Steamboat Springs It was early, but Wednesday night’s Town Challenge mountain bike race on Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs was shaping up to be a good race.
Alex Pond, striving to win for the second consecutive race, led a three-man breakaway group in the men’s pro/open division. Brad Bingham was just a few seconds back, and Corey Piscopo was next, also close.
They were about a third of the way through the course and rolling down a section before the final major climb to the top of the day’s route.
View results from the Mini Stinger race here.
Pond, on a hot streak of bike racing after winning his first Town Challenge two weeks ago and then a big race in Wyoming last week, led the group over a small rise. And then he was gone.
Bingham and Piscopo made the quick turn after the rise and continued their work up the hill, stunned that Pond, hot streak or not, had just blown them out of the water.
“I just thought, ‘Man, he must be flying,’” Bingham said.
One problem: that quick turn Bingham and Piscopo made had eluded Pond. He didn’t notice it and soared by. The fact that the next long stretch of trail lacked the typical Town Challenge wayfinding signs gave him cause for concern, but he wasn’t sure of his mistake until after he finished the race in first, 28 seconds ahead of Bingham.
“We got to the finish, and we were chatting. I said, ‘Man! I didn’t even see you on Hudson,’” Bingham said. “He said, ‘Hudson?’”
Pond was disqualified, and Bingham was bumped up to first.
The result marked a return to the top of the Town Challenge podium for Bingham — the season-long champ in 2010 and 2011 who was slowed by injuries in the years since.
“It’s unfortunate but, yeah,” Bingham said. “It was good racing. The trails were gorgeous, and it was perfect racing conditions.”
Bingham finished the course in 54 minutes, 8 seconds. Piscopo was second in 57:35 and Barkley Robinson finished third in 58:02.
“You’re coming down pretty fast and with the sun in my eyes and not paying full attention, and I probably should have read the course a little better...” Pond said. “It’s pretty frustrating, but it’s still always fun to come out and race anyway.”
The result only muddies the debate that’s half the fun of Town Challenge: Who’s the best mountain biker in town? Pond? Bingham? How about Peter Kalmes, who won the first three races of the year but will miss the last half of the season with a broken wrist?
It’s anyone’s guess.
What’s not up for debate is which woman has proven to be the class of the field.
Hannah Williams won her fifth race of the season Wednesday, finishing in 1:06:05. Linnea Dixson was second at 1:08:16 and Becky Edmiston third in 1:09:56.
In two weeks, riders will get the last chance to make their case for where they slot when the final race of the season is held Aug. 20 at Steamboat Ski Area.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9