A pair of riders work up a rise at Marabou Ranch on Wednesday during the season's first Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series race. The event drew 193 rides to the green, rolling hills of the rural Routt County ranch.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

A pair of riders work up a rise at Marabou Ranch on Wednesday during the season's first Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series race. The event drew 193 rides to the green, rolling hills of the rural Routt County ranch.

Racers ride back to Marabou

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— In some ways, it didn’t seem like much had changed Wednesday night when the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series returned to Marabou.

There were popsicles for finishing athletes, whose bright white grins shone through dirt-caked faces. There were spirited races for placings from the fastest riders on down. There was a great sunset, made all the better by the location next to Sleeping Giant. And at the front of the pack, just as he was every race last year and in 2012, the last time the series raced at Marabou, was Peter Kalmes.

The Town Challenge series returned to Marabou on Wednesday night, and it was as if it had never left.

Marabou offered the day’s 193 racers a different challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. Its trails cut through rolling green hills and offer a far different experience than the up, up, up then down, down and down routes that typically define a race at the series’ main venues, Emerald Mountain or Mount Werner.

Less gradual climbs didn’t lead to an easier race, however.

“You don’t really get a rest. You’re always pedaling,” said Hannah Williams, who won the women’s side. “It’s good. It’s different. For me, I think it’s harder because you never get that rest.”

She finished ahead of Katie Lindquist, second, and Linnea Dixson, third.

Williams has proven herself as one of the town’s top all-around athletes in recent years, and Wednesday showed just how far she’s come. When she raced at Marabou in 2012, she was much newer to mountain biking. She won, but only her division, the women’s sport classification. This year, she crushed it in the women’s pro division.

Kalmes, meanwhile, kept alive a streak that now stretches across four summers. He won the last two races of 2011. He won all six in 2012, and all seven in 2013.

On Wednesday, he couldn’t shake his fastest pursuers early in the race. Alex Pond blew by him in the race’s first few minutes. But Kalmes didn’t fall far behind and retook the lead on an uphill segment. Pond, Trevor Walz and Brad Bingham all hung together with Kalmes in the lead pack, but he eventually pulled away to win his 16th race in a row.

“You never really settle in on anything,” Kalmes said about the trails. “You’re always sprinting up a hill, then you think you’re going to get a break, but you have to pedal all the flat stuff just as hard, too.

“I thought I was going really hard, then Alex passed me. I waited until a climb, and I thought, ‘I can get him on the climb.’”

He did. Bingham slipped by Pond late to finish second, and Pond was in at third.

Town Challenge returns in two weeks, June 25, to Mount Werner.

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