Nearly 10 years in, Steamboat Stage Race just works
Stage 1 — River Road Time Trial
Course: Starts just east of Steamboat on U.S. Highway 40, turning onto State highway 131, then returning on County Road 14 and River Road for a finish near Howelsen Hill.
Time: First rider starts at 11 a.m.
Stage 2 — Twentymile Road Race
Course: Starts on 13th Street, just southwest of Steamboat and proceeds to Twentymile Coal mine, out toward Hayden, then back. The elite divisions will then proceed toward Oak Creek, return to the coal mine, then back to Steamboat.
Time: First group starts at 7:30 a.m. The top divisions start at noon and should be finishing up in the late afternoon back on 13th.
Stage 3 — Downtown Steamboat Criterium
Course: Starts on Oak Street between 5th and 6th streets, then proceeds in a rectangle around Oak, 4th, Pine and 8th streets for a set amount of time.
Time: The first group starts at 7:30 a.m. and will ride 40 minutes. The final division starts 4 p.m. and will go for a full hour.
There have been plenty of changes through the nine years of the Steamboat Stage Race, the annual Labor Day weekend cycling event in and around Steamboat Springs.
The race used to be held over four days instead of three, for instance.
Nevertheless, those changes have become fewer and farther between as the event has matured. There’s a careful formula, founder Corey Piscopo said, and the Steamboat Stage Race has found it.
“It’s just a classic road event in Steamboat,” he said. “We’re sticking with what’s been working well and attracting riders.”
That could soon be changing, however.
This year, the race will again have about 400 riders tackle three days of riding. They’re split into nearly two dozen different divisions based on gender, age and experience.
Those riders will take on what’s become the standard course for the event.
First, they’ll tackle a time trial starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. That ride will start just east of Steamboat Springs on U.S. Highway 40, wrap around onto Colorado Highway 131, then cut back to town on County Road 14 and River Road for a finish near Howelsen Hill.
A road race awaits, starting at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, taking riders south and west of Steamboat Springs. The most elite divisions will log 80 miles, starting on 13th Street on the edge of Steamboat and mostly on Twentymile Road between Hayden and Oak Creek.
Finally, the race will wrap up starting at 7:30 a.m. Monday with a criterium in downtown Steamboat Springs, rolling in a rectangle between Oak, Pine, Fourth to Eighth streets.
It all just works, Piscopo said.
For instance, Sunday’s the perfect day to put riders out on Twentymile Road, because the coal mine isn’t nearly as busy. Monday, then, is better than Sunday for the downtown criterium, because there’s no massive influx of church traffic trying to get to the various houses of worship on those blocks.
“I’m really sensitive to putting on a bike event and doing anything that will impact residents and screw up traffic,” Piscopo said. “I like the course we have, because it’s pretty low impact.”
That said, next year will mark the event’s 10th, and that’s an anniversary Piscopo is already considering celebrating with some new terrain.
There are plenty of options. The key, he said, is finding the ones that work the way the current layout does.
“There are so many little logistical things that can throw a wrench into plans,” he said. “It’s a challenge when you start tinkering with it all, but there are some incredible roads to potentially open up for racing next year.”
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — James “Jim Bob” Moffett was a geologist, a former college football player and oil wildcatter, who built Freeport-McMoRan into one of the world’s leading natural resource companies.