Local, regional mountain bike races cut for 2013 | SteamboatToday.com

Local, regional mountain bike races cut for 2013

— There weren't many people who showed up, and those who did said the race was too hard.

That's the report from director of the Buffalo Pass Enduro, anyway, who explained why he thought the race isn’t returning for the 2013 Big Mountain Enduro series.

"It was too much climbing," 2012 race director Keith Darner said. "That was the message we got from riders who participated, that they were excepting something less climby."

Bigfoot Productions, an offshoot of Yeti Cycles, sold the Big Mountain Euduro series and at the same time canceled the Mountain States Cup. The enduro series’ new owners released the 2013 schedule last week without a Steamboat event.

The late-July Buff Pass Enduro sent riders from the top of Buffalo Pass to the bottom of the Steamboat Ski Area and hoped to appeal to the downhill and freeride community. The race finished by cutting through the downhill mountain bike trail park recently completed at the ski area.

It was a modest cross-country course by Steamboat standards, but not by the standards of downhill mountain bike racers, and it wasn't a huge local hit, attracting just 72 registered riders. The other two races on the series' first-year schedule attracted more competitors: 114 for a race near Durango and 150 for a long-standing race in Moab.

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Both of those events included untimed sections of trail uphills, a common component of enduro events. Steamboat's did not.

"Really the feedback was nothing but positive things about Steamboat, the resort and the infrastructure of how the race went down," said Brandon Ontiveros, who has taken over the Big Mountain Enduro series. "The numbers and the course that was put together for that weekend weren't on par with the direction we want to take Big Mountain Enduro.

"I'd love to keep Steamboat on the radar. Maybe in 2013 we can start to look at a different course, something that falls more in line with what we're trying to do."

Mountain States Cup cut

Not only will local riders lose out on the chance for a second crack at the Buff Pass Enduro, they also recently lost the chance to compete in the region in the Mountain States Cup. That circuit wrapped up its final season in August with a race in Telluride.

It featured five events in Colorado and New Mexico in 2012, and it was slated to include a stop in Steamboat. That event was canceled in the face of delayed construction on Steamboat’s downhill park, however.

Darner, who also captained the Mountain States Cup franchise, said the numbers simply stopped making sense.

"Participation had been dwindling," he said. "It wasn't cost effective any more and we're not going forward with that."

Ben Clark, who coached the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's cycling program before recently stepping down, said the end of the Mountain States Cup is a blow to local competitors.

"It's a sad day for mountain bike racing," Clark said. "It was a good place for our athletes to test their skills and their training against regional competition."

High entry fees — as much as $70 per race for top divisions — soured several formal local participants from continuing to race in the Mountain States Cup.

"It started losing popularity as far as value for bike racers. It tended to be pretty expensive as far as race fees go, and people got the impression the prize money and awards weren't up to par with what they were paying in fees," Steamboat's Nate Bird said. "People started looking elsewhere."

Bird said he cut his teeth in the Mountain States Cup in the past decade when he decided he wanted to start racing. When participation was high, the weekend-long events would attract top riders from around the region, making for fun nights and great races.

"Those races used to be the only way to move through the ranks," Bird said. "If you wanted to move up, that was the series. … It was a lot of fun. You'd go and see a bunch of friends from different towns at all the races. I came to know a lot of people from throughout the region because of those races, and I made a lot of friends."

Bird didn't have to look far for other reasons for the series’ demise.

Mountain States Cup events included cross-country races and downhill events. The cross-country races were generally on the short side, at least compared to today's most popular events, such as the 50-mile Steamboat Stinger. That race has proven tremendously popular in its two years. Other 50-mile endurance mountain bike races have also sold out their spots in short order, combining with popular ultra-endurance events — mostly one-off productions rather than legs of a series — to fill the void.

"Those are the style of races people seem to be gravitating to, the direction the sport has gone," Bird said.

Still, the Mount States Cup series provided a service local racers appreciated, and its demise is not welcomed.

"It was pretty much the only place you could qualify for nationals," Clark said. "Now there won't be a guaranteed lineup of qualifiers within shooting distance of here.

"I was very surprised."