Steamboat Springs The stories that come out of the Tour de Steamboat are about as vast as the 175 miles of roads the 700-plus riders traverse each year in the event’s nearly decade-long history.
Everyone has their purpose for the annual non-competitive ride that directly benefits Routt County Riders, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, Partners in Routt County and Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, to the tune of $50,000 last year alone.
Like Kent Eriksen, the namesake for the Steamboat-based cycle company who got back on his bike a year removed from missing out on the ride after battling a knee injury this time last year. It wasn’t easy, he admitted, especially with little-to-no pre-training for the 110-mile course option, but it was more than worth it.
“It was killer going up Gore Pass,” Eriksen said. “It always is. I don’t’ know why, I really, really enjoyed it though, and I felt better at the end.”
And Andy Hampsten, the former professional road racer who made noise on the Tour de France stage, finishing fourth in 1986 and 1992, then becoming the only American to win the Gio d’Italia. Hampsten rode Saturday among the hundreds of others in the Tour de Steamboat 110-mile course, which climbed up Rabbit Ears, sliced through Gore Pass en route to Colorado Highway 131 back to town.
There also was Cory Goldberg and her friend Patrick Harris. Goldberg, a former Steamboat resident who now lives in Park City, Utah, returned to her riding roots to cycle in her first Tour. She met up with Harris, a Denver resident, who used the Tour 110-miler as training for the Leadville 100, pushing through the course on a mountain bike, one of the only riders to do so Saturday.
Then there was the Barbiers’ story, one of dedication and remembrance as a family still grieving the loss of longtime Steamboat familiar face Gil Barbier, who died a month ago after battling cancer.
Gil’s memorial service was planned with an afterthought to Saturday’s Tour de Steamboat. His son, Ben Barbier, said the family set the memorial date for July 19, a day his 90-plus-year-old grandparents from New York could make the trip.
“When he passed away, we set a date for the memorial and we had it dialed in,” Ben said. “We looked at the calendar, and it turns out I had already signed up for this (Tour de Steamboat).”
Ben said for the 40 years the family had been in Steamboat, the impact Gil had on others was immeasurable. Kent Eriksen built Ben’s first bike and also put together Gil’s first. At every aid station, and even on the road Saturday, Ben said people would share stories about his dad.
Gil’s memorial at Olympian Hall went on as scheduled Saturday evening, of course, but the Tour wasn’t called off by Ben and the others in his group, toting flags strapped to their bikes in his memory.
But Gil’s other son, Evan Barbier, went the extra mile in honoring his late dad — the extra 110 miles on a fixer-upper bike owned by Gil, once a hand-me-down gift from a family friend.
Evan — just 15 years old — wasted little time working on the Wilier road bike, spending roughly five hours late this week getting it back in shape.
Ben said Evan doesn’t seek out the latest and greatest equipment and gear for his riding ventures. Gil’s old jerseys and cycling outfits became Evan’s when his dad passed away in June.
And on Saturday, the Wilier became his. With a little maintenance and a couple squirrelly gears, Evan completed the course alongside a couple of his Nordic skiing buddies, with Ben not out of sight.
“He fixed it up yesterday,” Ben said. “He had never ridden it before. He just put handlebars on it and tape on it yesterday. Riding up the pass behind him was really cool. The last time I saw that bike, my dad was 70 when he was on it. And he was strong as heck.”
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll