Endurance challenge

Tuesday's Town Challenge race longest of year for many

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Steamboat Springs -- The Keiss family of Craig has mastered the art of bicycle-packing.

When all six members race in the Steamboat Springs Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series, as they typically do, they must cram six bikes, six people and the equipment necessary for each into their Ford pickup.

"It's a crew cab with a long bed," Emily Keiss, 15, said.

The bikes of Andrew, 6, Katharine, 10, and David, who celebrates his 13th birthday today, go in first and go in upside-down. The bikes of Emily and parents Mary Anne and Chris go in last. Then the family gets in and makes what has become a weekly, 80-minute round trip to Steamboat to either ride on the town's trails or participate in the race series.

Emily Keiss is the only participant in the youth 16-18 division, but she has found competition in the women's novice division, racing against riders more than two times her age. In Wednesday's Mount Werner Sunshine Loop, she finished first for the third time among the women's novice riders this season, putting a little more distance between herself and her mother, Mary Ann Keiss, this time around.

In the last race, Emily Keiss edged her mom by inches. Wednesday, she finished in 32 minutes, 41 seconds. Mary Ann Keiss came across in 33:10, one second ahead of Michelle Isaeff.

"I like the uphills on Mount Werner," Emily Keiss said. "I'm not good at downhills. I've crashed too many times. I pulled away at the beginning, but two ladies passed me, and I passed them back. I made myself go faster on the downhills so they couldn't catch me."

There was no catching Barkley Robinson or Karen Tremaine on Wednesday night, either. Robinson won the pro/open division by nearly one minute, summiting Mount Werner and descending back down in 1:17:55. Ben Zambrana was second in 1:18:51.

The pro/open riders were among several groups to complete a 14-mile ride that took them up to the Sunshine Loop above the gondola building before bringing them back down on Zig Zag.

The women's expert division, at the insistence of its riders, completed the same 14-mile course, as well. Tremaine, who moved to Steamboat from Boulder this year because of the area's mountain biking, was first in 1:38:29. Kelly Boniface was second in 1:45:00.

Boniface was the one who called race director Gretchen Sehler on Tuesday and asked that the expert women be allowed to race the longer course, Tremaine said.

"I originally signed up for the open division because I wanted to do the longer one," Tremaine said. "It's such a fun descent off Sunshine."

Robinson, who has done little mountain biking this summer because of his packed road-racing schedule, added that the descents on Wednesday were also a bit hairy because the dirt on the course was loose. His hands and arms were tired after the ride.

"I was by myself most of the climb, but Ben was chasing me on the downhill," Robinson said. "This is my favorite course. It's longer and has a lot of different terrain."

Melinda Mawdsley can be reached at 871-4208 or mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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