Steamboat's Marietta Roberts — who was second in Sunday's Steamboat Triathlon women's sprint race — blew a tire after running over a thumbtack early on the bike course. As many as 28 tires reportedly were popped at the annual event by tacks, an act that is being considered intentional and malicious by riders and event organizers.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat's Marietta Roberts — who was second in Sunday's Steamboat Triathlon women's sprint race — blew a tire after running over a thumbtack early on the bike course. As many as 28 tires reportedly were popped at the annual event by tacks, an act that is being considered intentional and malicious by riders and event organizers.

Triathletes, cyclists looking for answers to Colorado Highway 131 thumbtacks


— Triathletes and cyclists who frequent popular Yampa Valley road routes are angry, and they want answers to their flattened tires.

Before 9 a.m. Sunday, four separate reports were filed with the Routt County Sheriff's Office by athletes competing in the Steamboat Triathlon regarding hundreds of metal thumbtacks strewn across a stretch of Colorado Highway 131. The tacks became embedded in tires and caused numerous blowouts and plenty of frustration among competitors.


Jim McCreight/courtesy

Steamboat's Jim McCreight flattened an expensive tire during Sunday's Steamboat Triathlon. McCreight said the tacks strewn along a half-mile stretch on Colorado Highway 131 were deliberate and embarrassing to Steamboat's cycling reputation.


Greg Dixson/courtesy

Steamboat's Linnea Dixson hit popped a bike tire Sunday along Colorado Highway 131. Dixson — who didn't compete in Sunday's Steamboat Triathlon — ran into a man on the same stretch of road who also blew a tire after running over several thumbtacks.

Race officials and athletes are calling the incident a malicious act and a planned sabotage against the annual triathlon and recreational cyclists.

The four official reports represented just a fraction of those affected Sunday in the 10th annual race at and around Lake Catamount.

Of the 30 flats incurred during the race, 28 were caused by the thumbtacks, competitor and event sponsor Jim McCreight said.

Sheriff’s Office deputies are collecting the tacks, which apparently were spray-painted a flat gray to mask the shine from their original metallic finish. Undersheriff Ray Birch said Monday morning that the tacks are being gathered as evidence, and any party responsible for the incident could be charged with criminal mischief, a punishable crime.

No injuries were reported because of the tacks from Sunday’s triathlon, but in the case of a future injury, Birch said, criminal charges could be raised.

Birch said the Sheriff’s Office is asking for anonymous tips about who may be responsible for placing the tacks along the race route.

“We have a lot of our own residents who are active in riding bikes, and we sponsor a lot of events here,” Birch said. “Anyone with any information should contact our office.”

McCreight said he had a patient Monday morning at his dentist's office who was looking to raise funds with a pool of friends as a cash reward in exchange for information leading to the identification of the party responsible for the tacks.

Without Limits — the Boulder-based event production company that puts on the Steamboat Triathlon — had workers sweep the entire course Saturday night in preparation for the early morning race, according to race director Lance Panigutti.

Triathletes began spilling onto the road course from their 8 a.m. swim portion at about 8:20 a.m., traveling along Routt County Road 18 from Lake Catamount, then heading south along Colo. 131 to connect to C.R. 14.

It was there in that half-mile stretch on Colo. 131 where most of the tires were blown out, Panigutti said, indicating the tacks had to be placed in the middle of the night or very early Sunday morning.

“We’ve hosted triathlons for seven years, over 120 triathlons, and this is the first time we’ve seen this,” Panigutti said Monday.

KompetitiveEdge, a Denver-based triathlon store on hand at Catamount as the event’s bike shop sponsor, scrambled to assist those with popped tires so they could finish the race. The shop’s pit crew used electric tape and patches when it ran out of tubes, helping re-inflate 17 tires.

“They were literally like a Tour de France pit crew out there, getting people back on their feet, up and running,” Panigutti said.

This doesn’t seem to be an incident isolated to Sunday's race. Panigutti said Lake Catamount Touring Center owner Dave McAtee mentioned that some of his employees have incurred tack-flattened tires while riding in the area on their way to work.

Orange Peel Bicycle Service owner Brock Webster said tacks have been scattered for a few years along the Colo. 131 stretch near C.R. 14. Webster said his shop’s customers have crashed and popped expensive tires. The bike shop owner even has posted about the incidents on his Twitter account to alert riders where he’s seen tacks on the stretch of highway.

