Teenager fights off ‘sting’ in his 1st Steamboat Stinger | SteamboatToday.com

Teenager fights off ‘sting’ in his 1st Steamboat Stinger

Riders head up the first steep stretch of Saturday's Steamboat Stinger mountain bike race. Hundreds of riders took to the Emerald Mountain trails for the race's fourth running.
Ben Ingersoll

— There’s a slogan that’s tossed around among the nearly 500 mountain bikers who brave the annual Steamboat Stinger 50-mile race each summer, 13-year-old Bennett Gamber said.

Sting or be stung, as the mantra goes. And the now 4-year-old mountain bike portion of the two-day event stings a lot of competitors, especially on warm days like Saturday.

But Gamber felt the sting in a different way early on in his 25-mile loop during the men’s duo class.

After the steep climb to kick off the race north of the Howelsen Hill ski jumps, Gamber was cruising along at a steady race pace.

Then a bee clung to the tiny teenager’s nose, burying its stinger near his right eye, causing his face to swell up the size of a half baseball, just a quarter of the way into his first Steamboat Stinger.

Gamber didn’t cry. He didn’t back out of the race. He didn’t even bring his bike to a stop.

Gamber had a job to finish, with his teammate Nate Bird — a Honey Stinger sales manager — sprinting from his job post at the top of Emerald Mountain to the bottom to meet the 13-year-old for the second leg of the men’s duo class race.

The Gamber-Bird duo — registered as “Bennett and the Bird” — teamed up when Gamber had few other go-to options for teammates a few months back.

With his dad and Honey Stinger co-founder Bill Gamber competing in the men’s 50-miler, Gamber couldn’t follow suit with many of the other mountain biker tandems Saturday, which included a host of brothers, sisters, mother-daughter and father-son teams.

“In June, everyone was like, ‘I’m going to do it with my brother, I’m doing it with my mom or my dad.’ With my dad riding the 50, I thought, ‘hey, maybe Nate could do it. He’s a close family friend.’”

Bird had never ridden in any of the three previous Steamboat Stingers, sticking closely to his busy work schedule, coordinating the race, marking the trails and helping with aid stations. Gamber’s offer was Bird’s ticket in.

“He asked me a couple months ago and I said sure thing,” Bird said after finishing the Bennett and the Bird 50-mile duo. “I’ve never raced in this, and I figured that would be a good way to be allowed to race, doing it with the boss’s kid.”

Gamber said teaming up with his much-older counterpart was a blast. Although the duo finished in the middle of the pack, Gamber beemed after completing his 25 miles in less than three hours, swollen face and all.

“He’s like 4-feet tall, and to do that lap under three hours is insane,” Bird said. “When that kid gets older, he’s going to be a beast. He already is. I was super proud of him.”

Pond, Williams pace Steamboat locals in 4th Stinger

Just a quick glance at the registered riders before Saturday’s Steamboat Stinger mountain bike race, and local cyclist Alex Pond knew what he was up against.

With two-time men’s pro-open champ Russell Finsterwald training for bigger races and absent Saturday, the deepest class of the fourth-annual race was up for grabs. And the talent pool was as large as ever, Pond said.

“Looking at that field on the online registration, you see who’s coming and you know who’s going to be fast. There were 20 guys who could easily be in the top-five finishing.”

One racer, Colombian native and Colorado Springs rider Fernando Riveros Paez, out-dueled the rest en route to a resounding win in Saturday’s 50-miler. Riveros Paez (4:09:34) fought off strong challenges along the way, passing up Nathan Miller after one lap and holding off a huge late push from Jay Henry, one of America’s mountain bike descent experts.

Chris Baddick, of Boulder, took third, followed by Golden’s Carter Shaver, Boulder’s Jakub Valigura, Miller and Pond, the top Steamboat-based finisher.

“This race is huge,” Pond said. “On a local level, it’s awesome to be able to sleep in your own bed, get up, and come race on the trails you know like the back of your hand.”

In the pro-open women’s class, Steamboat Honey Stinger’s Hannah Williams led all locals to a fifth-place finish, crossing in 5:14:29. Gretchen Reeves, the 2013 second-place women’s finisher, won Saturday, beating out Salt Lake City’s Meghan Sheridan, Boulder’s Deidre York, Boulder’s Blair Vajda, and Williams.

Parker’s Jacob Geroux (4:29:00) won the citizen men’s class, and Castle Rock’s Denae Brodis won the citizen women’s class.

Steamboat Honey Stinger’s Scott Compton and JD Robinson were the top men’s duo team, and Rachel and Shawn Hadley posted the best coed duo team time in 4:35:06.

Stinger races continue Sunday with the half and full trail marathons at Emerald Mountain starting at 7 a.m.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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