Town Challenge nears season debut at Marabou Ranch | SteamboatToday.com

Town Challenge nears season debut at Marabou Ranch

Austin Colbert

Brad Bingham, the defending Town Challenge Series champion, competes in the 2015 season opener at Marabou Ranch. Marabou will also host the 2016 season opener on Wednesday.

— Each of the scheduled races in the Steamboat Springs Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series has its own unique quirk, but the annual season opener at Marabou Ranch stands apart.

It's the only race not held at Emerald Mountain or Mount Werner, and the fact that it's on private property west of town means it's uncharted territory for all but the most veteran of riders.

"It's neat that we don't ride on it all the time, because it's kind of like it's new every year we go back," said series regular Brad Bingham. "You don't really get a chance to memorize it. You don't get a chance to know it all that well, which is kind of different."

The 2016 series gets underway Wednesday at Marabou Ranch, located off Routt County Road 42 near Steamboat II. The first race is set to begin at 5:25 p.m. with the youth 11-12 age group. The pro/open class has a 5:50 p.m. start.

The Marabou XC is the first of eight scheduled Town Challenge races this summer.

"It's one that everyone always loves," series director Emily Hines said. "We help kind of break in their trails for the summer. It's just a beautiful setting. The terrain is obviously a little bit different than what we have at Emerald or over at Mount Werner."

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While the private nature of the ranch means limited to no access most of the year, riders will still have a chance to experience the course prior to Wednesday's race. From noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Marabou's trails will be open for pre-riding. Non-registered bikers are also allowed to make use of the pre-ride opportunity, something not afforded them the other 362 days of the year.

Anyone using Marabou's trails during this time will be asked to sign a waiver — available online or at the ranch's main gate — and adhere to all rules, which includes no pets on the property.

Race workers put up course signage Thursday, and Hines said conditions look favorable for a good race.

"Marabou is kind of in this weird weather bubble," she said. "For the most part, it's in pretty good shape. There were a few wet areas, still, but (we’re) hoping throughout the rest of the weekend, it will have some time to dry out."

Town Challenge races take place every other Wednesday during the summer, with a couple of exceptions later in the season. Normally a seven-race series, there will be an eighth this season, the Sept. 10 Coda Classic XC. Held at Emerald Mountain on a Saturday, the race will serve as an end-of-the-season celebration.

The Coda Classic XC was attempted last year, but organizers were forced to cancel the race. Unlike last year, the season finale will count for points in the overall series standings in 2016.

"It will be nice to have an extra race. As we get toward the end of the season, we are always chasing daylight," Hines said. "Plus, it gives us the opportunity to really take the time to celebrate the season at the end."

Bingham, the defending men's pro/open series champion, will be among the familiar faces returning to the circuit this summer. With Steamboat still drying out, Bingham has already logged plenty of time on the trails, going as far as California to compete in races.

He's competing at the Iron Horse Classic in Durango this weekend and plans to be ready for Wednesday's Town Challenge season opener at Marabou.

"It means something. I'm turning 40 this year, so I guess I got to try my best to hold off the youngsters," Bingham said of defending his title. "I'm feeling pretty good right now. I'm looking forward to them, and they are going to be fun. It's always a good opportunity to go hard with the local crew."

For more information on the series, visit townchallenge.com.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

2016 Town Challenge Schedule

Wednesday, Marabou XC

June 15, Bike Town Classic, Emerald

June 29, Churn & Burn Circuit, Mount Werner

July 13, Emerald Envy XC, Emerald

July 27, Storm Peak Hill Climb, Mount Werner

Aug. 17, Howelsen Hammer XC, Emerald

Aug. 31, Sunshine Loop XC, Mount Werner

Sept. 10, Coda Classic XC, Emerald