'Mo Phat' riders pedal for repeat title

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Dirt flying, tires gripping and shocks bouncing are all part of the annual Steamboat Mountain Biking series.

Somewhere in the clouds of dust is a group of five who call themselves the Mo Phat racing team. The cycling squad of Winn Wallcott, Mike Markle, Steve Martinson, Eric Havrilla and Chris Keiss all work or live in Moffat County and are theseries defending team champions.

"We kinda just threw the team together at the beginning of the season last year," Martinson said. "It was nice to have a Moffat County team win an event that is held in Steamboat."

This year the team has had an injury (Keiss is riding for the injured racer) and Martinson has moved from the "sport" division up to "expert" division, making it harder to score points and, in the long run, repeat as champions.

Yet the team seems optimistic.

"We really have no idea where we are," Markle said. "We just have to concentrate on being optimistic."

At Wednesday night's Howelson Circuit race, the third race of the summer, Martinson finished fourth in his division. Markle crossed the finish line in sixth in the sport masters division and Wallcott raced to third in the women's expert division.

"We were missing some people tonight," Martinson said. "But we still scored."

A bright spot for the team has been emerging star Eric Havrilla. The youngest rider of the crew, who will be a senior at Moffat County High School next year, started riding competitively last year and has steadily improved. At the second race of the summer, Havrilla set a new record for his age group in the mountain climb. He also beat the veteran Martinson.

"We taught him some tough lessons last year," Martinson said. "Now this year he comes back and beats me. He may be the high-points earner for us this year."

While the team race title may be tough to defend this summer, the riders are more focused on the aspects that go beyond the team trophy.

After the race, while bracing himself up against his car and catching his breath Markle said, "I've done a lot of sports in my life, and biking is the most fun, yet, hardest I've ever done."

Other Craig area riders to participate in the race on Wednesday were Mary Ann Keiss and her daughter, Emily Keiss. Mary Ann Keiss finished third in the 30 and over sport divisions and Emily Keiss was the victor in the youth girls race. Luke Rummel pedaled his was to second in the boys 10-12 age group.

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