STAGECOACH — The chaos began a few minutes after 8 a.m.
A few Tour de Steamboat cyclists trickled in before that, but they soon started showing up in waves. The aid station at Stagecoach Reservoir was mostly ready.
Some tables were being rearranged, and water jugs were still being filled, but for the most part, the aid station was complete. There were two stations through which Tour de Steamboat riders could fuel up for the next leg of their journey.
The Stagecoach aid station is the largest and perhaps the most important aid station along the courses. About 800 of the 1,200 participants stop at the station; everyone except the 26-mile riders.
Providing sustenance and hydration for that many people is a tall task that about a dozen volunteers, mostly from Alpine Bank, orchestrate.
“This is a classic Steamboat event, and it’s so much fun where you mix the locals and the visitors, and everybody is out for the same idea — to have a lot of fun,” said Alpine Bank President Adonna Allen.
Allen and Alpine Bank have been heading up the Stagecoach Aid station for years, and she said the secret to a successful station is good volunteers.
Besides the people running it, the best part of the Stagecoach aid station is it’s early on in the ride, so no one is feeling tired or overheated yet.
“It’s a great event (the Tour de Steamboat); it brings people to Steamboat,” said volunteer Scott Norris. “It’s a great thing to volunteer for, because everybody’s always in a great mood and happy.”
Cyclists enter the aid station, a dirt parking lot at the corner of Routt County Roads 14 and 16 at Stagecoach Reservoir. They lean their bikes along the guard rail, grass or smack dab in the middle of the lot.
Bella Whitaker, 5, greets them with a cowbell. She’s been working at this aid station for four years. Her mom Lily Whitaker hands each rider a pop-up bowl, as many dog owners have, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer.
The bowls are new and necessary, as volunteers hand riders food by placing their requested snack in the bowl, rather than touching hands while exchanging the object.
Mary Huber is a pro at keeping riders from sticking their hands in bowls and boxes. She leans over, gloved hands hovering above the food and asks them what they’d like, then promptly hands them what they ask for.
Cyclists are spoiled at the aid stations. There’s halved bananas, clementines, pretzels, Pringles and fig newtons.
“We made the fig newtons fresh last night,” Norris joked. “They’re still warm, fresh out of the oven. The big thing is we wait and pick the bananas at three in the morning, so they’re fresh.”
There’s also a large bowl of M&Ms with a small cup for scooping, as well as Oreos. At the end of the table is a collection of Honey Stinger snacks, which tend to be popular. There are waffles, chews and gels, which was the first item the aid station ran out of. Most items were well stocked and kept in the back of a U-Haul.
Volunteers have to keep track of how many Honey Stinger products they hand out, limiting each rider to one or two.
A truck holds a 125-gallon tank of water, which is used to keep the water dispensers full.
In addition to consuming calories, riders stand around and meet new people or regroup with their friends.
If someone was experiencing some bike trouble, Andrew Stubbs, store manager at Switchback Sports, was on scene with an entire bike shop packed into his truck.
“I have my full mobile toolbox,” he said. “It has everything in it to take a bike all the way apart and back together if needed. Hopefully we don’t need to do that.”
He also brought a table of products that people may want or need including compressed air, tubeless sealant, handlebar tape and bottle cages. The Switchback Sports tent was busy the entire morning with at least one cyclist needing help with an issue on their bike at all times.
By 9 a.m. the rush from the 26- and 44-mile rides seemed to have passed but plenty of 50-milers were still coming through. Around 9:30 a.m., the top 100-mile riders were rolling into the station, soon to be followed by the less-speedy wave of century participants.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreard[email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.