Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Walking south along the Continental Divide Sunday morning on the way to a trout lake, I found myself rethinking the events of Bike Week that wound down with Saturday’s Emerald Mountain Epic.
On Thursday, I photographed the USA Pro Challenge competitors streaming out Routt County Road 33 on their way to Beaver Creek. I deliberately chose a slow shutter speed in order to blur the cyclists and convey the flurry of motion that was the peloton.
A Facebook friend posted a comment about the resulting image that I thought summed up the spectator experience at the race: “Whooosh!” said it all.
Don’t misunderstand me. I get as excited about the Pro Challenge as professional decorum allows a journalist to be. But for such a lengthy bike ride, it sure is over fast once it arrives in town.
Honey Stinger co-founder Bill Gamber told me Monday that he got a big kick out of watching a delayed broadcast of the Breckenridge-to-Steamboat race on television Wednesday night.
“We look great on TV, and all of that is such good press,” Gamber said. “Seeing the helicopter footage of the pros riding on your home turf is amazing.”
Gamber’s company sponsors the Honey Stinger Bontrager off-road cycling team. Bontrager also had a team of riders in the Pro Challenge.
Cathy Wiedemer, who represents Steamboat-based Moots cycles but also worked the media center for the Steamboat leg of the Pro Challenge, said she knows that the Pro Challenge, in concert with the expanded bike week here, succeeded in attracting some destination visitation to the Yampa Valley.
“I road last week with a couple from Brooklyn (they work in Manhattan) that came out just for the pro race and picked Steamboat as their destination,” Wiedemer said. “They really wanted to sample the road riding here. It was neat to get to know them.”
Gamber and Wiedemer agreed that Bike Town USA and other proponents for cycling in Steamboat, including the ski area, were successful in their strategic approach to bracketing the Pro Challenge with diverse cycling events that would serve as a multiplier for the professional race.
“With the Enduro X race, the Emerald Epic Ride, the Stinger, the triathlon and the bike-in move, there was something for everyone,” Wiedemer said.
Gamber said realistically, it will probably take a long time for Steamboat to mature into the brand, “Bike Town USA” – Aspen and Vail have a big head start on creating trails for road cyclists, for example.
“I know what we established two years ago (with the inaugural Pro Challenge in 2011),” Gamber said. “We have a real show of community support, and we have a fun town. The group behind (Bike Town) is off to a super good start.”
Up on Buffalo Pass on Sunday, we were crossing a lush meadow when an oncoming mountain biker popped out of the woods and promptly crossed a trickling stream. The cyclist let us know that he had five more buddies coming. As they splashed across the creek, I noticed that the right leg of the fourth man in line ended in a shiny stainless steel prosthetic device.
“How great is that?” I wondered to myself. “He isn’t allowing a missing limb to hold him back at all.”
And for some reason, that visual impression of the mountain biker, as much as the excitement of watching the professionals in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge speeding out of Steamboat into the ranch country of Twentymile Road, will stay with me long after many of the sights and sounds of Bike Week have faded.
I’m a casual cyclist, pedaling an old Gary Fisher mountain bike along roads around the fringes of town. But through a pleasant encounter with a group of young guys who were plainly excited to be exploring our neck of the woods, it feels good to be hanging around Steamboat as it strives to earn the label, Bike Town USA.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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