They call it RATPOD!Jun 30 2015 · 0 comments · Miscellaneous, Touring ·2
It was 53 degrees when I woke at 4:45 a.m. to get ready for RATPOD, the 2015 installment of a 130-mile course that starts and finishes in Dillon, Montana. It had been a long year waiting for a shot at redemption. In 2014 I had unceremoniously thrown in the towel before I reached the breakfast station and rode back into Dillon. Cold weather, lack of sleep (one month old twins) and being unprepared for the rain and sleet that was hitting me caused me to fold. Later that day I had beaten myself up over it enough and vowed “Next year!”. It was now next year and I was ready. Then I got the text.
My friend Rob from Billings who was my riding partner for this years event had slipped in the weight-room a week ago and strained his back. After a night of sleep on a hotel bed in Dillon he was in no shape to start, let alone finish. “You’re going to have to go this one alone”, he said, “I can barely move and I got no sleep at all”. I was on my own. Start slow, find a group and remember this year is about a finish not a personal best time, I told myself…..and besides, it was going to be hot. Really hot.
The start was uneventful. It seemed no one was going to push the pace early. Ten miles from the start Badger Pass loomed ahead and where last year I was being passed on the climb by someone every minute, this time I hadn’t noticed being passed at all as I reached the top. Check point one was finished and I already had my confidence back. I refilled my bottles with water and Heed, descended quickly, found a small group of casual riders and meandered our way through Polaris and into the breakfast stop. “Ten minutes and we leave” someone shouted in the group. “You’re kidding me, right?” came a reply. There was no kidding. By the time I had eaten a bagel with PB&J, used the bathroom, grabbed some fig newtons and applied sunscreen and bug spray that group was nowhere to be seen.
I headed out again and soon caught the remnants of that group scattered out on the category 1 climb. I found my cadence and rhythm and quietly passed 20 riders on the 5 mile climb. Near the top I was passed by two riders chatting away as if they were doing a recovery ride. I would later find out they were from Utah and raced semi-pro. A make shift mobile water station was at the top and they were already empty. A sag wagon stopped and dropped off their last 5 gallon jug of water. One bottle per person was the rule. The next 30 miles or so was spent catching and joining different riders, most either riding solo or with a single buddy. At the lunch stop in Wise River the cyclist I had been riding with, Nate, decided to spend a little extra time relaxing.
Again I headed out solo but soon caught a trio from Missoula who, like me, wanted to tear through the canyon along the Big Hole river where the road is narrow. The four of us cruised along at 23mph, were nearly blown off the road by a pickup and then a flatbed semi truck both of which seemed to get some joy out of not yielding even an inch of the road. A cramp in the leg of one of the trio brought us to a screeching halt and reminded us all to hydrate.
On the next big climb the group split and I reached the peak with just one other rider. As we waited for the others it became apparent that this mobile water spot with impromptu shade made from a refrigerator box was going to be a little too tempting. There was one more 1300′ climb and a little stretch of flat before the watermelon station at Melrose and I was intent on not resting until that point. I joined another solo rider at the top and we paced down into Melrose.
A quick cool off under a hose, more water bottles, Heed and of course watermelon and it was on the road again and off to the next stop in Glen. I caught and joined my 5th paceline group of the ride and rode casually into Beaverhead County where Ice Cream awaited. As had happened each time before, the group I was with seemed content to sit and rest but I was spurred on by my wife and kids (with Ian ringing my Butte100 cowbell).
As I got ready to leave I saw 2 jerseys in a group that I had seen somewhere before. The very two chatters that had rolled up the Category 1 climb earlier were rolling out in a 14 person double pace line. This was too good to pass up. I asked to join. They were more than happy to have me and one rider, Marcus, told me his hope was to have had a 30 person paceline roll through the finish in Dillon. We stayed together, conquered the last major climb and rolled a smooth 20 plus MPH in wind to the outskirts of Dillon. There the group staggered out into single file. Before I knew it, the ride was over. It had gone exceedingly well for me considering the heat and I felt vindicated, if only in my own mind.
There are some rides that you can’t wait to end and some that you hope never will. RATPOD is both of those.