Volunteers are intricate part of Tour de Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The annual Tour de Steamboat, slated for Saturday, July 21, has operated on a 100-percent volunteer basis — from the race directors to the aid station helpers — for 15 years.
“Out of the 100 to 150 people, we have 80 to 90 who have done it for years and years and years,” co-director and volunteer coordinator Abi Slingsby said. “We’ve been told we’re very well organized and a fun event to work at.”
Lee Cox has been volunteering at the Tour de Steamboat’s Kremmling aid station for 15 years. Before the event’s revival in 2003, Cox played an intricate role in helping decide where the aid stations should be placed in the 1990s.
In 2005, Cox would participate in a long road race herself.
“I believe I was the last one to finish, and the guy running it kind of leapfrogged me in his car to make sure I would get home safe,” Cox said. “I vowed not to do that again, but I will help.”
The ride has grown in the past 15 years. What started as a race for 200 to 300 riders on one route has become a ride for 1,000 cyclists on four different routes, ranging from 26 to 116 miles.
That calls for more aid stations, and this year, the ride still needs more volunteers to supervise the bike lane that passes through the Steamboat Farmers Market on Yampa Street, so cyclists don’t run into pedestrians when riding toward the finish.
“We still need volunteers,” Slingsby said. “We have people working aid stations with their families. Last year, my 5 year-old niece gave away candy. I can find a role for anybody.”
Kelly Landers’ family has volunteered at the Sidney Peak aid station for nine years, starting when her kids, Timmy, now 11, and Caroline, 13, were 4 and 5 years old.
“For our kids, it’s been a great thing to be involved in, because it’s a tour, not a race, not super competitive,” Landers said. “They’re having fun, and all the money stays within the community with local charities. It’s fun to give back in the community you live in.”
The volunteers take part in many different tasks. On Friday, aid station volunteers collect supplies while others help register the riders.
There are seven aid stations with two to eight people working shifts of three to five hours. Volunteers get creative with the aid stations, dressing up in costumes and playing upbeat music for the riders as they hand them peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
The race concludes at Little Toots Park in downtown Steamboat, where volunteers work the post-ride barbecue and vendors and beneficiaries put on an expo.
Closing down that barbecue is another shift, where volunteers pack up 1,100 chairs and 300 tables, then clean up the park.
“If we didn’t have any volunteers, we wouldn’t have an event.” Tour de Steamboat director Katie Lindquist Eriksen said.
A large number of volunteers are driven by the local causes the Tour de Steamboat benefits, including Partners of Routt County, Routt County Riders, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide and Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.
But aside from charity, the Tour de Steamboat allows the community to come together and have fun.
“The fact that it keeps growing, people are excited and enthused about it,” Linquist said. “We’re all a little weary of something going on all the time, but nobody says they are sick of the Tour de Steamboat. They appreciate why we do it and how it’s done.”
For those still wanting to volunteer, contact Slingsby at email@example.com.
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