The fourth annual Steamboat Stinger is bringing nearly 600 mountain bikers and more than 250 runners to Emerald Mountain for the two-day race Saturday and Sunday. Cyclists will cover 50 miles of trails — mostly singletrack — and runners have a half or full marathon option.

Joel Reichenberger/file

The fourth annual Steamboat Stinger is bringing nearly 600 mountain bikers and more than 250 runners to Emerald Mountain for the two-day race Saturday and Sunday. Cyclists will cover 50 miles of trails — mostly singletrack — and runners have a half or full marathon option.

Steamboat Stinger races back at Emerald for its 4th running

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— The Steamboat Stinger isn’t an easy event to train for, nor are race bibs easy to get for runners and riders.

2014 Steamboat Stinger

Saturday, 50-mile mountain bike race

■ 7:45 a.m. Mandatory racer meeting at Howelsen Hill base

■ 8 a.m. Pro/open men's start

■ 8:10 a.m. Pro/open women's start, all duo categories and singlespeed start

■ 8:20 a.m. Citizen men's, citizen women's, Clydesdale start

■ 2 p.m. Awards ceremony

■ 2 to 6 p.m. Packet pickup for Sunday half and full marathon

Sunday, half and full trail marathon

■ 6:45 a.m. Mandatory racer meeting at Howelsen Hill base

■ 7 a.m. Marathon first wave start

■ 7:05 a.m. Half marathon second wave start

■ 2 p.m. Awards ceremony

On Saturday and Sunday, the fourth running of the two-day mountain bike race and trail run is familiar and grueling at the same time — a two-loop, 50-mile mountain bike race Saturday along the Emerald Mountain trail system, followed by Sunday’s half and full trail marathons, also on Emerald.

And as the ever-popular event makes its return to the well-traveled trails near downtown Steamboat, it brings along a horde of competitors as slots in the race — especially Saturday’s mountain bike leg — can be a tough ticket to punch.

Len Zanni, one of the Stinger’s race directors, said Saturday’s mountain bike 50-miler sold out within a few days of open registration starting April 11. Although some cancellations along the way paved the way for wait-listers to get in on the action, the slots for the mountain bike race weren’t easy to get, easily selling out for the fourth time in as many years.

Including the duo race, nearly 600 mountain bikers will be on course Saturday.

The format is the same as years past, with the 50-miler consisting of men’s and women’s solo and duo categories. The duo teams can be split into coed relay pairs across two roughly 25-mile laps.

“We did the duo from the inception because we didn’t want it to be too elite of a race,” Zanni said. “Not everyone can train for the 50-miler in the heat on these trails.”

But that’s not to say the duo category, or any category, will feature slouch riders by any means.

Last year, Steamboat’s Kelly Boniface and Hannah Williams cruised to an easy women’s duo victory, 42 minutes ahead of any others in their category.

This year, Zanni noted another pair primed to make some noise Saturday in Nicole Duke and Ben Berden in the coed division, both top cyclocross racers.

The men’s solo division may be up for grabs for the first time since 2011. Back-to-back winner Russell Finsterwald isn’t expected to race this weekend, Zanni said. The same goes for the women’s pro/open class, as last year’s winner Evelyn Dong isn’t in Saturday’s lineup.

The bike features 90 percent singletrack trail for the hundreds of riders to cram onto and takes about 4 hours for the pro/open men’s class winner to finish, and around 4 hours, 50 minutes for the pro/open women’s rider to cross, based on last year's winning times.

Those looking for a two-day leg killer are again taking on the King Sting and Queen Bee challenge, participating in both races Saturday and Sunday. Zanni said 19 men registered for the King Sting and seven women for the Queen Bee.

“We think it’s one of the best race loops in the state,” Zanni said. “I think it’s a combination of Steamboat being a great town, the riding being truly amazing singletrack, along with the help we get from all our partners in the city.”

For the third time in four years, the Steamboat Stinger is bringing back its full and half trail marathons Sunday on the very same course the mountain bikers are hitting Saturday.

But unlike the mountain bike race, there are still bibs available for trail runners looking to make a last-minute decision to enter.

Zanni said as of Thursday afternoon, there were about 100 slots available for the half and full trail marathon races. Registration caps at 400 runners and is open from noon to 8 p.m. Friday.

Steamboat’s Tammy Jacques posted the top women’s trail marathon time last year in 4:01:10.40. Nathan Allen, also of Steamboat, was the top men’s finisher in 3:14:17.26.

Denver’s Sarah Pizzo was the 2013 women’s half marathon winner in 1:41:55.68. Boulder’s James Johnson took the men’s half marathon gold in 1:34:19.53.

The two-day event features a bevy of local and regional racers, runners and cyclists from the likes of Denver, Boulder, Aspen and Vail. But it also can attract a few out-of-staters, including New Yorkers, Texans and Georgians, as seen in 2013.

“It’s the fourth annual, and we’re really excited to have a lot of the same people as well as new folks in both the mountain bike race and the run,” Zanni said. “We have gotten a great reputation in this territory and beyond. It’s just great to know we can help highlight Steamboat and all the great trails on Emerald to folks near and far.”

Annual beneficiaries from Steamboat Stinger proceeds are Partners in Routt County and Routt County Riders.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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