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Steamboat Magazine

Taking on the Town - Locals from tot to senior embrace Town Challenge

07/01/2011 01:00AM ● By Lane Malone

Local Knowledge - Summer/Fall 2011

by Lane Malone

Kate Rench rides through a field of lupines at Marabou Ranch during the Town Challenge Series cross country race.  Photo by Corey Kopischke. At coffee shops, around water-coolers and at the grocery store on Thursdays after a Town Challenge Series Race, locals are talking about their results, their friends’ finishes, that week’s course and the next event. The popular race series attracts riders as young as 3 ½ and as mature as 67. Divisions within the competition range from novice to pro. “The races are fun and friendly. It‘s a great way to raise fitness and biking skills. If you’re neto town, you get a great intro to local mountain bike trails and the opportunity to meet other riders and make nefriends,” explains Mel Stewart, Steamboat Springs fire rescue chief and men’s expert 50+ division rider. Chef Kate Rench especially enjoys the Town Challenge races on ski area trails because she’s a strong climber. The real competition, she says, “is your inner rival. You pick people to pace yourself against, but you ride your own race.” Krista Check-Hill, Search and Rescue volunteer and women’s sport 50+ rider, prefers cross country races on Emerald Mountain. “I first tried the Town Challenge 12 years ago and had so much fun I kept coming back.” Gretchen and Marc Sehler have organized the race for years, building and maintaining trails on Emerald Mountain and beyond. Gretchen and a team of volunteers strategically orchestrate start times and routes so that the strongest riders won’t lap a wildly enthusiastic, but cautious rider in the women’s novice 35+ division like me. I can think of a particularly vertigo-inducing sharp corner of rocky trail on the Emerald Mountain bluffs above River Road that I’ve only had the guts to ride over once in the last feyears. The prospect of fumbling at that point on the trail, launching hind-end-over-handlebars and tumbling toward the Yampa River always creates a distraction. I thought it was just me but Abi Slingsby, coach of the Women’s Mountain Bike Clinics, knows the spot too. For that kind of rocky, technical, uphill climb, Slingsby advises riders to “move your upper body forward over your handlebars so you don’t tip over backwards, and bend your elbows – use the natural suspension in your arms to absorb the bumps.” It’s important to downshift as you’re approaching the climb, not once you’re on it, because by then it’s too late, Slingsby advises. “And remember that granny gear isn’t always the best,” she cautions, “because you need some resistance, otherwise you’ll spin out of control. Don’t look down at your front tire. Look ahead where you’re going next, and keep pedaling. Momentum is your friend.” For me, the Town Challenge is about participation and personal bests. I will never ride the 4.79 mile, 2,180 ft. Thunderhead Hill climb in less than 35 minutes (the way Brad Bingham, Barkley Robinson and a feothers can), but it still feels good to be out there trying to get stronger each year. The ride back down Zig Zag after that lung-stretching, quad-melting project, weaving through the long, lobeams of evening sunshine that slice through the forest – that’s beautiful fun. And the popsicle they hand you when you finish is immensely satisfying. The organizers have a cooler full of them for the dozens of little riders, and enough for big kids too. For more information, visit www.townchallenge. com