Steamboat resident wins first triathlon on Day 1 of Tri the Boat |

Steamboat resident wins first triathlon on Day 1 of Tri the Boat

A cyclist competes in the Tri the Boat triathlon on Saturday
Austin Colbert

— Cycling has long been a strength for Matt Roberts, but it wasn’t until the North Carolina native moved to Steamboat Springs three years ago that running became as much of a priority as his two-wheeled endeavors.

“There is something about Steamboat that just makes you want to get outside and run. The mountains are motivating, at least to me,” Roberts said. “I’ve been working a lot on my run. The trail running here helps so much, because there is so much uphill and altitude gain. Just running here in Steamboat, and on the trails especially, has helped more than anything. So I think I’m about even on the bike and the run, now.”

And at 42, Roberts proved his best days might still be ahead of him. A Stagecoach resident and digital marketing manager at the Steamboat Ski Resort, Roberts was the top male finisher during Saturday’s ”Tri the Boat” sprint triathlon at Stagecoach State Park.

In its second year, the Tri the Boat Triathlon held two races Saturday and will hold a third Sunday. The sprint triathlon included a 0.5-mile swim in the reservoir, a 12.4-mile bike ride down Routt County Road 14 toward Phippsburg, and a 3.1-mile run along the shore of the lake. The sprint triathlon was new to the lineup this year.

“It’s a huge honor. I’ve been doing triathlons for 15 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever come in first,” Roberts said. “To be in Steamboat and to have the caliber of athletes that we have here and then to come in and place how I did, I’m really proud of my effort. It’s finally paying off, and it feels really good.”

Roberts, who finished with a total time of 1 hour, 21 minutes, 21.36 seconds, wasn’t the overall sprint race winner, however. That honor went to Boulder’s Catherine Johnson, who was one of a group of women to finish ahead of Roberts in the race. She finished the course in 1:17:30.89.

Johnson, 38, was a long-distance runner in college, but recently has been exclusively a competitive cyclist, reaching a Category 1 level under the USA Cycling ranking system a few years ago. She was drawn to competing in triathlons because it gave her a chance to get out and run without sacrificing her skills on a bike.

“I was actually surprised because on the run — I’ve kind of struggled with some running injuries, but I was feeling really strong. So I just happily cruised by him and didn’t really look back,” Johnson said of finally passing the leading male runner during the race. “I’ve been working really hard the past couple years on improving my swimming and my swim technique. I’m pleased I’m at least able to make it through the anxiety of the start and to have a strong swim. I think that sets me up better.”

Saturday’s events also included the Olympic triathlon — a 0.93-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike ride, and 6.2-mile run — won by the husband and wife duo of Brian and Monica Folts, from Golden.

The couple, both 28, each finished second in the half-Ironman triathlon at Stagecoach last year in their respective gender divisions but weren’t going to be denied a second time. Brian was the overall Olympic race winner in 2:11:12.78, while Monica was the top female finisher in 2:28:56.72.

“When it strikes right. It doesn’t always happen, but a couple times this year, yeah,” Monica said with a laugh about both her and Brian winning races on the same day. “This is my third year of doing triathlons, but I’ve been running forever. After I met him, I transitioned to triathlons. It’s been fun.”

As fun as it may have been for the Folts, it was just a warm-up for Sunday’s half-Ironman. Last year, the first for Todd and Heather Gollnick’s “Tri the Boat” triathlons, there was no sprint race, and the Olympic and half-Ironman races were held on the same day. This year, the half-Ironman was moved to the following day, allowing many racers to have a chance to compete in two races.

It also led to the creation of the “Beat the Boat” competition, which awards an overall male and female winner to whomever has the best total time from the Olympic and half-Ironman triathlons.

The Folts, who are training for both the Ironman Boulder and Pikes Peak Marathon in August, saw a chance to double dip this weekend in Steamboat and plan to be back Sunday for the half-Ironman triathlon.

“That’s why it’s fun, because it doesn’t happen very often where you can do the double races,” Monica Folts said about being able to do back-to-back triathlons. “The more training we can get in, the better.”

Sunday’s half-Ironman triathlon will include a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run. The race will get underway at 8 a.m. on the southwest corner of the Stagecoach Reservoir.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

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