Stung by the Steamboat Stinger
It seems like every mountain town has one, that local bike race that’s as much about community as competition. In Steamboat Springs, Colorado, that event is the Steamboat Stinger (sponsored by locally-based energy food maker Honey Stinger). The now-seven-year-old event is held each August, doling out a massive serving of serpentine singletrack, and acting as critical fundraiser for the Partners in Routt County youth mentoring group and Routt County Riders, the local IMBA chapter that helped build many of the trails the race traces.
This year, as it often does, the Stinger was all but sold out, with 250 riders signing up for the solo 50-mile affair, plus 160 teams of two opting for the duo category that’s divided up by men, women, and co-ed. (That’s 570 total bodies on course throughout the day in case you’re counting). Also note there are marathon and half marathon running races the next day, which attracted another 339 people, including 19 who did the 50-mile MTB and then the 26.2-mile run. Ouch…
Racing starts and finishes at the base of Howelsen Hill just across the Yampa River on the town’s south side. From there competitors spin two laps of a 25-mile circuit that takes in the lion’s share of trail that make up the Emerald Mountain system. The course is never overly technical (mostly smooth, fast and flowy except for one rowdy section dubbed Little Moab). But with 3500 feet of climbing per lap, 90% singletrack, zero pavement, and two primary ascents that crest above 8000 feet, you better bring your A game if you plan to stay near the front — or just finish.
Mtbr made the trek north from our Crested Butte HQ to both check out the race and do a little proper product testing aboard the Scott Spark 900, an 120mm XC/trail bike with a dropper post and TwinLoc travel adjust system. Both got tons of use on this ever-undulating course that includes several nasty, steep fire road climbs where being fully locked out was a huge plus.
All the fast guys and gals finished with sub-5-hour times, led by local Steamboat ripper Hannah Bingham (4:42:52) and Colorado Front Range-based pro Chris Baddick (4:05:35).
Yours truly trickled home in 5:21:17, good enough for a 12th place out of 103 in the solo citizen’s race. Full results can be found here.
My biggest post-race takeaways were get as close to the front as possible early in the race due to limited passing once you hit the singletrack, and carry only the barest of bare essentials. The chances of flatting are low, the weather was perfect, and on-course support was bar none the best I’ve ever seen at cross country race. Every aid station (roughly a half dozen per lap) was staffed with countless volunteers waiting to hand you all manner of Honey Stinger product and fully topped off bottles of water or Nuun energy drink.
I honestly could have started with one half-filled bottle and a single gel, and still never put a foot down during the entire 5+ hours on course. It was really (really) well executed. And there was a non-sanctioned “aid” station at the top of the second main climb that was stocked with whiskey, beer, and bacon.
After the race, there was more food and beer (included in the race entry fee of $95 or $170 for teams of two), a live band, and an awards ceremony for victors in all the various categories. And of course, copious amounts of Honey Stinger product was passed out to all the podium finishers. Bottom line, it was a great event that was challenging enough for accomplished racers, but also attainable for greener riders looking to take on an endurance XC race. I know I’ll be back next year.
Finally, no out-of-town-excursion report would be complete without some “what to do after the race” info. For that, best head over to www.steamboatchamber.com or just check out the video below, which illuminates the myriad fun things to do in one of America’s great mountain towns. I can personally vouch for the Old Town Hot Springs (sore leg soothing paradise), Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo (western culture and people watching at its finest), and of course mountain biking on Emerald Mountain (so much singletrack). The burgers and sweet potato fries at the Back Door Grill are great, too.
To learn more about the Steamboat Stinger and Honey Stinger, head to www.honeystinger.com, and click on any image below to see a full photo gallery from the race.