Town Challenge race series’ Oak Creek debut was 30 years in the making |

Town Challenge race series’ Oak Creek debut was 30 years in the making

Chris Mitchell and Preston Housel race neck-and-neck in the Expert Division of the Town Challenge Oak Creek Circuit on Wednesday, July 13, 2022.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

One man’s passion for nature and his obsession with running, biking and exploring has resulted in one of the most beautiful trail systems in all of Routt County. Thanks to Russell Garrity and his friends, the Town Challenge took place in Oak Creek for the first time ever on Wednesday, July 13. 

It was not an easy process but after thousands of hours of hard labor, Garrity and his buddies were able to construct the trails of what is now known as Oak Creek Mountain Park.

“It was a 20-year process to get these trails in here,” Garrity said. “So, some of them were really easy to map out because there was an old mining road or a game trail or there was something, but the rest you had to connect the dots.”

The first trail they built ended up being much too steep to ride up, so the countless switchbacks on Wednesday’s course were constructed over time. Garrity and his friends had to cut down trees, remove roots and discard large rocks and other obstructions to make the trail flow correctly.

Oak Creek purchased the park in 2019, and Oak Creek Mountain Park received a conservation easement a few years ago which will preserve the land and its trails forever.

When the Town Challenge series director, Emily Hines, realized they couldn’t have a race this year at the ski resort, the program began exploring other options for race venues. After reaching out to Oak Creek and pitching the idea at a town meeting, everyone seemed to agree that it was a great idea.

This race was a bit of a test drive, being on a smaller scale than a traditional Town Challenge race, so it was only available to season pass holders of the series. With that decision, no series points were awarded for the race. 

Helen Beall smiles through the pain of the Pro/Open division of the Town Challenge Oak Creek Circuit on Wednesday, July 13, 2022.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Hines enjoyed the race and believes that it could serve as a great location for future seasons as a consistent race venue. 

“Depending on how things go, and whether or not it works with our schedule, and if they are happy to have us back, then we would love to come back and hopefully do a similar circuit type race with a larger field of participants,” Hines said. 

The opportunity was also taken to test a Le Mans-style start for the race. This means that the race began on foot with all competitors sprinting to their bikes to begin the ascent up the mountain. 

It was a unique way to add excitement to the start of the contest and an appropriate way to kick off a race that had never been done before in a Town Challenge. 

Having been the first time in Oak Creek, the course director, Sarah Glassmeyer, had her work cut out for her to put together the best possible route for all levels of participants.

“I just come out here and you look at the map first to look at the mileage and kind of see,” Glassmeyer said. “Then you just ride all the trails and see how they flow to get an idea. Then you come back with your idea and get a GPX file for each course and that’s when you see if the climbing lines up, the mileage, if it’s fun and if there’s passing.”

A GPX file is a GPS exchange format that will store geographic information and can carry that information between GPS units and computers. 

It took Glassmeyer a full week to navigate and determine which route would work the best, but she delivered with a path that honored all of Garrity’s hard work and was challenging for the riders. 

When Garrity first found out that the race would take place at the trails he created, he almost could not believe it. He had bought the land back in 1993, worked tirelessly on it for 20 years and created five miles of trails for all to enjoy.

“I was ecstatic, somebody told me about it and the first thing I thought was how I always wanted to do that,” Garrity said. “And that’s why I’ve spent the last few days on the trails enjoying it and watching it all unfold.”

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