Click here for more photos. PBP qualifying is finally underway as my first brevet of the season, the Missoula 200K, was successfully completed on April 30, 2011. I was joined once again by Ken Billingsley and Karel Stroethoff who are also planning on going to PBP. I was also delighted to have Jeff Fasteen join us for his first randonneuring event. Jeff and Ken drove over from the Billings area and Karel, who has driven 10's of thousands of miles to brevets all over the country, finally got to enjoy a randonnuering event that started just few blocks from his home in Missoula.
I watched the weather forecast with grave concern. A cold front was rolling through the state starting on Thursday, with full effects on Friday, and lingering impact into Saturday. Highs were forecast for about 50 with a mix of rain or snow throughout the day. The ride started with temps in the mid-30's and low gray clouds. The snow line was clearly visible on the surrounding hills just a few hundred feet above the valley floor. We had some wet snow flakes on the way to Huson and Frenchtown along with some light drizzle, but as it turned out, weather wasn't a problem. Having the ride in Missoula was a good decision, it was much worse in most of the rest of the state.
The best part of the route was the wonderful bike path along US Highway 93, starting at Lolo and going almost all the way to Victor-with plans to keep going to Hamilton eventually. Riding a long distance without worrying about rednecks, RV mirrors, big trucks, and other various distracted drivers is incredibly relaxing. The worst part of the ride was the Eastside Highway (Hwy 269) between Stevensville and Corvallis. This part of the route had heavy, impatient, high speed traffic with absolutely no shoulder. Ravalli County drivers were less than hospitable. Which is too bad-because it's a nice valley to ride through. In future incarnations of this route I will make more use of the bike path and avoid 269 as much as possible.
As we got into the afternoon, the clouds broke up and we had some sun. We also had a west wind as we headed back north toward Missoula that was either a cross tailwind, cross wind, or cross headwind depending on the subtle direction changes of the bike path. The wind wasn't so strong though-especially compared to what we've been dealing with most of this spring.
Ken and I finished feeling pretty strong. Karel wasn't feeling well in the afternoon, but he made it in with no problem. Jeff, who had undergone major knee surgery just a few months ago, rode within himself, kept the pedals turning, and finished triumphantly with plenty of time to spare. This was Jeff's first randonnuering event-here's hoping there's many, many more. I know for me, the high from finishing one these rides, is highly addictive. Congrats Jeff!
It was a great day and good start to the season. The next one, the 300K, is on May 21 (my birthday), starting and finishing in Cody, Wyoming. Any chance we'll get a little wind out there?