Mindy Mulliken flies off a jump Wednesday at the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race on Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs. The event drew nearly 200 riders.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Mindy Mulliken flies off a jump Wednesday at the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race on Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs. The event drew nearly 200 riders.

Nearly 200 riders turn out for Town Challenge ride in Steamboat

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View results from Wednesday's race here.

2012 Town Challenge schedule

— Describe it as a jump and a fair percentage of the riders at Wednesday’s Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race in Steamboat Springs have nothing to offer except a quizzical look.

“Jump? What jump? There was a jump?” they ask, quickly looking to friends and fellow racers, searching for a more creative rider.

Really, it wasn’t a jump. It was a short hill, something that would look too small if slipped into the new downhill mountain bike trails at Steamboat Ski Area. But the aggressive, adventurous riders — and in Steamboat, that accounts for a healthy majority — didn’t hesitate to hit that small, short hill hard, to bound off it and fly, mouth either dropped in awe or split apart in a wide grin.

Sure, they come every other week to the series to race, but they also come to ride. They ride because it’s fun, and it’s fun because sometimes you can soar down Emerald Mountain singletrack, encounter a short, small hill and take flight.

“I hit it, oh yeah!” Mindy Mulliken said. “I love that. That’s why I do these races.”

At the front of the Epic Emerald XC race, it was the same story it’s been all season. Peter Kalmes won again, as he has each of the two previous races. It was close this time, with second-place Trevor Walz finishing just 19 seconds back. Kalmes’ time was 59 minutes, 42 seconds, followed by Walz in 1:00:01. Alex Pond was third and Barkley Robinson was fourth.

“Those guys are riding really well, really fast,” Robinson said. “It’s cool to see so many people doing well this year and riding hard.”

Kate Rench, meanwhile, won the women’s expert division for the third consecutive race, finishing in 1:15:19, ahead of Becky Sears in second and Hannah Williams in third.

Really, the story was the same as it is week to week all the way through the field. Hundreds of Steamboaters showed up, gritted their teeth as they worked uphill, wiped their brows as they turned downhill and rode the trails so many of them know so well, including the soaring leaps they take off a small hill, wherever possible.

“It’s exciting and fun, unlike the uphill,” Mulliken said, recalling her flight. “That’s what I race for.”

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

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