was third at 2:41:32.

Jon Freckleton led the men’s amateur class, finishing in 1:49:27. Kris Carlsted was second at 1:50:04, and Mason Lacy was third in 1:51:39. Michele Dewin was tops among the women’s amateur class, finishing in 2:08:23. Elizabeth Sampey was second at 2:19:05, and Gregory was third at 2:20:11.

“It was a blast,” Ross-Bryant said. “It was so cool to have the opportunity to race up on the Wyoming trail and then on Mountain View. It’s been since 1999 that the Forest Service has approved a race up there, so this has been a long time coming.”

Darner said the race lost some participants to confusion among locals about the event being full. Later races in the Big Mountain Enduro series are full, but Steamboat’s stage was not.

“They thought they couldn’t sign up. We had quite a few locals race, but that number could have tripled,” he said.

More than that, however, racers agreed that the unique enduro format is something that will grow on the state’s cyclists, and that next year’s numbers likely will go up.

That’s something Darner and his company, Bigfoot Productions, is banking on. The awards ceremony was bracketed by live music and took place on the Bear River Bar & Grill deck, riders tapping their toes to Johnny Cash music on a sunny Steamboat day.

Darner began the post-race presentation by announcing that riders have that same opportunity again next year, perhaps even twice over.

“We’ll be back next year, and we want to have two days of racing, one on Buffalo Pass and another on Rabbit Ears, both heading different ways down the ski area,” he said.

“Ultimately our goal is to make all of our enduro races two days,” he said. “The races would have a little bit of shared trail, but mostly use different trails.”

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

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