The weather was in Missoula’s favor for this year’s Montana Gravel Challenge. We had 3 great days of riding on dirt, with plenty of sunshine and lots of smiles. With 38 teams of two, and 8 individual racers, the energy was high and the times were fast. Bjorn Nabozney from Big Sky Brewing graciously hosted us as his house; beautiful views of Huson and a giant bonfire on the last day made the event especially unique. Covid restrictions made this race different from others, but that’s where we’re at right now, and everyone embraced the changes with grace, and we’re grateful.
Day one was our Time Trial; a 28 mile round trip up and back 9 mile road. We had calm winds for the most part, many deer crossings, and almost perfect road conditions. Team “Chicken & A Biscuit” came in first for Coed Duo, with Hilary Wood being the top finisher overall for the day; Team “Riot Grrrls” topped off the Women’s Duo, and Team “Dandrew” won for the Men’s Duo, giving everyone a taste of what they can bring for the remaining two days. Joseph Rogat rode solo and won the category for the day.
Day two was the epic and beautiful Southside Road loop — a long stretch on Mullan led to beautiful views and great gravel along the river on Southside Road. Team Doublemint came out on top for the Coed Duo, team “MT Alpha/Fount” came in first for Women’s Duo, with the ever stronger 16 year old Elsa Westenfelder, and Dandrew flew on the loop, winning the day in the Men’s Duo category, Rogat again taking first for Solo Riders. Riders were greeted in the woods by a mysterious Yeti, who gave some lucky riders a $20, if they were able to get it out of his yeti hands.
The final day of the race was 4 laps, 46 miles total, on the Roubaix circuit. Riders worked hard and put in strong efforts through the final lap, and ended with a punchy gravel climb before the final descent into the finish. Team Doublemint secured their podium spot with a win for this stage, along with team Riot Grrrls and Dandrew. Garrett Alderman finished first for the day in the Solo division, and in the top 20 overall. At the end of the day, riders got their medals, got to enjoy some delicious sandwiches and cookies from Grist Milling and Bakery, and got to chat (in small, socially distanced groups of course) in the sunshine and tell their team’s tales of deer crossings, tractor and train obstacles, and all the other pieces that go along with a gravel riding event.
We had some strong podiums for the three day omnium:
Co-Ed Duo Third Place was “Hey All You Cool Cats and Kittens” with teammates Dawn Whaley and Caleb Senn; Second was Chicken and a Biscuit with Hilary Wood and Scott Lenaburg, and First Place went to Doublemint, with Rhea Black and Kiefer Hahn.
Women’s Duo Third Place was “MTCX/Alpha Maniacs,” with Ellen Davis and Carly Holman scoring two strong 2nd’s and a 3rd on the individual days; Second was Alpha/Fount with Elsa Westenfelder and Cass Nelson; First was Riot Grrrls, Lacey Beerman and Jenna Tomiello.
Men’s Duo Third Place, was “Flathead Cycling” with team members Dan McAllister and Eric Greenberg; Second was “The Zumies,” Ivan Gallego and Ben Grass; First place sweep was Dandrew, aptly named for Dan Mazza and Andrew Frank.
Solo men’s Third went to Erik Leithe, Second to Chris Grant, and First to Joseph Rogat.
We had strong results overall for all riders, but the highlight for most of us was our “juniors” results– with two ladies under 17 taking podium spots (Elsa Westenfelder, 16 years old, and Ellen Davis, 14) and our youngest men riding Friday’s TT, Odin Berryman, 13, Porter Melvin, 13, and Danny Spoon, 11. These juniors are making a name for themselves already in our cycling community, and we are thrilled to have them racing, and pushing, all of us.
Some photos are from the amazing photographer Robert Mazza (@rmazzamedia). Check out more of our photos from the event here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/1vNUGQwvkyzgfLxJ6