“It’s malicious, for sure,” Webster said. “It’s not the first incident by any means.”

As upset as Panigutti is about the incident, he isn’t worried about it affecting the future of Without Limits running the Steamboat Triathlon, but he does see it as an issue for Steamboat’s cycling reputation.

“How does Steamboat — which claims to be Bike Town USA — get rid of this?” Panigutti said. “Very quickly, it will have an image problem for people not wanting to come ride their bikes there.”

Similar attacks against cyclists have been reported across the region.

In August 2011, the Boulder Daily Camera reported that tacks, box cutters and broken glass were found along a stretch of popular bike routes in the days leading up to the inaugural USA Pro Challenge, causing several flat tires for recreational riders.

Two months ago, the Aspen Times reported that two nail-spiked boards were found embedded on a popular mountain bike trail near Carbondale.

“It’s unfortunate,” Panigutti said. “I’m pissed because it takes away from the racer experience. That’s not fair to them.”

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


Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

I suggest that SB donate the use of its street sweeper to clean the course immediately prior to any event.

It might also be worth working with nearby property owners to place some game cameras to monitor that section of highway.

And while the perpetrator might face pretty minimal criminal penalties, seems to me that a civil suit could claim so much in damages to scare off anyone from doing it again. The damages don't have to be limited to the cost of the tires. It was a race and the flat tires ruined the race for those contestants. So the perpetrator should also reimburse entry fees. Maybe some athletes spent money traveling here for a ruined race and so on. The triathlon organizers have suffered reputational damage and so on.

It might even be worth seeing if that civil case could be filed against the unknown defendant so that it is known that dropping tacks on a road before an event could have extremely expensive consequences.


rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

Slow down, Scott. It's been a while since my last law course, but I'm pretty sure a lawsuit requires a defendant or respondent -- you can't just sue thin air, subject to be named later. Thirty aggrieved versus -- who? Every person gets his day in court; you would be depriving them of due process. They'd be paying for racers' breakfasts, the plane trip to the race start -- while maybe the tacks fell off the back of their truck. [ludicrous, I know, but it makes a point] We'd have to get assurance from ex-pub, but I'm pretty sure on this one. And again, your legal acumen astounds me.

Investigators: I'd start my search for a perp immediately downstream -- nobody poops on their own path -- and if you can get into the Pilot's records, some folks in here don't have much use for bikers, and some of those live out that way...


Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago


Well, it gets interesting because there are any number of civil cases that use public notices to ask possible defendants to come forward. And I am pretty sure that MPAA filed piracy cases against unnamed defendants. Those defendants were named prior to the case going to trial.

One thing I do know is that some pretty well off people were affected by the tacks. If some of them get together they might be able to file a civil case which might have to wait until the perp is caught, but the case's claim of damages might get a newspaper article that serves as a warning of how much money it could cost whomever might be doing this.

And maybe someone that flew in would ask to be reimbursed for airline tickets. Nothing wrong with that and a further reminder why no one should drop tacks by the road.


walt jones 2 years, 7 months ago

How many competitors were in the triathlon and didnt get a flat? If it was hundreds then its a small sample size. If it was 40 then you can see intent.


Cary Foulk 2 years, 7 months ago

Wonder if this is a little larger than just this weekend. The tack looks very similar to one I picked up in my bike tire on the Buff Pass road early in the summer. What was a tack doing on the Buff Pass road? In addition, I was flatted by a nail that was pushed through a piece of plastic on a USFS trail a few weeks ago. Anyone else had these issues?


rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

I had a cowboy drinking barley pop in a passing pickup aim a beer bottle at my head once, missed it by inches. I dodged the glass, avoiding a tube repair.

Some hicks remain clueless -- and my troll is showing...


Eric Meyer 2 years, 7 months ago

Passing details onto RCR, appropriate land managers and law enforcement is likely the fastest way to reduce or eliminate these issues. Sad to hear it is happening here.


Neil O'Keeffe 2 years, 7 months ago

Those same tacks have been out causing flats on River Road, Sydney Peak and Catamount area all summer. It is definitely a local and a reward of some sort may help bring them to the surface.


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