Steamboat Springs Any transplant to Steamboat Springs needs a good “the people here are crazy” story, some tale of an acquaintance skinning up a mountain, skiing in July or riding a horse through a bar to help illustrate to friends back home just how different the people in this little corner of Colorado can be.
Wednesday provided just such a story, and it, the first event of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s road biking training race series, was a gem.
The Rabbit Ears Time Trial was a gritty, cold, snowy, challenging bicycle ride from the base of Rabbit Ears Pass to the top that was completely, utterly optional. That didn’t stop 20 racers from layering up and opting in.
“Cycling’s just a sport of mental toughness,” said Ben Clark, the Winter Sports Club cycling coach who organized the event. “The weather can be a deterrent, but it’s really just one more challenge.”
The day was rainy and cold from the start, an entirely average May day in Steamboat Springs that seemed entirely out of place this spring.
Clark debated all day long whether or not to push on with time trial, a fundraiser for the competitive cycling program he guides each summer. A phone survey of likely competitors didn’t help: of 30 questioned, 15 had said they’d skip if the weather was crummy and 15 said they’d have to skip a potential one-day postponement.
So he sent out the “go” email late in the afternoon, drove to the starting line through the light rain that had dogged the town all day and began signing the riders up as they arrived.
It wasn’t nearly as cold at the base of the pass and racers couldn’t see the end of their ride from the beginning. There were to be no surprises, however, no claims of ignorance. The clouds hung low all day, but when Wednesday’s riders slipped from their cubicles or handed over parenting duties and pulled on the spandex, they knew what lay ahead. Snow was clearly visible midway up Mount Werner, and if it was snowing on Mount Werner, it was snowing on Rabbit Ears Pass.
That, of course, didn’t stop them.
The ride up isn’t easy in an old car, let alone on a bike powered by a rider with still-wobbly early season legs. It’s 2,500 feet in elevation gain from top to bottom, a nearly eight-mile slog. The light rain fell and left puddles. That was the most difficult part of the whole ordeal, according to some. The sheer challenge of the climb left others numb.
“The second and third miles were pretty bad. I was contemplating turning around,” rider Jeff Minotto said.
As they climbed higher, the temperature dropped, and as they approached the top, that rain was snow being whipped about by the wind, fat flakes that would be at home in February.
The end was so close by that point that turning back wasn’t even an option.
So, why did they come? A lot of reasons.
The ride promised the valuable early season training only an actual race can provide.
“I came for the camaraderie and the training,” Minotto said. “It hurt, but I’m glad I did it.”
Trevor Walz won the race, finishing in 35 minutes, 35 seconds, barely in front of Barkley Robinson, who was second at 35:37. Kelly Boniface was easily first among the women, finishing in 41:32, ahead of Kate Rench, at 45:20.
They didn’t come to win, though. There were 20 reasons why they chose to ride through the rain and the snow. At the same time, there was just one reason.
“I came because it was on the schedule,” Walz said.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com