Cyclists race down Oak Street in downtown Steamboat Springs during the criterium of the 2013 Steamboat Stage Race. This year's Stage Race events return starting Saturday.

Scott Franz/file

Cyclists race down Oak Street in downtown Steamboat Springs during the criterium of the 2013 Steamboat Stage Race. This year's Stage Race events return starting Saturday.

Steamboat Stage Race finds sweet spot, expecting record crowd

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Steamboat Stage Race schedule

Stage 1 — 11 a.m. Saturday: Time Trial on Colorado Highway 131 and Routt County Road 14

Stage 2 — 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday: Road race on Twentymile road and C.R. 27

Stage 3 — 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday: Criterium on Oak and Pine streets between Fourth and Eighth streets in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Volunteers requested

Corey Piscopo said the Steamboat Stage Race takes more than 100 volunteers to produce, and he's still looking for some more to help out this weekend. For more information, check out www.bikesteamboat.com/steamboat-stage-race/volunteer.

— Three years ago, even event director Corey Piscopo wasn’t sure the Steamboat Stage Race would live to see summer 2014.

He started the event in 2009 intent on drawing cyclists and fans to bolster late-summer tourism in Steamboat Springs and to offer a unique challenge for cyclists across the region. But three years into the race’s life, it still was searching for a niche, the right stages, the right racers and the right appeal.

That’s all changed in the three years since then, however, and now the stage race is set to fly back into Steamboat Springs this weekend with more racers than it ever has had.

“What’s really encouraging is the number of people coming in from out of state,” Piscopo said. “We have riders coming in from Tucson, Arizona, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and some from California. We don’t even advertise in those markets. This has all been word-of-mouth, just the reputation of the event and of the town.”

The sixth annual Steamboat Stage Race is expected to top 400 riders for three days of action in and around Steamboat Springs.

The first day will be a time trial at 11 a.m. southeast of Steamboat, down Colorado Highway 131, then up River Road to a finish near Howelsen Hill.

The second stage is a road race starting at 7:30 a.m. heading out on Twentymile Road, out and back on two sections of Routt County Road 27, one spur reaching nearly to Hayden and the other nearly to Oak Creek, then finally back on Twentymile to a finish in town.

Finally, the last stage is a criterium running between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. around a four-square-block track in downtown Steamboat Springs, on Oak and Pine streets between Fourth and Eighth streets.

The racers will be divided into about a dozen age, gender and skill divisions.

That’s critical, Piscopo said. There is a nice pool of prize money to be doled out to the weekend’s top riders, but that cash isn’t the appeal for most, and the race hasn’t grown into a magnet for area professionals.

Instead, it’s a circle-the-date-on-the-calendar event for advanced recreational riders who enjoy a race and pick the Steamboat Stage Race as an ideal way to race while on vacation.

“A lot of them are older riders, in the 35- to 60-year-old demographic, who are coming in from out of state,” Piscopo said. “They’re road racers and this is a big event for them, a target of the year. It’s kind of like the Steamboat Stinger, where it’s a big-deal event when you're going all in and you're training and committed to traveling.

“A lot of people pick this race pretty far out. It’s more recreational cyclists looking to challenge themselves at the end of the year.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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