Strategy rules the day in Steamboat Stage Race
September 4, 2017
The race was won on Sunday.
At least, that's what Kip Taylor hoped on Monday, as he pedaled his way through the third and final stage of the ninth-annual Steamboat Stage Race, a 60-minute criterium in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Thanks to a big performance in Sunday's road race, he'd entered Monday's stage with a 54-second lead on second place and a cushy 1:38 on third place. Second was right next to him Monday in the peloton; third, however, Jameson Ribbens, had made it with a breakaway group.
That squad had pulled away early in the hour and added distance midway through, and, as the end of the race approached, Ribbens was in front of his pack of half a dozen riders, driving the pace and threatening to lap Taylor and his group.
Taylor started with a good cushion. The race was won Sunday, right?
Even he began to wonder.
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"We knew we had some time to work with, but at the end, we did put ourselves in a bit of a hard area," Taylor said. "I got a little nervous. You go from thinking you had plenty of time to wondering how much time you did have."
Ribbens never quite caught onto the back of Taylor's pack, and Taylor hammered the last few laps, ensuring his initial assumption would prove true. He had essentially won the race on Sunday and, after an effective defense Monday, he climbed to the top of the Steamboat Stage Race podium.
"We had to put it in overdrive, but in the end, it worked out," he said.
Ribbens did make up enough ground to move into second, overall. He ended up 28 seconds back. Chad Hall was third.
Race organizer Corey Piscopo said it was another year of smooth sailing for the Stage Race, a Labor Day fixture in Steamboat for nearly a decade. The fields were marginally smaller this year, the result of a delayed marketing push, Piscopo said, but the main problems with the weekend of racing were far out of his control.
The Sunday road race, for instance, which challenged riders with as many as 80 miles on Twentymile Road between Oak Creek and Hayden, featured temperatures that climbed into the 90s, a significant factor on a route with so much climbing.
"I was on the red like maybe 10 times," Taylor said.
Monday featured a unique factor, as well. The day dawned smoky thanks to wildfires across the region. The smoke was more than just a curiosity by the time the final race, the men's pro division, took to the street, however. The flare-up at the Steer Park Fire west of Steamboat Springs caused smoke to largely blot out the sun and left ash floating down on the finish line as the final riders passed through.
That wasn't a factor in the top women's divisions, which raced a little earlier in the afternoon.
For Sara Youmans, an entirely different strategy dictated the weekend from the one that Taylor used.
The decisive stage for her was the first, a time trial on U.S. Highway 40 and River Road on Saturday afternoon.
She led by 1:30 after that, hung with the pack during the road race — the biggest hurdle, in her opinion — and was in position throughout Monday's crit to keep her competition reined in.
"I specialize in time trial. It's my favorite event," she said. "Since it's by yourself, there are no tactics, so teams don't play a role. It's all about how fast you can ride a given course."
Alie Larsen was second, 1:34 back. Jennifer Gerow was third, 3:10 behind.
A history major at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, student Youmans hopes to turn pro after graduation. For now, however, she's just happy to have won. It was her first victory in such an event.
"I do train really hard. It's something I take seriously," she said. "I've been doing this since I was 11. It's a passion of mine."