Think of the Butte 100 as a business, not one of the toughest mountain bike races in the nation.
Previous owner Bob Waggoner, of Butte, one of the event founders, has sold the race entity to Stephanie Sorini, whose late husband Dr. Pete Sorini was an avid rider and supporter of the race.
“Stephanie Sorini is a fireball,” said Waggoner. “I wish she would have been a part of it in the capacity she is now because she knows everyone. And she knows how to put on events.”
Sorini said she’s transforming the Butte 100, formerly under the umbrella of Waggoner’s defunct TripleRing Productions, into a nonprofit.
Carrying on a family tradition of involvement in the Butte 100 since its inception in 2007, Sorini said she jumped in to buy the entity just as Waggoner nearly sold it to a Missoula company.
“I saw the economic impact it has on Butte,” Sorini said. “With keeping the ownership in Butte, it gives us an opportunity to give back to the community.”
The annual race gets underway Saturday, July 30, near Homestake Lake, with over 335 riders signed up.
She allowed her protective approach to show when discussing the purchase and praising the volunteers, organizers and sponsors who work together to make the event a reality
“I’m working more behind the scenes and these people are making it … happen,’’ said Sorini. “They have everything down to a science right now; there’s no need to go in and change anything.”
The entry fees of the growing competitive and recreational field will help pay for everyday bike racks for installation in Uptown, and at hotels and restaurants, she said. It helps raise money for Sorini Strong youth scholarships, too.
Dr. Sorini died Feb. 8 from brain cancer. He was a major sponsor of the Butte 100 since day one.
“We had been involved in it for 10 years,” she said. “I thought it was a good thing to keep it going. I saw the need to keep the headquarters in Butte because of the economic development. We want to keep the headquarters here and the managing of it here.”
Had the unnamed Missoula company bought it, the event would have changed, said Waggoner.
“I didn’t want to see it leave Butte,” he said. “And I didn’t want to see us lose sponsors. I knew somebody at that time wanted to change it in a direction we didn’t want to go.”
The 100-mile race may be the signature competition, but the 50-miler and the 25-mile race draw their share of competitors and not-so-hardcore riders.
The Sorini 25 is now the official name of the shortest race — indicative of the Dr. Sorini’s love for riding, supporting riders and financially keeping the race afloat, along with Coca-Cola and Mile High Beverage, among others.
Current Race Director Gina Evans, Waggoner and wife Gwen Waggoner founded the race in 2007. Waggoner said now that he’s sold the entity, it gives him time to participate.
“This is the first year I’ll have a chance to ride in it,” he said. He’s doing the Sorini 25 as are several physicians, Dr. Sorini’s colleagues, to honor the beloved neurologist.
“It’s hard to get the training time anymore, but for the 25, I pretty much ride every day during winter and summer,” added Waggoner, who builds bikes as a hobby.
Waggoner and friends groom the snow-covered trails at Thompson Park, where they train in winter on fat-tire bicycles.
Today, Waggoner and training buddies like Mile High Beverages President Chad Godbout can’t help but think of Pete Sorini while out on the trail.
“We both kinda feel that Pete is out there riding with us every day,” said Waggoner. “There’s always something that works out when we’re out there … trees falling away from us or lightning striking somewhere else.”
The race continues to grow. Evans confirmed over 335 entries so far this year in the professional/expert and recreational/open categories.
The first race in 2007 drew 41 racers. Now it’s common to have a few hundred on the waiting list, said Waggoner.
Evans, an inspirational whirlwind and rider herself, said the Sorini sponsorship name will remain on the official jerseys.
“Stephanie’s family has always been passionate about mountain bike racing,” said Evans. “With the new ownership, it’s a heartfelt way of carrying on Pete’s love of the Butte 100 and the mountain biking available in the area.”
Stephanie Sorini got her wish: she and the Butte 100 — plus the 140 volunteers — will continue to give back to the community on many levels, plus it keeps her husband’s memory alive.
“She’s full of energy,” said Waggoner. “The race couldn’t be in better hands.”