Tour de Steamboat riders to hit roads 1,000 strong | SteamboatToday.com

Tour de Steamboat riders to hit roads 1,000 strong

Kent Erickson leads riders away from the starting line of a previous Tour de Steamboat. The ride only had 600 cyclists that year. It's back with 1,000 this year, reaching its limit for the first time.

Organizers had known it would come for several days and had been paying close attention.

Finally, at 10 a.m., the 1,000th rider for Saturday's Tour de Steamboat registered, filling the field for the first time in the non-competitive annual fundraising road bicycle ride's 13-year history.

Except, there was one problem. That 1,000th rider was planning on riding a tandem bicycle. The front-half rider got in. The back-half rider didn't. A quick call to Tour de Steamboat headquarters made the exception, but with it, registration, for the first time ever, closed, and nearly 48 hours before the start of the race.

"We're full. We're closed," tour co-director Katie Lindquist said. "That number is kind of a limit we set on ourselves, how many people we feel we can manage at one time."

Managing those numbers is something Lindquist, co-director Abi Slingsby and the rest of the event's board of directors have spent more time on this summer than they ever have in the past.

The riders will be split into four separate rides. There's a 26-mile loop out to and around Sydney Peak Ranch. A 46-mile loop will take riders to Stagecoach Reservoir and the town of Oak Creek. Those with a little more ambition will go 66 miles, to Stagecoach and Oak Creek, then south through the towns of Phippsburg and Yampa. The big ride, known as the "Gore Gruel," runs 116 miles, southeast up and over Rabbit Ears Pass to Colorado Highway 134, west over Gore Pass to Colorado Highway 131 and north to Steamboat Springs.

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It amounts to 7,635 feet of elevation gain and has always been the crown jewel of the event.

That challenge and the rest have all proven more popular this year than ever before. Participation has increased five fold since 200 riders showed up for the first year of the modern version of the event in 2005. (The Tour de Steamboat of the 1970s was a race, and while some of the names and faces are the same, little else is.) There were 600 riders in 2011, 700 in 2013 and, last year, 875.

With great crowds comes great responsibility, at least in the eyes of Lindquist and Slingsby. They've tried to limit the effect the ride will have on the surrounding county in several ways. They reached out by phone to ranchers and farmers who work ground the ride will pass, letting them know a timetable for the event. They put up signs in the Brooklyn neighborhood in Steamboat warning of the coming crowd, and they've reached out to riders to remind them the rules of the road will rule, despite the fact an event's going on, meaning there's no excuse for not stopping at stop signs.

More potential clashes come as riders return to a busy Steamboat Springs, down Yampa Street, where the weekly Saturday Farmer's Market will be taking place. A corridor will be established behind that event to allow riders to pass.

"Every year, we've done that more and more," Lindquist said. "We want to be ambassadors of the road, and we want our event to promote safety and good will with motorists or people working. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to get to work when you have 800 cyclists slowing you down. We've been proactive, I hope."

The 7 a.m. ride starts and finishes at Little Toots Park at the northwest end of Yampa Street. Cyclists will be finishing throughout the day before a 6:30 p.m. cutoff.

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

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