‘Team Fun’ aid station fuels enthusiasm on difficult Steamboat Stinger terrain | SteamboatToday.com

‘Team Fun’ aid station fuels enthusiasm on difficult Steamboat Stinger terrain

Rick Zimmerman grabs a water bottle at the aid station on Ridge Trail at Saturday's Steamboat Stinger.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — "Gel!" a cyclist at the Steamboat Stinger yells from the woods.

"Gel!" Rob Peterson yells at the ridge trail aid station. The rest follow suit, echoing the cyclist's need. They ask the flavor, and the cyclists yells, "Gold!"

As the cyclist approaches the aid station, he takes the gel from the last person along the route and takes off.

The Steamboat Stinger's Ridge Trail aid station is the largest on the course and has dubbed itself the Team Fun aid station for its plethora of snacks and enthusiasm.

There's a table of Stinger gummies and waffles, along with boxes of Nuun electrolyte tablets and water bottles. Classic rock blasts through the speakers under a tent with a table of bananas, apples and pretzels. The only time you see a volunteer take a break is to spray sunscreen on his or her arms and legs, but a lot wear sleeves or neck covers to save time.

Cyclists pass through the Team Fun aid station on their way up the Ridge Trail, then back down when they get off the Beall Trail. If they complete the 26.2-mile loop twice, then they'll pass through it four times.

Add the marathon portion, and the King Sting or Queen Bee competitors will pass through the Team Fun aid station six times in one weekend.

The 10 volunteers and one EMT are expected to be at the aid station from the 7 a.m. setup until the last rider comes through around 5 p.m. They'll do the same for the runners on Sunday.

Honey Stinger employees can either volunteer for the event or seek compensation through their two industry days, which allow them to get paid for community service. Since this is a Honey Stinger event, it's mandatory to help, even if you race the course.

"Mustache/tattoo" Rob Peterson, Nate Bird and Ryan Sullivan have been running the Team Fun station for eight years. They've been friends for 20 years and met through the Colorado mountain biking scene.

"We used to try and race and set a course up for three straight days, not a smart move." Peterson said. "I think it's fun, No. 1, but it's also giving back, so me and Bird do some endurance racing, but we've been racing for a long time."

Pro cyclists make their way down Beall Trail for their second trip to the aid station, while others are still making their first stop.

"Now it gets crazy," Bird said.

The aid station requires constant attention to prevent collision and cater to each cyclist's needs from both turns, which makes for a hectic intersection of volunteers.

"Nuun, water at the end!" Peterson yells.

"Pull over to the side!" Bird yells.

Peterson spots the cyclists he knows, running after them as they trek down the second turn for encouragement. He's the loudest of the group.

"I've been this way since I was a kid. At age 40 I turned 1," Peterson said. "So, I'm 6 years old now."

Peterson came to Colorado for its snowboarding scene from southern California with his cousin. He'd take four of his friends with him and, of the five, three remain. One of them is Sullivan, who now resides in Vail, but volunteers at the Stinger every year.

"The biking, the snow, all that stuff is rad, but my family here: over the top," Peterson said. "Going down the street and having someone acknowledge you and wave, you've never met them before. Driving by you just make eye contact and you make a little wave. I grew up in a beach town in South Jersey, small towns are my favorite."

Sullivan asks Peterson and Bird for a picture to send to his dad, who loves to see when the three are together.

"I love these guys." Sullivan said.

Bird designed the course eight years ago and has since modified it for cyclists and runners to get the most out of its single-track terrain. He's been up since 5 a.m., when he swept the course, making sure all was in place.

"Emerald is our local gem, so many miles and single track showcase what Steamboat has to offer." Bird said.

Part of the course sweep was making sure the cyclists had signs of encouragement along the brutal course.

Each sign provides comedic relief for competitors who may be struggling up the mountain.

At the bottom of Angry Grouse hill, a sign reads "It's just a hill, get over it …" Bird describes the short, steep climb as "gut-punching."

As riders exit the Ridge Trail aid station for the second time, a sign reads, "Keep chafing the dream." Others read: "Smile if you're not wearing underwear," "Chuck Norris runs until the treadmill gets tired."

The signs mirror the Team Fun station personality, where volunteers dance around with air-guitars and shout words of encouragement at all hours of the day.

Peterson runs around in his blue tie-dye bucket hat and blue and yellow neck scarf.

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He's not only manning the station, but hosting two racers and three volunteers at his house for the weekend.

"People come and do support like this for us during a race, it's a great way to give back and say 'Thank you,'" Peterson said.

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.