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Steamboat Stinger offers athletes a chance to ride and run

Racers complete a climb in the Steamboat Stinger mountain bike race, which has been held in Steamboat Springs the past six years.
Courtesy Photo

— Making it around the 26-plus mile Steamboat Stinger race course can be a challenge for the best trained athletes, but this weekend, a select group of athletes intends to test the course three times in the quest to be crowned King Stinger or Queen Bee.

“I’m hoping to drag myself around the course three times this weekend,” said Steamboat Springs endurance athlete Kelly Boniface. “I’m not nervous, and I’m looking forward to it.

“I think the bike is going to be a blast, so I’m really looking forward to Saturday,” Boniface explained. “Sunday is going to hurt, and I think every time I go downhill on the running course I’m going to wish I was on my bike.”

It will be the first time Boniface has competed in both the biking and running events at the Honey Stinger, and she said her quest is not inspired by the chance to be crowned Queen Bee — the honor that goes to the woman who posts the best combined time in the 52-mile Honey Stinger mountain bike race and the 26.2-mile marathon.

She was drawn to the event based on her love and involvement in both sports. Boniface is an avid mountain biker who races regularly in the summer, and a former runner who competed in both high school and college.

“I grew up running,” Boniface said. “I’m a mountain bike racer and a runner, so this seems like something I should do.”

Boniface said she hasn’t really trained for the Stinger but has competed in several high level mountain bike races and a couple of long trail runs this summer to get into top shape.

“I’ve trained as an endurance athlete more years than I have not,” Boniface said. “So I’m hoping that my lifelong base will get me through.”

The weekend will begin on Saturday with the Honey Stinger mountain bike race. The event has a strong local following and has gained a reputation among many of the top mountain bike racers in the state.

Race director Sara Tlamka said the race has come a long way since it started six years ago.

“I think the success of this race is a tribute to Emerald Mountain and what a fun venue it is, not only for mountain biking, but for running as well, ” Tlamka said.

She added that about 65 percent of the riders come from out of town, and she said the race’s reputation has been fueled by the Honey Stinger race team, which often promotes the races outside of Steamboat Springs.

The first race will start at 8 a.m. Saturday when the mountain bikers leave the starting line at the base of Howelsen Hill. Competitors will complete two laps around the course, which climbs 3,500 feet to the top of Emerald Mountain before returning back to the base area.

This year, the course has been changed a bit and will highlight the new Wild Rose mountain bike trail. Race organizers have also eliminated the Bluffs trail from the course, which Tlamka said will greatly improve the flow and safety of the course.

On Sunday, runners will get their shot at the course with the marathon runners leaving the starting line at 7 a.m. and the half-marathon runners starting at 7:30 a.m.

In all, more than 1,000 athletes will test the courses over the weekend.

Everyone is invited to come watch the events from the start/finish line, and there will be plenty of things to entertain fans while they wait for competitors to complete a lap.

Course chief Nate Bird said there will be an expo at the base featuring sponsors and vendors. There will also be live music, and for the first time, a Strider Kids Adventure Zone where young riders can get a taste of what mountain biking has to offer by riding on an obstacle course suited to small bikes designed for children 5 and younger.

“It’s a great way to introduce the next generation to the sport of mountain biking and biking in general,” Tlamka said.

Bird said the energy that goes into producing the Steamboat Stinger races is the biggest reason the event has been so successful.

“It’s the fact we are not race organizers that makes this event so good,“ Bird said. “It’s the employees of Honey Stinger and Big Agnes that make this event what it is, and we pour our heart and soul into making it a success, and it’s one of the best courses possible.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966


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