Written by: Josh Cooley
In the Gowdy Grinder cross country mountain bike race on Sunday, Steve Stefko demonstrated that while the 18-mile course necessitates endurance, superior technical riding skills can make all the difference. Stefko, in his first race of the season, barely beat Allen Krughoff, a cyclocross specialist.
“It is an incredible way to start my mountain bike race season,” says Stefko. “It was a hard fought win and that makes it pretty gratifying.”
The Gowdy Grinder course, mostly singletrack with a dash of doubletrack, slashes through massive granite formations and boulders amongst sage and cacti in southeast Wyoming’s Curt Gowdy State Park. The race tempo varies drastically as riders navigate rocks, drops and boulders then hit smooth, fast singletrack followed by more technical features. Some sections force riders off their bikes.
In the Open Men race, Stefko and Krughoff were the leaders after the field of 55 riders spread out on the first lap. With a few miles left in the race they battled for position. It appeared Krughoff’s robust endurance would get the better of Stefko’s technical prowess.
“The last lap was intense,” says Stefko. “Allen had the better fitness on the climbs, so I knew I had to make a move in the technical stuff. I passed on a rock feature and then went full-gas to the finish. It definitely helped knowing the trails. Props to Allen for pushing that hard on trails he's never ridden before.”
In the Open Women race, Rebecca Gross (Tough Girl), Erin Huck (Tokyo Joe’s) and Melissa Thomas (Tokyo Joe’s) spearheaded the charge until Gross took full command on the second lap and held on for the win. Huck took second and Thomas finished third. Sarah Konrad, a Laramie resident since 1997, finished fourth.
“It is a local race with a deep field on a great technical course – more technical than most cross country courses,” says Konrad. “Also, really unusual to get such a stacked field at a Wyoming race ... it makes it fun to represent Wyoming against all the imports.”
The grassroots, no frills Gowdy Grinder draws riders from mostly Colorado and Wyoming with cities like Boulder, Cheyenne, Denver, Fort Collins and Laramie well-represented. Categories include Beginner, Intermediate and Open. The entry fee of only $15 combined with the challenging and fun course makes it a desirable and challenging race for riders of all calibers. Race director Nat Dyck plans to keep things essentially the same for next year and beyond.
“With an all-volunteer crew, this is about as much as any of us wants to do,” says Dyck. “We like the way things have been going. We don't provide anything more than courses, timing and results. It's just good racing and a good value.”
Dyck says that potential changes for next year’s Gowdy Grinder may include the addition of another men's category to help accommodate the demand for bigger Open and Intermediate fields. The overall race limit will remain capped at 250 racers.