ToSRV-West 40th annual

This was my second and third century ride, May 22 – 23rd, from Missoula Montana, to Swan Lake, Montana and return, up the Blackfoot and Swan River valleys. I would strongly recommend others participate in this ride in the future.

The scenery is outstanding, the route is do-able with moderate training, the food is great and the camaraderie excellent! The ride is well supported with a group of amateur radio operators patrolling the route, as well as a couple motorcycles (one of whom had 2 spare bike wheels on the back!). A local bike shop supplied mechanical support both days.

The ride has two lengths offered, the 113 mile classic and the shortened 85 mile route. I rode the classic route, which started from the campus of the University of Montana. Riders dropped their bag there, for transport to the campground at Swan Lake. After a brief talk by Shirley Braxton, Grand Marshal, and one of the founding riders, our peloton of about 100-125 riders started out. We left campus and immediately crossed the Clark Fork River on a bike – pedestrian only bridge, we then followed the frontage road to the community of East Missoula, with a splendid view down on a golf course and the river. Then on to the communities of Milltown and Bonner, we formed up a double pace line on the wide shoulder of the state highway.

As we pedaled along at about 16 mph, a tandem with a father-daughter crew broke out to the left and pulled away with a couple riders in tow. I was on the right line and could not join. A mile or two further, I was able to move to the left, and then to the front to assist with the pull. Unfortunately, the group didn’t latch on, and I slowly pulled away. I decided to ride my own ride, with cadence between 80 – 85, and the heart rate about 10 – 12 bpm below AT. So, I soloed rest of the way into the first rest/food stop at Potomac, which was a general increase in elevation from Missoula, but without any noticeable grades.

At Potomac, we had fresh cooked pancakes, with a couple girls cooking them up on a gas griddle outside the door of the community center. We also had baked goods, fruit, coffee, HEED, Poweraide, and hot chocolate. Potomac is also where the short course riders started, after enjoying the breakfast.

From Potomac, I hit my first real grade, with about 5 miles of climbing from about 3700 feet elevation to 4100 feet. After that, I got to enjoy the reverse slope, hitting about 34 mph on the way down. A little further, and I hit the big turn, as we made the left turn from MT 200 to MT 83, the road to Swan Lake. At this point the shoulder narrowed to about a foot, which would prevail for most of the ride. Fortunately, traffic is not very heavy on this route. With the turn, the wind also became a headwind. And a general climb to Summit Lake started here.

At this point, Brook, whom I had met at the start, but had ridden off with the tandem caught me, and we would ride together the rest of the day. It turns out that I passed the tandem at the food stop. We traded off pulls (with Brook doing a greater share, he is a strong rider!) all the way to Summit Lake and then the slight down grade to Seeley Lake, the lunch stop. This stretch included mileage right alongside a beautiful lake.

Seeley Lake lunch stop was hosted at the Senior Citizen’s Center, just a block off the main road. Here we had our choice of 2 different kinds of soup, could make sandwiches with our choice of 5 different breads, 3 meats, 2 cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes, and various condiments. Also there were pretzels, bananas and oranges. Drinks were as at the first stop.

Brook and I had a good, but quick lunch, and headed on down the road. The next stop was about 28 miles down the road at the town of Condon. Along here, we had a series of rollers, with a chain of lakes visible through the trees. We also passed wildlife reserves, and ranches.

The rest stop at Condon was at their community center, which is a nice log building with a nice wood-burning stove. The heat from that stove was nice, after the coolness of the tempuratures and the headwinds. We were offered some really nice brownies and cookies, as well as bananas and the drinks.

Brook and I partook and then started out for the final leg. We soon caught on to three other riders and rode with them for a bit. Then suddenly, I discovered that we had more who had caught us. The tandem from earlier in the day and another rider had passed by the last stop and were moving through! Brook latched onto their wheel, and after a few moments, I bridged up to them as well. The four(five) of us then shared pulling the rest of the way. Although I freely admit that at that point, I probably did the least work. It was all I could do at times to hang on, even though the grades were downhill. The fatigue of 90 miles and the 2000+ foot elevation change from my home were wearing me down.

