The 2010 24 Hours of Rapelje is in the books, and all are making the journey back to home to recover with a giant smile on their face. Here’s the back story you need to know about the event. A little over 10 years ago, the last business in the town (a bar), closed down. A group of people from the town decided to buy the bar, and make it a non-profit community center and cafe to keep a sense of community in the town, and named it the Stockman Cafe. Despite use from the townsfolk, the cafe was really struggling, and it looked like it was going to close down. Then someone from the nearby metropolis of Billings suggested putting on a 24 Hour mountain bike race to raise money to keep Stockman Cafe opened. For the past year, and excellent symbiotic relationship has existed, for one weekend a year, the people of Rapelje open their town and hearts to mountain bikers, let them ride around, feed them constantly, and treat everyone who shows up like royalty. In return, the mountain bikers pump enough money into the town to keep Stockman Cafe open for another year.
Anyway, the course was 14 miles long, with about 9 miles of singletrack (or a cowtrail as the townsfolk call it), and 800 feet of climbing. Sure Eastern Montana isn’t a mecca for mountain biking, but the course is pretty nice, and physically challenging enough to test everyone’s ability. I entered in the Solo SS class, and here is the quick recap on a lap by lap basis:
- Lap 1: Le Mans start, during the run, I try to make a layup on the basketball hoop that was set up by one of the teams, I miss and look stupid. Feel good, course is in fine shape considering the storm that passed through town the previous night.
- Lap 2: Feeling strong, notice clouds getting closer and closer to course. Storm rolls though as I am heading back to town, and I get pummeled by rain and hail for a couple minutes
- Lap 3: Race still on despite storm, keep riding, and pass everyone who got stuck in the storm, and now have bikes covered in gumbo like mud.
- Lap 4: Start to slow down and pace for the long haul, course is beginning to dry, but still plenty of spots to get bogged down.
- Lap 5: Shitty lap mentally, until the end, when I forget about the whole racing aspect, decide to ride my bike and smile more.
- Lap 6: All smiles, decent pace, enjoying the scenery, very thankful for the water that was put out at the halfway point.
- Lap 7: Things seem to be going fine, until I break a pedal on the drive side, start trying to ride back on one leg, then non-drive side crank comes out. I don’t have a 10 mm tool with me, so start to walk/coast into town.
Looked at the crank with some other folks, and realize it’s toast. Had option to go out and try to ride course on my SSCX bike but decide to just enjoy the rest of the weekend, by enjoying my friend’s company, and enjoying some drinks. The night is full of BBQ, basketball, heckling, live music, late night pancakes, and random support task for others. Get to see the sunrise, then spend the morning cheering people on and having a few more drinks. 11 a.m. rolls around and the race is over. I wind up with 7 laps, for about 100 miles worth or riding (in about 8.5 hours). We all hang around cleaning up camp, going to the post-race lunch, and attending the awards ceremony.
That’s Rapelje for ya folks, other races will have better course, other races will require less driving, but I can’t think of another race that has the sense of community the Rapelje does. Everyone involved with putting on the race wants all of the racers needs to be met, because if they don’t they might lose a big part of their community. The cost is downright cheap, $55 for a solo, nothing to camp, breakfast is $5 bucks (two plates full of eggs bacon and hash browns), free pancakes at midnight, and the riding ain’t half bad either. So if you live within a days drive of this fine little town, think about making the trip next year, it will probably be worth it. Enjoy the link to my photos from this years race, and an article from the NY Times from the 2007 edition.by