High school mountain bike racing brings crowds to Howelsen Hill
STEAMBAOT SPRINGS — With close to 800 high-school aged mountain bike racers expected to take to the trails on lower Emerald Mountain this Sunday, Sept. 8, people should expect Howelsen Hill to be a hub of activity.
“They have been here before, and it’s been a great group and a lot of fun,” said Mike Lane, communication manager for the city of Steamboat Springs. “But if anyone is out riding, please be aware of the increased use and that the race will be happening, so cheer on the racers and come out and have a great time.”
The races are part of the Colorado High School Cycling League, which offers races for freshman, sophomore, junior varsity and varsity divisions. Steamboat is one of 36 teams in the Northern Division, which will be taking part in the race. The league also includes a southern division that has 46 teams. This will be the third consecutive year the event has been held in Steamboat, and the local team includes 25 riders who train with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club program.
“I just love the energy,” said Blair Seymour, who directs the program. “It’s just a fun, positive energy watching all the kids work so hard and support each other.”
The event also brings visitors to Steamboat Springs for the weekend event, and since the league is not sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association, those riders are traveling with parents and other family members. She estimates more than 2,000 people will visit town as part of the event, with race teams representing schools across the state.
Seymour said the teams will roll into town Saturday afternoon to pre-ride the course, and racing will begin at 8:30 a.m. Sunday with the freshman riders. The sophomore, junior and varsity classes will follow at 9:50 a.m.
Riders will compete on a 5.4-mile course with the number of laps varying depending on the class. The course will impact the lower part of Emerald Mountain according to Howelsen Hill Ski and Rodeo complex manager Brad Setter.
“There are going to be a lot of racers, so it’s probably not an ideal weekend to be riding Emerald Mountain,” Setter said. “The race course is on the lower mountain, so the upper mountain trails will not be as impacted. The trails will remain open, but getting up the mountain is going to be more difficult. You are not going to want to drive down anywhere near the base area of the stables trailhead.”
Setter said the course will utilize the Bluffs, Ricky’s Ridge, portions of MGM, Orton Trail and the lower green section of NPR and Mile Run.
“It’s been a great event,” Setter said. “We have gotten a lot of positive feedback both from the racers and the community. It’s a good way to get folks here in the shoulder season, and it’s been a really good event for us.”
Seymour is hoping Steamboat will come out and support the local riders and enjoy the event, which will be filled with elite level junior riders. She said parking will be available at the Brent Romick Rodeo grounds, but she is encouraging race fans to park across the river on Yampa Street or to simply ride their bikes to the event.
There will be a sponsor expo near the finish area on the jumping flats, which is an ideal place to watch the action. Seymour said there are also great places to view the racers near Blackmer Drive.
Many of these riders will go onto the conference championships, which will be held Oct. 5 to 6 in Eagle Vail. The top riders from that event will go to the state championships Oct. 19 to 20 in Durango.
“The event brings a lot of attention to the sport, huge attention to the town and trails that we have here in Steamboat and the trails on Emerald,” Seymour said. “There will probably be 2000-plus people here for the weekend, so it’s a good money-maker for the town, as well.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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