A world away, Steamboaters ride | SteamboatToday.com

A world away, Steamboaters ride

Craigen, Stewart racing in South African event

— Robin Craigen has sat at the starting line in mountain bike races and been intimidated, and, more recently, he’s sat at the starting line and been comfortable.

His plan when he rolled to the starting line today with racing teammate and fellow Steamboat resident Mel Stewart, however, was something different.

While many are spending their Steamboat spring in Fruita, Utah, or Mexico, Craigen and Stewart traveled to South Africa and began competing Friday in a nine-day stage race, the Joberg2C.

Craigen said riding a bike can be a great way to see a new country, but he and Stewart didn’t roll to that starting line simply hoping to finish.

“No way,” Craigen said. “We’re not just going to do a ride. We’re going to race.”

The pair got a start on their biking partnership last summer with a stint in the Breck Epic, a six-day stage race based in Breckenridge where they finished second in their division.

They may be hard-pressed to match that placing in the next week. There are about 800 riders in the field in South Africa, and nearly 40 teams in the men’s masters category.

Still, they’re off to a strong start, in seventh place after a 116-kilometer route on the first day that took them 5 hours, 29 minutes and 21 seconds.

Plenty of big days await.

The race entails 900 kilometers of riding, almost entirely on trails rather than paved roads. Friday’s 5-hour, 30-minute time should be about average, though some sections could stretch to seven or eight hours.

The course winds from the center of the country south, finishing on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Preparing wasn’t easy, but it could have easily been more difficult.

Craigen and Stewart decided on the trip nearly a year ago, inspired by Stewart’s participation in a similar race, the Cape Epic.

The schedule for that event didn’t work out — there’s no leaving Steamboat in March when you’re in the hospitality business as Craigen is — but, they found a substitute they were both happy with.

They hope to use their participation to raise funds for the 4 Yellow Foundation in Steamboat, which strives to support cancer services and those fighting cancer in the area.

Donations for that can be made at http://www.ColoradoGives.org/mojo4yellow/.

Training consisted of a few trips to the Front Range or the desert to log miles, but also plenty of time on bikes in Routt County. The temperate winter was a big help in that regard, allowing training throughout.

“I’ve finally ridden every month of the year,” Craigen said. “That was the hidden benefit of this winter.”

Now, he and Stewart, who adopted the team name Got Mojo, are intent on turning those months of dedication into nine days of gritty, hard and rewarding work on bikes on the other side of the globe.

“It’s all about how smart you ride,” Craigen said. “It’s about how well you execute your plan.

“We’re going to finish, and we’re going to go as hard as we can. I don’t have any real expectation of being on the podium, but I like that feeling of coming home and feeling like you didn’t leave anything behind, that you didn’t hold anything back. That will be very satisfying. This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

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

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