After a while more, we cycled through the small community of Swan Lake and on to the campground which was our overnight destination. We four(five) were the first into the campground.

Dinner was served under a tent. It was catered in, with chicken, mixed vegetables, fresh fruit, pasta salad, potato salad, apple cobbler, chocolate and white cakes. After dinner, there was a talk by the ride director, Tim.

Throughout the talk, there were drawings for numerous door prizes, from banana protectors to bottles of wine. A bottle of champaigne was given to each table to toast the grand marshall. After dinner a campfire was started and a lot of talk occurred.

I went to bed (in my dad’s camper trailer.) During the night, I was awoken twice by rain on the roof.

In the morning, there was a drizzle occurring, but breakfast was served under the tent: a breakfast lasagna, fresh fruit, English muffins, bacon were on the menu.

I saw Brook headed out as I went to breakfast, he said he’d take it easy and see me down the road. After I ate, I put on my rain jacket and started out myself. I noticed a few people deciding to call for rides home, since the day looked bad.

Solo riding for a while, the legs really feeling fine. The weather dried up in the first 5 miles. After a bit, I came up on another rider taking off his rain jacket and decided that he had a good idea. I stopped and he took off. After a couple minutes I took off again myself. A mile or so down the road, I caught up with him, and then passed. He grabbed my wheel, and we cycled on. His name was Doug, from Bozeman. We caught another rider, Bruce,
and the three of us worked our way to the first stop at Condon. Snacks were pastries, bakery bars and bananas.

Brook was waiting at the stop. After a bit he and I took off, working up the rollers towards Seely Lake. Bruce caught us shortly after that and we three worked our way on. About 5 miles from Seely, Bruce said the pace was too fast for him, and that he would drop off. The wind was not really a factor at this point, since the road was mostly sheltered by trees, but the general grade was still ascending.

Brook and I cycled into Seely Lake to discover that we were the first riders into the stop. Menu was the same as the previous day. Brook and I ended up spending about 45 minutes at lunch. Doug and Bruce were in the stop next, followed by a few other riders.

Brook and I left Seely Lake for the rest of the climb to Summit Lake, then the descending grade to Clearwater Junction with highway 200. Brook and I were cooking on this down grade, ticking off about 4 miles at 24-27 mph.

The turn onto MT 200 set us up for the longest continuous grade of the day, plus the wind was now directly into our face. What the previous day had given us speeds of 33-34 mph was paying us back with 8.5 mph. We just slogged up the hill, which was probably about 4-5 miles long with a 4-5% grade. Once over the crest, we had to pedal downhill to get 16mph with the headwinds, but once we got to the bottom, the winds let up a bit. It was an easy 3-4 mile ride into the last stop at Potomac.

We were again the first into the stop. Brownies and other bakery bars, and bananas (lots of bananas!). Doug and Bruce both got there while we were there. Doug was riding the shortened version, so Potomac was his end point. Bruce said he had family coming out from Missoula to meet him somewhere on the road.

So Brook and I set out again to finish the ride. Head winds made things painful, but we pounded out miles at about 15-16 mph. When we got to the city limit sign, Brook sprinted up to it, I tried, but just could not do it. So Brook was first to town! We cycled together, back to Miller Hall at the University of Montana, where we had started.

This ride was not a race, and I wasn’t trying to make it one, I just tried to keep my cadence at 80-85 and the heart rate below AT. Pairing up with a strong rider like Brook resulted in a much better performance than I had expected. My average speeds were 17 and 16.9 mph on days one and two, respectively. Not bad for my second and third centuries.

I really enjoyed this ride. The Missoulians on Bicycles group did a great job in organizing and running the event.

I think it would be worth your consideration for your ride calendar in 2011.

Tracks from my Garmin are at:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/34860821

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/34860779

The last is a bit short, my battery died near the end.

Loren