The Cycling House hosted our first point to point Montana cycling trip this past week. The point to point trip across Montana had been a pipe dream for many TCH staffers but Shaun Radley really made it happen. Over the years our clients have learned that Missoula, Montana is the center of the universe and Montana is the best state out there. The Tour De Montana was our chance to prove exactly why Montana is such a great state and really showcase our back yard. Almost every Cycling House staffer has lived in Montana at some point in their lives and we all know why Montana is such a special place. Late June through September are the prime summer months in Montana so the tour fell during prime time for a state that can receive snowstorms in every month of the year. Montana is not touted as a major cycling destination because roads are few and far between and loop routes often require 150+miles of cycling. The point to point format offered a chance to create a route that would cover a very unique, desolate, beautiful part of the state. We knew that breathtaking views, big skies, quiet roads, mountain ranges, picturesque streams and rivers would be what campers would expect to find in Montana. The route covered all of the above and more!
I had a bit of an outsiders perspective on this trip because I have been out in New Hampshire training and racing for the past month. I made a quick trip to St. Louis Missouri for the Big Shark Bicycle Company’s Newtown triathlon before arriving in Missoula on Sunday evening. I helped out with the kids race, talked with athletes, helped set up and raced. It was a whirlwind of a trip and I finished 2nd in the near Olympic distance race. I was very impressed with the organization, professionalism and quality of the Newtown Triathlon. The day of the race was full and I had to clean myself and change in the airport restroom before flying out for Montana. The next morning I hit the ground running with The Tour De Montana and was impressed as soon as I arrived at The Gue family farm.
The Tour De Montana started at, Owen Gue’s faimlies house just west of downtown Missoula, Montana. Unlike all of our other trips we would be a traveling caravan and our accommodations would be tents and camping cabins. We might have been “roughing it” but that did not keep us from having wifi, espresso, tour de France viewing, showers, or Chef Drew’s amazing food! The Gue farm was the perfect location for campers to start to get the Montana feel that the tour would offer. The first evening we headed out on the town for an excellent meal at Caffe Dolce for our last civlilized meal before heading out into the great unknown. Le Petit Outre, Birdman Bread, Big Sky Brewing, and Black Coffee Roasting Company all local Missoula businesses donated supplies for the trip including; pastries, pizza dough, baguettes, bread, beer, and coffee. It was amazing to have the support of some of our favorite Missoula businesses as we ventured into a new realm of bicycle trips for The Cycling House.
The staff for the trip included; Owen Gue (owner of TCH), Shaun Radley (camp director), Drew Peterson (chef), Lizzy English (ride guide), Alan Adams (ride guide) and myself (Brendan Halpin, lead guide). As mentioned earlier we were rouging it, but camping was turn key and we had amazing food, client tents were set up and Black Diamond provided top of the line tents. When most folks think of a vacation in Montana they consider places like Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky Resort and other more traveled tourist destinations. Albiet beautiful all of these places experience heavy tourist traffic in the peak month of July and we wanted to show our clients the real Montana. The Tour De Montana started in Missoula, Montana headed south towards the Bitterroot mountains climbed into the Big Hole Valley paralleled the Pioneer & Pintler Mountain ranges and completed the loop along the Blackfoot River back into Missoula. The course offered some of the best views in Montana along some of the best cycling routes available. Low traffic, near perfect weather and amazing support made the Tour De Montana an amazing trip.
On Tuesday morning we set out from Missoula for Stage 1 of the Tour De Montana a 87 mile stage with just over 3,000 feet of climbing. We headed South in parellel to the Bitterroot mountains and 1/2 the ride was on a bicycle path. We capped off the day with one of the most spectacular views of the mountains; Trapper Peak just outside of Darby. Our final destination was Sula a small town consisting of a gas station, campground, restaurant combination. Stage 2 started out almost immediately with the longest climb of the trip and it brought riders to the border of Idaho and then headed east towards the Big Hole Valley. This stage was the largest climbing day of the tour with nearly 7000 feet of climbing in 90 miles. We finished off the day at Elkhorn Hot Springs and the Pioneer Mountain range loomed in the background. Stage 2 was probably the most difficult stage but campers were rewarded with our only indoor accommodations for the trip in camping cabins. Stage 3 set out with yet another small climb before descending back into the Big Hole Valley and then making our way to Georgetown lake. The stage offered some spectacular views and lunch stop at the top of pass just outside of Anaconda was perfect. The day had over 4500 feet of climbing and 90 miles. We camped right on Georgetown Lake which offers amazing views of the Anaconda Pintlers and cold body of water to soak your legs in. Georgetown lake was the only campground without power but Chef Drew still whipped up some amazing carne asada tacos with homemade guacamole and salsa. Stage 4 started out with a descent followed by some flats all the way to Drummond. After Drummond we had the days major climb up to Helmsville and another wide open valley that led into Ovando. The stage offered 80 miles of cycling and just over 2500 feet of climbing. Unlike the other days stage 4 also had a dirt road option that included 15 miles of gravel and quickly became a highlight of the trip for many. The final stage featured 70 miles of cycling with just over 2000 feet of climbing back into Missoula, Montana. The final loop was just over 400 miles in 5 days of cycling. This was huge miles with tons of climbing but we had a unique twist on the Tour De Montana. Unlike other camps at The Cycling House each day had a lunch stop with sandwiches, snacks, fresh fruit and beverages. The miles were long and the lunch stops offered a brief respite before completing the final miles of the day. Once back in camp we had snacks, fresh fruit and beverages ready upon the cyclists arrival to camp.
On our final overnight in Ovando, Montana campers also had the opportunity to fly fish on a pristine Montana river after receiving fly fishing lessons from Chris Corbin husband of Linsey Corbin (top American professional triathlete and Missoula resident). Linsey and Chris joined us for dinner and Olympic mountain biker, Sam Schultz (another Missoula resident) popped in to fish and have dinner as well. I’m sure all of the Tour De Montana participants would agree when I declare the Tour De Montana a smashing success! The Tour De Montana might be best described as, “EPIC” but you will have to sign up for 2014 to find out for yourself. I’m already looking forward to next year and making the Tour De Montana bigger and better! Up next we have our Crested Butte & Montana Mountain bike camps. Check out The Cycling House website for information about these camps and for our full 2014 schedule.