A memorable day for bicyclists of all descriptions in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

A memorable day for bicyclists of all descriptions in Steamboat Springs

— The opening race of the 2015 USA Pro Challenge dialed up all the drama a bicycling race could hope for on the rural roads of Routt County, and it also succeeded in attracting out-of-town crowds on main street.

When the Pro Challenge riders leave Steamboat behind today, Darrin and Nessa Johnson of Topeka, Kansas, might have represented the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's dream couple.

When it was announced in December 2014 that Steamboat would host a circuit race on a Monday followed by a race start leading to Rabbit Ears Pass on a Tuesday, it didn't take the Johnsons long to realize they could bundle in the Steamboat Stinger mountain bike and running marathons with a couple of free musical concerts and stretch Steamboat's summer resort season.

The Johnsons arrived in Steamboat Friday to give Darrin a little time to acclimate before competing in Sunday's Steamboat Stinger trail marathon. They watched the Steamboat Stinger mountain bike race on Saturday, Darrin ran well in the marathon and Monday found them at the finish line of the USA Pro Challenge at Sixth Street and Lincoln Avenue.

"That was awesome," Nissa exclaimed.

Also at the finish line Monday were Rob Redmon of Boulder and his friend, Therese Sundstrom. They were thrilled to see Taylor Phinney claim the win with a final kilometer burst down Lincoln Avenue.

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Sundstrom is a serious cyclist who puts in lots of miles every week and puts in time as a team support crew member at races. Redmon is both a road and mountain biker but has been out of action since breaking his foot in the Bailey Hundo 100-mile endurance mountain bike race in June.

Also in the crush at the finish line was Lowell Conkle, 57, who recently made Steamboat his home. He has avidly followed bike racing since the days when American Greg Lemond won the Tour de France three times in 1986, 1989 and 1990. However, Monday marked the first time he'd attended a road cycling race in person.

"I liked it," he said with a grin.

Road cycling was front and center on Monday, but down at the east end of Yampa Street, a group of highly skilled riders in the Maxxis Stunt Show drew good crowds for both of their performances.

Alex Johann wowed the fans with a high-flying flip off a small ramp.

After the show, Johann recalled the first time he ever landed a flip on a bicycle.

"I was 17. It was in a buddy's backyard in Winston Salem, North Carolina," he said. "We piled bed mattresses on a homemade ramp."

Asked if he was terrified to throw that first flip, he said, "I was more excited than anything. You've definitely got to be confident."

Minutes later, Timmy Sabat, 9, of Steamboat Springs, was asked to choose between being a professional road cyclist or a stunt team member. He glanced at his mother and replied, "stunt rider."

For now, Sabat is content to ride his Trek mountain bike around Steamboat's many trails.

Fran Dickson took a break from browsing the trade show booths on Yampa Street to reminisce about the first bike she ever owned.

Dickson grew up in Montreal, Quebec, and earned the money for her first bike herself.

"I bought it with babysitting money," she said with pride. "It was a CCM. I'll never forget that turquoise color. I rode that bike on my newspaper route."

Monday was a very good day for bicycle enthusiasts of all descriptions in Steamboat Springs.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1