Steamboat Springs There was a moment on the last of the six days of riding when it all seemed to be unraveling for Karen Tremaine and Mindy Mulliken, Steamboat Springs mountain bikers stranded high in the Canadian Rockies in the middle of the final, grueling stage of the Singletrack 6 mountain bike race in Alberta and British Columbia.
They’d been nearly perfect in the first five days of the competition, winning every day in their category, the women’s open class duo division. They’d built up a huge lead in overall time and repeatedly had held the lead on that last day, too.
Still, Mulliken was left waiting with her bike at the bottom of a rocky, technical slope. Tremaine was on top, dealing with a seemingly impossible third flat tire on the day.
That’s frustrating. What made it potentially race shattering was the fact that Tremaine’s air pump was attached to Mulliken’s bike.
“We were really blowing time. I was thinking, ‘This is longer than it takes to change a tire,’” Mulliken said. “I was thinking we were going to lose the race, to lose the whole thing.”
The five days prior had been smooth, but it had not been a perfect week for the pair, who traveled to Canada for the race with Tremaine’s husband, Clint Ball.
Ball had intended to race with Tremaine, and Mulliken was to race solo, all there to support Tremaine and Ball’s startup cycling clothing company, Cogma Bikewear.
Ball was injured, however, and a last-minute reshuffling dropped the two women into the race together.
A longtime World Cup racer, Tremaine has a hold on big-time mountain bike races. Mulliken was new to it, however. She logs plenty of miles on local trails, of course, the Steamboat Springs Middle School math and science teacher riding six days per week during the summer. She’s a regular at the summer’s bi-weekly Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series in Steamboat, too.
But she’d never tried a race bigger than that and certainly never attempted a stage race like the Singletrack 6, formerly known as the TransRockies Challenge Mountain Bike Race.
“I’d never experienced that routine of getting up every morning knowing you have to be on your game and focusing and pushing hard six days in a row,” she said.
Turns out, that wasn’t a big concern.
The pair opened the race hot, finishing the first stage nearly 20 percent faster than any other team in their division for a 36 minute, 41.9 second lead.
They added nearly 12 minutes the second day, another 22 the third, 7:31 the fourth and 10:18 the fifth.
“It felt like I was just going out with Karen for a ride every day,” Mulliken said. “We were just riding faster and without stopping to take a look at the views like we would on a regular day.”
But with the flat tires and one forgotten pump, it all seemed for naught, at least until a little karma came Cogma’s way.
Promoting the clothing line was a major reason for the trip, and after he had to sit the race out, Ball focused on that.
Cogma served as a race sponsor for one stage, handing out gear to the day’s winners. And it made plenty of sales, and Ball was excited as always to see riders don the new shirts or riding dresses after the purchase to ride a stage.
He also became an on-trail ambassador for the race. That meant he rode the course and helped out riders having problems.
Tremaine, for sure, was having a problem.
She had gotten her final flat in the middle of the 400-rider field and while many of the riders passing her offered some help, she refused. They still were competing for podium positions and she didn’t want to mess with their chances, too.
Plus, one rider delivered the best news possible: her husband was only a few minutes back up the trail.
“He just happened to come by,” Tremaine said, “and he had everything to fix the flat.”
And they were off again. The trail was one of the gnarliest of the six days, including plenty of uphill on which the Steamboat women shined.
Not only did they defend their lead, they caught back up to the second-place overall team, drew disappointed grimaces as they passed them again, and carried on for their sixth stage victory in a row and the overall women's open championship.
“It was really cool to cross the finish line together,” Tremaine said. “It was really exciting.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9