Steamboat Springs Kelly Boniface isn’t retired. About that, she’s adamant.
The Steamboat Springs cyclist didn’t fully step into her mountain bike racing career until her children were born, and during their formative years, she shot to the top as one of the top riders in the region.
Now, however, her daughters have grown to have summer schedules of their own, and Boniface has spent more time teaching young girls (hers included) to ride in Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club programs than she has spent riding in races of her own. There are swim meets, soccer games and dance recitals, none of which she’s willing to miss in order to make an early-summer race that isn’t otherwise special.
But again, she’s not retired. This season, for instance, she’s targeting the Breck Epic, a six-day stage race set for August.
All of that made her performance Friday in the 14th annual Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge both incredible and painful.
Boniface didn’t enter the event with any race experience from this season. She even raced only sparingly last season. But it didn’t stop her from grinding out her best-ever performance in the event, leading the women’s pro division for the vast majority of it and, in the end, watching her best chance to-date to win the race slip away at the finish line.
She finished second, six seconds off 2014 champ Jennifer Smith.
“I am both ecstatic and disappointed,” Boniface said. “It’s more ecstatic, but I wish I had been the one on the plus-six seconds end of it.”
The opportunity to be there in the end only came about because, as Boniface described it, she was feeling really, really good to start the day.
The racers led off the town’s Fourth of July parade, and the race started in earnest on the edge of town, the competitors from the huge field all jockeying for position.
Boniface initially teamed with Smith, and the pair worked their way through the crowd together. Boniface looked back at one point and realized they had been separated.
She seized the opportunity.
“I was just feeling great, and I thought, ‘OK, I need to go now,’” Boniface said. “So I just turned myself inside out to try to get away on the first lap.”
She finished the first of two, 25-mile laps and learned she led by 1 minute, 12 seconds. Having raced on teams with Smith before, she was confident that wasn’t enough, so she opened up the second lap as hard as she could, as well.
“I was pretty much running scared for four hours,” Boniface said.
Finally, a pair of passing men's division riders warned her Smith was close, and when Boniface looked back, her friend was right on her wheel. She passed soon afterward, and while Boniface stuck with her, she couldn’t get back around, finishing the race in 4 hours, 17 minutes, 56.1 seconds, just behind Smith’s 4:17:50.3.
“It was a little bittersweet,” she said. “I can’t be disappointed, especially it being my first pro race of the year. I didn’t race at all in the spring. But, oh, I was so close. I was so close to having this be the year I win that race."
But once again, she's not retired. She's racing less, picking her favorite events and focusing on those.
Next year's Firecracker 50 has a great chance of being on the list.
“I guess that means I have to go back now, huh?” she said.
Kalmes 3rd on men's side
Boniface was actually only one of a few Steamboat racers at the event, and many of them had just as strong, if slightly less dramatic, races.
Peter Kalmes certainly showed up to the men’s pro division. He finished third, in 3:37:57.3, behind first-place Jamey Driscoll and second-place Chris Baddick, who finished a fraction of a second apart.
Alex Pond was fifth in that race, as well.
Linnea Dixson finished seventh in the women’s pro category. Matt Heydon was 15th in the men’s expert 45-49 division.
Hannah Williams and Brad Bingham, meanwhile, won the coed team category, finishing in 3:56:45.3, 12 minutes ahead of their nearest competition.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9