As a crush of mountain bikers rode up in search of water, food and rest, I looked up and saw Tinker Juarez pedal by with the intensity of a man on a mission.
It was a blur of black dreadlocks as the mountain biking legend ripped through the Basin Creek aid station during the Butte 100 mountain bike race. Another rider drenched in sweat and gasping for air just looked and said “the man’s a machine.”
Yes, he is.
Juarez destroyed his own record in the Butte 100 Saturday when he made the course in eight hours, 22 minutes. He beat his old time by over an hour and finished 14 minutes ahead of the second place finisher Jamie Lamb of Calgary, Alberta. Not bad for a 51-year-old, but then again, he is a former World Champion and Mountain Bike Hall of Famer.
It was a thrill to see one of the pioneers and legends of the sport, if only for a few seconds. But what struck me while volunteering with the Butte 100 crew was all the riders who were just out to have fun, ride his or her bike and maybe meet a personal goal.
For some, that meant a specific time in which they hoped to cross the finish line. For others, it was simply to finish at all. And that in and of itself is something to be proud of.
Believe me, as a lifelong cyclist, the Butte 100 is one tough ride whether you’re doing the full century or the 50-mile race. It includes more than 11,000 feet of climb for the 50-mile participants and a whopping 17,000 feet for the 100 milers.
To top it off, the course isn’t made up mostly of roads or even ATV trails. There’s some of that, but most of the Butte 100 course and the vast majority of the south loop that encompasses the 50-mile route is comprised of single track.
It’s every mountain biker’s favorite type of trail. But it also makes for hard riding and especially difficult climbing while negotiating rocks, pushing through loose sand and avoiding roots.
By the time the riders reached the Basin Creek aid station, the 100 milers had already pedaled nearly 70 miles and the 50 milers had done 20. Most of them looked tired and stopped just long enough to fill their water packs and bottles, grab some energy snacks and fruit and take a few minutes off the pedal. Others hung around a little longer.
They were fueling up for the toughest part of the course. The dreaded Basin Creek climb takes riders over 3,500 feet of elevation gain over steep, rocky terrain.
The one thing they all had in common was a genuine appreciation for the work that went into pulling off the race. They thanked us profusely for being there, providing information and having everything set up well to get them back on the trail as quickly as possible.
It made the whole day worthwhile.
And as a rider who’s been on the other side of the table getting help, it made me all the more appreciative of the people who pull together to make these things happen.
— Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org