I’ve been hearing about the Butte 100 for several years now, about how hard it is but also about the quality of riding they have. They tout this race as the hardest 100 mile mountain bike race in the country and with over 16,000 feet of climbing, I had to see for myself. I also have never raced or done any riding at all in Montana so that was another reason to make the 13 hour drive. In the past I’ve seen that Tinker Juarez has been regular to this race and was stoked to see that he was doing it again this year.
The first 50 miles of the race is entirely on motorized trails consisting of dirt road, ATV trail and Moto single track. I jumped to the front pretty quick seeing that no-one was looking to push the pace at all, Tinker jumped on my wheel and that’s were he would stay for the entire first 50 miles. I was feeling good, so I set a hard pace and before long it was just myself and Tinker, we rolled along for the first couple hours without any issues, until we came up a road with some ribbon on the right and a backwards arrow pointed to the left, with no trail on the left I figured we just keep going up the road. we went over a small pass and continued for a good while then I started to get nervous and mentioned to Tinker that I hadn’t seen a marker for quite a wile, he responded that this looked familiar and since he had done the race many times I just kept going but in the back of my mind I had the feeling that we were going the wrong way.
We finally came to a defined intersection and saw no markings and realized we were now lost, making the only logical choice we turned around and backtracked the way we had came. We had gone a long way probably about 4 miles both ways when we got to the last marker there was a very faint trail that we hadn’t seen but the arrow had either been misplaced or someone had turned it the other way to sabotage the markings. Now back on track we started to catch the pack that was now way in front of us, undeterred I kept my hard pace and figured I had come all this way to race my bike and that’s what I was going to do.
When we came back to the start finish to continue on to the second 50 miles we asked how far the leader was in front of us and they said 30 minutes, that didn’t bother me that much and I just kept going but not long after Tinker decided that it was to much ground to make up, so he decided to drop out. Now all by myself I just kept the pace high and enjoyed the great riding in the second half, a lot of the second half of the race is on the Continental Divide Trail and this section of it is incredible! Super fun riding with tons of climbing and one section called 8 Miles of Hell, that was really cool. One mans hell can be another mans heaven!
At the start of the second 50 I knew there were 6 or 7 guys still in front and I slowly started pick them off and before long I was back in the top 3. I figured shoot I’m back on the podium just enjoy the rest of the day riding this great CDT! About 15 miles from the finish I passed second place and he told me there was indeed one more guy in front but he didn’t know how far. I really didn’t think I was going to catch the leader but when I came into the last aid with 9 miles to go they told me that he was only a couple minutes ahead, sometimes people will exaggerate how far someone is ahead so I wasn’t banking on this being true but I wasn’t slowing down either I was actually feeling great and pushed up the last climb over the Continental divide. About halfway over the climb I came up to a guy that had a 100 mile number plate and he was hurting pretty bad, I went around him super quick and continued on not really sure if that was the leader or not.
When I came across the finish line people where congratulating me and I still wasn’t sure if I had won or not then the local news paper came over for an interview and I asked the girl if I had won and she looked at me funny and said that I had. I was very surprised to catch everyone after getting lost for so long but I came to race my bike hard and that’s what I did, I wasn’t really worried about what place I was going to end up in but I never gave up and I had a fun day on a hard course.
Is the Butte 100 the hardest 100 miler in the country? Well I don’t think it is, the second 50 miles of the race is probably some of the hardest I’ve done, If the whole race was like the second half then it would be right up there with the Crested Butte 100 in Colorado which I think is the hardest in the country, but don’t get me wrong this race is hard and they do a great job with it, I would highly recommend coming to this race in the future, it’s worth checking out!