Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Missoula-Frenchtown-Hamilton 200K, Hitting the Weather Window Perfectly

Ken Baker, Lane Coddington, Karel Stroethoff, Sam Collins, Jason Karp, Ken Billingsley
photo by Karen Ruckey

More photos here    Results here

As Ken Billingsley and I were driving to Missoula Friday night we encountered rain, wind, and fairly heavy snow over Homestake Pass. All week the weather forecast called for rain at some point during our 200K brevet on April, 25.

But one last check of the weather forecast on Friday night showed conditions improving and we awoke to a beautiful, chilly, blue sky morning.  Ken and Karel Stroethoff were there as usual, and we were joined by experienced randonneurs, Ken Baker from Bozeman and Sam Collins from Jackson, Wyoming who were riding a brevet in Montana for the first time.  We were also joined by Lane Coddington from Missoula who would be attempting his first randonneuring event of any kind.

Karel showed up on a fixed gear bike and was super strong right from the beginning dropping the rest of us as we headed out of Missoula. A little confusion with a missing sign at our first info control brought him back temporarily and we were all together at the first checkpoint in Frenchtown.  After Frenchtown Karel was gone, though Lane and Sam saw him again briefly in Hamilton. Karel ended up finishing an hour and 10 minutes ahead of the rest of us. He's had a great start to the season which certainly bodes well for PBP in August.

Later on in the ride we came across Rick Dendinger who was doing some riding on the Bitterroot Bicycle Trail.  Rick had ridden a 100K and 200K with us last season, but is nursing a knee injury so he didn't want to risk riding a whole 200K. Rick stuck with us to Hamilton and back to Missoula and we were glad to have his company along with dozens of other cyclists as the nice day was bringing them out of the woodwork.

On the Bitterroot Bicycle Trail to Hamilton
We got split up some on the path to Hamilton. Ken, Ken, Rick, and I made the Subway our checkpoint. Karel and Lane stopped at McDonalds, and Sam ended up getting the deepest into Hamilton thanks to my cue sheet which recommended the Safeway in the middle of town. US 93 in Hamilton is basically one long strip mall so with so many choices to get a receipt it was probably inevitable that we'd end up at different places.

The ride back to Missoula on the path was pretty easy with a slight downhill grade along the Bitterroot River, though the wind did change to be in our faces most of the way in both directions, it was always light and not much of a concern. A few rain clouds over the mountains to the west looked like they might find us, but they never did.

An extended stop at the Town Pump in Florence allowed Lane and Sam to catch back up and we were all back together for the last 22 miles except for Karel who was just killing it on the day. We talked and chatted the miles away and then put the hammer down as the path gave way to the US 93 shoulder for the last few miles into Missoula. Traffic was busy as usual, but not threatening and despite lots of debris-no flats for anybody!

We cruised across the pedestrian bridge by the University of Montana on to Broadway and the Motel 6 where Sam's wife Karen was deputized to sign our cards. Even with generous stops, this fun flat route allowed us to finish in under 10 hours. Not a bad day's work.

Ken, Ken and Lane on the Pedestrian Bridge-almost done!
Although the weather stayed cool throughout the day, it was also dry and breezes were light. We really couldn't have asked for better riding in Montana in April. It was the perfect day on the perfect route and a great time.

Post ride was at the Iron Horse Pub in Missoula where lots of randonneuring stories were shared. It was pouring rain on Sunday morning when we left the motel and most of the drive back to Belgrade was in a wet sloppy snow storm. It was a good day to not be on the bike.

Congrats to Ken Baker for finishing his first brevet in many years, and to Lane for finishing his first brevet ever. It was also nice to meet Sam and Karen who had recently relocated from New York to Jackson. It's nice to get another experience randonneur in our part of the world.  It was a great start to my PBP 2015 qualifying campaign. The next one, the Fishtail 300K out of Laurel and going to Columbus, Red Lodge, and Bridger is coming up fast on May 9. That one will be a little more challenging and even more scenic. Hopefully the weather keeps cooperating.

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