Storm Peak hill climb a hard-earned prize on Town Challenge mountain bike circuit
The Bike Town Challenge Storm Peak hill climb is the most difficult race of the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series season, and that’s not even considering the experience of the athletes who actually do the biking from the bottom of Steamboat Ski Area to the top — 3,400 feet of vertical gain over nearly nine miles.
For series director Emily Hines, the hill climb, which returns for a 5:25 p.m. Wednesday start at the base of the ski area, presents an annual challenge she and her team have learned to embrace. All the event’s racers start at the same spot, but they finish in four different locations, three of which are distinctly remote and all of which require long, bump trips up ski area access roads.
During a normal race, times are collected, categorized and recorded nearly automatically, but it’s back to manual timing for the hill climb, and all the times from all the finish lines aren’t even back in the same place until perhaps an hour after the last racer has finished.
Then they’re not all sorted out and put into a computer for another hour or 90 minutes after that, and Hines and her crew aren’t home from it all until around midnight.
A logistical nightmare?
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“It’s logistical fun,” she said. “It definitely makes your brain work.”
She relies upon a small collection of city staff and a handful of dedicated Town Challenge volunteers to pull it all off, and for the hill climb, it takes them all, splitting into groups to collect timing at the various finish lines.
The day’s smallest racers, the youth 6-and-under division, will race at the base area from a starting line shifted slightly this year to be near Slopeside Grill. Riders between age 9 and 12 will finish at the base of the Thunderhead Express chair lift.
The 13-15 division and the novice riders will tackle two miles and finish near the top of the Christie Peak Express chairlift. The 16-18 division and sport riders will head to the top of Thunderhead peak at the top of the gondola, 5.3 miles and nearly 2,500 feet gained. The pro/open, expert and single-speed riders will go 8.8 miles and 3,400 feet and finish at the top of Storm Peak.
“There are definitely a lot of moving parts, but it’s fun,” Hines said. “It’s definitely a challenge, but we have a great time on this one.”
The attitude is similar for the riders themselves. The challenge is one of the least-well attended races of the summer circuit and for obvious reasons. It’s also one of the most unique, standing out where most of the other races are cross-country style courses lower on Steamboat Ski Area or on Emerald Mountain.
“At the beginning, everyone always says, ‘I’m not doing it,’” Hines said of the racers. “Then they show up and sign up, and by the end, they say they had a great time and that it was super fun.”
The children’s race start at 5:25 p.m. The pro/open adults head out at 5:55 p.m. The rest of the division starts over the next 10 minutes with the youth 13-15 and novice racers starting last, at 6:04 p.m.
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