Nine years in, Tour de Steamboat still growing | SteamboatToday.com

Nine years in, Tour de Steamboat still growing

Riders head up Rabbit Ears Pass during the 2012 Tour de Steamboat just outside Steamboat Springs. The annual fundraising ride returns this weekend with three route options.

— The Tour de Steamboat returns Saturday, and it's grown yet again.

The non-competitive road cycling event featuring three routes of varying difficulty has grown steadily in its nine years to this year, when 700 already have registered, matching last year's total. Organizer Katie Lindquist is expecting at least 100 more.

"It's growing," Lindquist said. "A lot of locals are staying involved. It's getting known. It has a lot of beauty, it is a loop and it still doesn't have a lot of people.

"You get to finish with a barbecue in a park and you're talking with the people you did the ride with. People really like that."

The event doesn't sell out in a day. That'd be the dream, she explained, as it would make planning far easier.

As it is, registrations still are coming in at a rate of about 25 per day, and online registration remains open at http://www.tourdesteamboat.com until noon Thursday.

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Limited signup also will be available Friday afternoon and evening from 3 to 8 p.m. at packet pickup at Ski Haus.

But in a climate that's seen a reduction in numbers for similar large cycling tours, Lindquist said those late registrations are something Tour de Steamboat can be happy about rather than frustrated by.

The field is broken into three rides, a 110-mile loop that goes up Rabbit Ears Pass, then south and over Gore Pass before returning to Steamboat Springs. That's capped at 500 riders and has proven the big attraction, a scenic, ambitious target that draws adventurous riders from around the state, region and country.

It's the next ride that's the fastest growing, however, a 40-mile trip out to Stagecoach Reservoir. It's not quite an out-and-back. The route out takes U.S. Highway 40 and Colorado Highway 131 to Routt County Road 14, then comes back along 14E and River Road for some different views.

"It's a pretty ride and a lot of locals who just want to support the local beneficiaries like to do it," Lindquist said. "We get a lot of people who come out for the big ride and a spouse or child wants to do a shorter ride."

The shortest ride, added in 2010, is a 26-mile ride to Sidney Peak Ranch.

There are little structural changes to the rides this year. A dinner the night before the ride was scrubbed and a VIP option for riders was added, featuring perks such as a starting line bike mechanic and a guaranteed shady seat in Little Toots Park for the post-race barbecue.

The Tour made a major effort to keep its raised funds local starting several years ago, and its three beneficiaries remain the same as last year: Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, Routt County Riders, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and Partners In Routt County.

They're in the second year of three-year commitments.

Thanks to registration fees, an online auction, a wine sale, a trip giveaway and a raffle for a Kent Eriksen Cycles bicycle, all of which will return, last year organizers split $50,000 between them.

Despite being dropped from Steamboat Springs Colorado Chamber Resort Association funding and some shakeup in sponsors, Lindquist said this year could surpass that, because once again, nine years in, Tour de Steamboat still is growing.

Volunteers sought

The Tour de Steamboat still is looking for volunteers for Saturday's event, for nearly every aspect of the race, from on-course aid stations to the post-race barbecue. Those interested can contact AbiSlingsby@hotmail.com.

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