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Rippin’ the Training Wheels Off: Missoula Training Race #1 Report Missoula Bicycle Works kicked off Montana’s road race season this weekend with its annual training race held in Clinton, MT. Roughly 60 competitors showed up at the town’s only exit (#120) there on Interstate 90 on a perfect Montana spring day. Of course, as we all know, a “perfect Montana spring day” brings temps in the mid-40s, with a dose of constantly changing winds, a few sprinkles of rain, and tops it all off with a bit of snow. Cycling in this weather brings out the one question that has multiple answers in the riding community…”what in the heck to wear!?!?!” Decked out in my BSC race kit, complimented with full leg warmers, full shoe covers, a light pair of gloves, a heavy pair of gloves, a skull cap, a wool cap & a light coat, I arrived at the Missoula Bicycle Works to register. When in doubt on what to wear, bring it all I always say. You can always ditch what you don’t need in someone’s rig. Mark Brooke and Randall & Theresa Green were there from Helena’s Team Great Divide. Randy & Landon Beckner were there sportin’ the Montana Velo colors as well. Don’t let it ever be said that Helena cyclists don’t show up on race day. We’re like the postal service…”Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…”. Randall, Mark & I opted to cycle the 18 miles out to Clinton for the start, while the rest of the crew drove out there so they could pre-ride the course. The race course is a 6.5 mile hairpin loop that parallels I-90 on both sides of the interstate. The starting line is just before the train tracks located near the Exit 120 overpass. From there, you ride back toward Missoula a little over 3 miles before reaching an underpass that will return you to Clinton. All categories of racers complete 4.25 laps this day. The categories are broken into the following groups: A) Experienced and competitive, B) Newer & competitive and 3) new racers. C’s start first, B’s five minutes later & A’s five minutes after that. This somewhat different format creates a good “chase” factor to the race as each group races for just one, and perhaps most coveted of all, grand prize…Big Dipper Ice Cream! Five minutes after the C’s took off, us B’s anxiously awaited our chance to catch the C’s and steal a charge on the A’s waiting behind us. “Ready, Set…[ding, ding, ding].” Down goes the crossing & here comes the train! So, we waited a bit longer to get things started. A most auspicious start to the race season to say the least. Our first lap was relatively uneventful. The B group, of around 25-30 racers total, road together in a pretty tight pack as we tried to watch for any potholes (not too many) & negotiated the two hairpin turns (pretty sandy & sketchy) for the first time. We were warned previously about the underpass turn being the more treacherous of the two. The train tracks were pretty wide & could easily eat up a tire [go ahead & hit a perilous & foreboding key on the piano at this point, if there’s one around…]. The second lap produced a couple of major changes to the overall tone of the race. First, the B’s caught the C’s. Second, shortly thereafter, the A’s caught the B’s! When the A’s arrived, we B’s suddenly found ourselves in a peloton of riders that were pushing pedals with a bit more anger than what we had previously been accustomed to up to this point. The third lap was the craziest off all. After watching us already cruise by a couple of times, a golden retriever who’d been lounging on his porch had decided that he’d seen enough of this namby-pamby ridin’ & decided to get things charged up a bit by giving chase. To the dog’s credit, it stayed out of the way and, once the resultant speeds picked up, we never saw him again. Regardless, the race was officially “on” now! The third time through the underpass turn produced the big moment of the race. A couple riders in the middle of the group got snared up in the train tracks (no serious injuries) and those in front took off while those in back watched them do so as we worked through the mess. With the gap quickly widening, I grabbed a couple of gears and took off to try and get back in the safety of that lead group. With the HRM red-lining, the dread of another long & lonely ride to the finish line was starting to sink in. Just then, however, three riders pulled in front of me with lots of encouragement as they went by…”great pull”…”hang in there”…work together and we’ll get there.” Tucked in behind their wheel, I hung on & we got back into the fold before the turn at Clinton. Wow! Best part of the race right there!! The start of the fourth lap got a bit dicey for the lead group as, up ahead, we could see we were quickly coming upon a farmer on his tractor rumblin’ down the road. Hmmm…center line strictly enforced today and losing ground on that gap behind us. What to do? Fortunately, just before we had to make a decision, the fella got his tractor off the road and allowed us to squeeze by. Nice bit of driving for sure & we were grateful for his consideration. The last time through the underpass was a total bonehead move on my part. Remembering the crash that occurred previously, I opted to stay way right of things in the event someone else went down this time. Well, working my way back up the underpass, I managed to ride myself right into a deep sandy part of the corner. I stayed upright, but engulfed in the sand scrubbed my momentum…and there went the lead group down the road (again!). I gave hard chase, but I didn’t have any racers to team up with this time. Had to try & dig out myself. All the way back to Clinton, it didn’t seem like I was losing any ground…kept that lead group in my sights & the HRM wasn’t burning up. Thought that I just might get back into the mix at the final turn there Um, come to find out that the reason I was moving so well through this stretch back to Clinton was because the wind had really picked up and was at my back. Well, when I made that final turn, guess what…the wind was now full in my face. Then the rain started. Then some snow. With about a mile to go before the finish line, I accepted that my race day was over & dropped the chain into the small ring for an easy ride in. I met up with Theresa along the way and we worked together through the quickly deteriorating weather until we safely crossed the finish line. I didn’t get too wet at the end there, but greatly appreciated that Bill Schultz let me bum a drive back with him to Missoula. A nice warm shower, a quick bite to eat downtown, and I was home before dark. Finish line results notwithstanding, I feel I had myself a great day of racing. From a training standpoint, I got everything out of it that I wanted. Got almost 50 miles of riding in. Worked on tempo. Worked on a few sprints. Road fast & in a large group. Worked together with some co-racers to close a gap. Lastly, and this may seem a bit innocuous, but (hey) how often do you pull a water bottle out of your cage, take a swig, then put it back…all while doing 20+ mph with riders just a few inches away? Well, it’s sure not an easy thing for me to do without some practice. So, simply to that accomplishment today, do I drink a

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One Comment

  1. Great job Joe! I’m glad you have learned to finally bring appropriate cold weather riding clothes.


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