It’s all uphill at Keystone bike race |

It’s all uphill at Keystone bike race

KEYSTONE – If mountain bikers in the High Country feel they haven’t had many chances to get their legs and lungs into shape during the wet spring, they can make up for it and then some Saturday during the fifth annual Keystone Uphill Mountain Bike Challenge.

The uphill race, which is the first of the Mountain Sports Outlet (MSO) race series at Keystone Resort, is a six-mile, lung-busting haul 2,400 feet up Jackstraw Road to the summit of Keystone Mountain.

“To climb as hard as you can for 50 minutes is really difficult,” said Luke Mason, uphill regular who took fourth in the race last year as well as second overall in the Summit Mountain Challenge (SMC) mountain bike race series, which kicks off its 17th season tonight on the Frisco Peninsula.

“It’s a good test to see where you are,” Mason said. “I need something to get my butt in gear. It’s a cool race if you get into a rhythm. It starts out so steep, you’re working really hard right away. It’s more of a training race for me.”

About 220 racers turned out for last year’s race – a huge leap from the 25 that showed up for the inaugural event five years ago. Last year, many of the front runners came from the Front Range. Don Maneth of MSO launched the series last year and, with Trek as the series’ new title sponsor, is hoping it establishes itself this season as a solid outlet for mountain bikers across all of Colorado as well as those from Summit County.

“We’ve never looked at this as a local race series,” he said. “We look at it as a series that will draw 50-50 representation from local and Front Range riders. We don’t want to compete against the (SMC) series where it’s all cross country and mostly the same riders every Wednesday. We’ve picked different races for different disciplines. We’re really trying to establish this as a viable racing series in the Colorado area and to promote Keystone, which really has some of the best mountain bike trails you’ll find anywhere.”

The MSO series inherited the uphill race last year, when it easily yielded the best turnout of any other race in the series, which will follow last year’s lead of including a short track race June 21, a 12-hour race June 26 and a downhill Aug. 9. The series will add a cross country finale Aug. 16.

“We want feedback from people,” Maneth said. “We want to hear, “we love the downhill, you should add a mountaincross,’ or, “we love the 12-hour, you should do more events like that.’ Every year, it surprises me how many people really want to climb to the top of the mountain. I’ve seen people riding up the road this week. The first mile and a half is the true measure. If you can make it past that and recover, you’ll be fine. A lot of people sign up just to see if they can do it.”

The uphill sets itself apart from other races in that all racers, regardless of age or skill, tackle the same grueling course. Spectators should be advised that the lifts will not be running to carry them to the finish line or back down the mountain, so hiking or biking are the only options. Shuttles will be available for racers who don’t want to ride back down the road.

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