Spoke Talk: Here come the pros | SteamboatToday.com

Spoke Talk: Here come the pros

Alan Perkins/For Steamboat Today

Mountain biking as we know it was born out of the San Francisco Bay area. There, many of the current industry names helped take mountain biking from riding clunky old cruiser bikes on a fire road to the plethora of disciplines and styles today.

The velodrome has a European birthplace, but in the United States, track cycling really grew in popularity from Bob Rodale's dream of a velodrome in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Once that velodrome and its athletes gained national attention, it became T-Town, home to some of best elite level track races in the country.

The USA Pro Challenge and Fish Creek Falls? Well, kind of. Rumor has it, Fish Creek Falls was used as the central image for the Coors can. That same company sponsored one of the most celebrated pro-level bicycle races in the country, the Coors International Classic. Let's let that lead us to the USA Pro Challenge, and the connection becomes obvious. Those more humble beginnings seem very distant to what happens today.

For the second time in three years, the Pro Challenge comes to Steamboat next week. Monday's Stage 1 Circuit Race will be a fantastic competition. It runs along local road riders' well-known route, a circle out to Oak Creek and back to town. For the race, do that again. OK, now do it really, really fast.

Tuesday's Stage 2 takes racers from Steamboat to fellow ski area Arapahoe Basin, covering two big mountain passes — Rabbit Ears and Loveland. Anyone who has driven the route to Silverthorne this summer may wonder how these elite cyclists will endure the Kremmling/Silverthorne bumpy construction zone. Put your mind at ease — they'll avoid it altogether by staying on U.S. Highway 40 to Parshall, then jumping on County Road 3 and over one more pass by the name of Ute, before merging onto Colorado State Highway 9 and into Silverthorne. Steamboat will be but a distant and pleasant memory for the racers by the time they reach A-Basin, at 10,789 feet.

For anyone who has ever done it, racing any bicycle is hard. Fast or slow, big tires or skinny, you've signed up to suffer, and that will never change. But as technology infiltrates the sport, more effort and attention is placed on efficient, effective race results. The team that takes all the variables and can put them together will very likely be the one that ends up on top.

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The organizers of this race have done a fantastic job attracting teams. Not only are there four Union Cycliste Internationale world-level teams, but also four pro level continental teams and eight continental teams — five of which are internationally based.

Team SmartStop tweeted the best, "We are excited to go back to Colorado!" On behalf of anyone who loves a bike, races a bike or loves racing a bike in Steamboat, we are excited to have them and all the teams racing in and out of our town next week. Let's show them what we've got.

Road, gravel, mountain, dirt jump, BMX. Routt County Riders is the local source for grass roots advocacy and cycling information. For help or advice, visis on facebook.com/rcriders or email rcriders@routtcountyriders.org.

Alan Perkins is a Routt County Riders board member and volunteer.