Visnick the victor again in Steamboat Stinger mountain bike race
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Cyclist Tanner Visnick, of local cycling group Steamboat Velo, was aiming for a sub-four hour time.
“Unless he’s here in 10 seconds, he’s not doing it in four,” the announcer said before the clock hit noon on Saturday, Aug. 10.
With the crowd peering as far down the dirt path as they could see, it was clear that wouldn’t happen.
His first lap time was one hour, 57 minutes, so his second lap was taking nearly 10 minutes longer.
“Should I be worried?” Visnick’s mother asked the race timers.
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Considering the last they heard Visnick was 11 minutes ahead of second place and descending. They said a slower second lap is common and dismissed her concerns.
Two minutes later, Visnick’s red and white jersey and helmet appeared. He whipped through the finish, earning a new course record.
Visnick, 22, won last year with a time of 4:07.53.4. This year, he wanted to beat that.
“Psychologically, I prefer having a time goal or a nutrition goal in mind going into a race, rather than to win,” Visnick said. “I was roughly going for sub-four. I knew it was going to be really hard. I knew if someone beat me going sub-four, it’s just the way it is.”
Visnick said the back climb of Emerald was what made his second lap so much slower. Once reaching the bottom of the back half, riders climb 1,100 feet over the course of 6.3 miles.
“If you ask anyone doing the double lap, the solo, the hardest part is the backside climb the second time,” Visnick said. “I felt good on the frontside climb, but the backside climb, it’s in the trees and there’s a lot of bushes and it goes on for over 6 miles. It’s just psychologically really challenging.”
The sub-four goal was even loftier considering Visnick didn’t even get on a bike to train until June. In January, he broke his fibula in a skiing accident. He was essentially on bed rest, forbidden to put weight on his leg, until early April. Just when he thought he could start training again, an X-ray revealed his injury had not healed properly. After a surgery, Visnick was set back, not saddling up on his bike until the beginning of June.
“I didn’t do much training in the offseason,” Visnick said. “To keep myself busy, and to keep my endurance up, I’d go on long walks on the crutches and do one-legged spins inside. Anything to keep the fitness up.”
The strategy paid off. While Visnick didn’t complete the course in less than 4 hours as he’d hoped, he did take first place and managed to set a new course record, approximately 4:02:00.0.
While a brave bunch like Visnick attempt to complete the task solo, more than half the field is composed of pairs of riders, completing one lap each.
That’s what Steamboat native Simon Fryer did. Shortly before 11:30 a.m., he rolled past the finish and hugged his partner Deb, who took off for her 25-mile lap.
Fryer, 44, has been mountain biking for 20-plus years, but said he isn’t one for races.
After years of hearing about the Stinger and the community aspect of it, he finally signed up.
“It was awesome,” he said. “Good energy, good people. Great community, you can’t beat Steamboat.”
The Steamboat Stinger continues Sunday, Aug. 11, with a marathon on the same course and a half-marathon on the front side of Emerald. Those participating in both the solo bike race and the marathon are competing for King Sting and Queen Bee.
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