Town Challenge season a thrill for new and old
Bingham, Williams again series champs
Steamboat Springs — Jeff Harper is getting more “Steamboat” by the day, and, by next spring, he expects to have taken one big step.
New to town, he signed up for this year’s Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series on a whim, and he rode the series on the entry-level Trek hardtail he brought with him when his family moved to Steamboat Springs from Houston.
Next spring, he hopes to upgrade to one of the dual suspension mountain bikes that are ubiquitous among the cycling set in Steamboat Springs.
“It doesn’t really have a suspension,” he said about his current ride. “You are the suspension. You just hang on for the ride.”
On Saturday, Harper and about 50 other adult riders rode to the unofficial end of their season, logging laps on Emerald Mountain for the inaugural Coda Classic, the Town Challenge finale.
While most of the series takes place Wednesday nights during the summer, organizers bumped the finale to Saturday, extending the race and hoping to create a gathering for the series’ summer regulars.
It did some of that, drawing about a third of an average Wednesday’s racers but treating them with sandwiches, beer, raffle prizes and awards for the season winners.
There, Brad Bingham and Hannah Williams stood out, as they have so often in recent summers. Bingham won the men’s pro division and Williams the women’s.
It was Bingham’s third consecutive season-long win and his fifth in the past seven years. Williams, meanwhile, won for the fourth consecutive year.
Alex Pond was second in the men’s pro division and Peter Kalmes third, mirroring last year’s podium. Katie Lindquist was second on the women’s side and Becky Edmiston third.
Ken Benesh won Sunday’s 25-mile race in the men’s pro/open division. Kalmes was second and Pond third with Bingham placing fourth.
Williams won the women’s pro/open race, ahead of Hadley Nylen and Katie Lindquist.
Harper also came away from Saturday a winner, though he didn’t at all compete with Bingham. He won the men’s novice 35+ division. To be fair, while he occasionally had competition he was the only rider in the category to tackle the whole season. That may have made the winning easy, but it didn’t make the riding easy.
The hardest race was the first. He’d vacationed in Steamboat for years with his wife, Jennifer, 12-year-old daughter, Grace, and 7-year-old son, Philip, and when Jennifer suggested the family move to Steamboat, it didn’t take much convincing.
Still, when the Town Challenge season opened with a race outside town at Marabou Ranch, he found it extremely difficult.
“I wasn’t acclimated to the altitude yet, so it seemed like there wasn’t any oxygen to be found out there,” he said.
Things got better and even when the courses became steeper as the season drug on, he kept going, learning to appreciate the views from Mount Werner or the pristine singletrack of Emerald Mountain.
It all came to a head Saturday.
There his son Philip was announced first in winning the season-long championship for the 6- and 7-year-old coed division, then Jeff got his moment, brief but one well earned.
He’ll be back next year, albeit with a different bike.
“I think it’s time to retire that bike to the Core Trail,” he said.
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