Steamboat Springs Even when the end was nearly in sight, the city of Steamboat Springs just a glinting collection of tiny specs nearly 4,000 feet below, the pain didn’t stop.
The cyclists in Wednesday’s Town Challenge race, some of the best mountain bikers in Bike Town USA, wavered and wobbled, grimaced and groaned as they pedaled through one of the town’s most grueling tests, the Storm Peak Hill Climb that sent them from the bottom of Steamboat Ski Area to the top.
“I’d smile,” one rider said as he rode, casting a sideways glance at an on-course photographer, “but I can’t.”
They pedaled and some even pushed, but they made it, and none did it faster than Alex Pond, regularly one of the series’ top riders, but a newcomer to the top of the Town Challenge podium.
Pond broke away from the pack early and finished with a healthy gap, but far more noteworthy than his time — 1 hour, 7 minutes and 25 seconds — was who wasn’t there. After sustaining a nasty over-the-handlebars crash last week, Peter Kalmes had to miss Wednesday’s race, snapping an 18-race winning streak that dated back to 2011.
“It’s good, but it’s unfortunate that the usual No. 1 wasn’t here,” Pond said. “He’s always the guy you want to try to beat, but getting first is always good.”
Pond picked up his first win in the series by nearly two minutes. Brad Bingham was second, in 1:09:22 and Barkley Robinson was third at 1:09:43.
“You start out as easy as you can because you know by the time you get to the top, it’s all you can do to push it hard,” Pond said. “You’re just kind of in survival mode.”
Hannah Williams dominated the women’s field, keeping alive her winning streak this season. She finished in 1:21:40. Becky Edmiston was second in 1:29:56, and Linnea Dixson was third at 1:36:10.