Thrilling finishes define gritty Town Challenge finale |

Thrilling finishes define gritty Town Challenge finale

Brad Bingham flies down the Creekside trail on Wednesday night, chasing Alex Pond. He caught him and won a desperate race to the finish to win the men's pro/open division championship in the summer-long Steamboat Town Challenge mountain bike racing series.
Joel Reichenberger

— In the end, the top two men’s racers in the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series couldn’t have asked for anything more, dashing together for the finish with everything on the line.

Alex Pond led early in Wednesday night’s series finale in Steamboat Springs. He pulled away from Brad Bingham on the climb up Mount Werner and Steamboat Ski Area, made a lap on the Sunshine Trail and led as he began descending.

Bingham caught him on Creekside downhill trail, and for the final mile of the course, the two raced tire to tire, hurtling toward the finish line, the first to cross not only the night’s champion, but the season’s.

“It was a real mountain bike race,” Pond said. “It had all the aspects you look for. It was technical riding. Climbing, you had to be smooth. It really took an all-around bike rider to go out and race in conditions like that.”

It was Bingham who won that last sprint, and thus, the night and the season. He gained a small advantage on a small, late climb, then held off Pond’s furious final charge to win the Town Challenge series championship for the first time since he won it back-to-back in 2010 and 2011.

It was his second race win of the season and highlighted a gritty, messy, wet but thrilling night of racing.

“We were racing for the overall, so you had to give it your all,” Bingham said. “It feels really good to win. It was great competition this year. Next year’s going to be even tougher.”

Bingham finished Wednesday in 1 hour 20 minutes and 7 seconds. Pond was in at 1:20:15, and Corey Piscopo was third at 1:25:55.

Bingham secured the championship with two first-place finishes, two seconds and two thirds. Pond was first once, second three times and third once.

Barkley Robinson was the third-place season finisher despite a rotten night Wednesday. He crashed hard on the Creekside descent. With help from a fellow racer, he walked down the trail and was taken away by ambulance.

Peter Kalmes, trying for his third consecutive championship, won the season’s first three races but was sidelined by an injury and sat the second-half of the season out.

Dixson tops Williams, but for 1 night only

Hannah Williams had a gut-it-out race of her own to the finish line, one she didn’t win.

Linnea Dixson, a podium finisher in each of the four events she’d raced previously in the summer, rocketed across the line first, in 1:41:18. Williams was second in 1:41:26, and Becky Edmiston was third in 1:47:46.

Williams’ finish was plenty good enough to cap a fabulous season, however. She was the run-away champion of the women’s pro/open division, with four wins and two second-place finishes.

“I was ahead of her on the uphill and she caught me on Creekside,” Williams said. “Then we had a good little race for the last part and that was fun.

“I’m proud of myself for winning the overall. I did all the races and I tried hard.”

It was her second consecutive season win in the top women’s division.

Dixson finished second overall, and Katie Lindquist was third.

A Wednesday afternoon, downpour nearly canceled the race, but without any sort of cancelation week built into the schedule, organizers were eager to ride.

The races took off under sun, but worked up muddy — more tacky than sloppy — trails. With a course stretching as long as 15.5 miles, riders battled as dusk came and went, some finishing as volunteers wrapped themselves in jackets and the red time-keeping clock shone in the darkness.

It was a long, hard, tough race, and for many, that seemed perfect.

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