“The Second Dumbest Idea I’ve Ever Heard”

The Montana University System employees over 8,000 people, and our health insurance system covers around 18,000 lives when we include spouses and families. With so many people spread across the state, we get to hear some pretty interesting stories concerning your health, wellness, and what you’re doing to live an active, high-quality life! Leah Tietz, from our OCHE office in Helena, shared an interesting race experience with us recently that we wanted to pass along to our readers. Thanks for sharing Leah! This story is about another adventurous community event that makes life in Montana so dynamic. Enjoy!   

Rapelje, a small agricultural town in central MT was shrinking and its community hub, The Stockman Café, was in danger of closing.  Someone suggested the idea of a 24-hour bike race as a new and novel source of income to keep the community cafe open.  “The Second Dumbest Idea I’ve Ever Heard” said a skeptical resident.  Now in its 14th year, that idea is working and 100+ of mountain bikers descend on Rapelje every  3rd weekend in June to ride the scenic hills, gullies and pastures for their 24-hour race.

From the  LeMond style start at 11am on Saturday until the clock stops at 11:00am Sunday, racers — solo or as part of a competitive team of 2,3,5 or a carnival class team of 6 or more people — ride as many of the 11.6 mile cross-country mountain bike laps as possible.   The sheer playful nature of the course is not immediately obvious to those that see the beautiful mountain peaks in the distance and see only cows, crops and silos in the immediate vicinity.  But the smile stays plastered on riders faces as they cruise single track past the curious bovine that stamped out the original path, climb the gentle uphills and maneuver the downills, weave in, over and through rock outcroppings worthy of a gun-slinger ambush, and hammer around a lush stock pond and low grasslands.  Unless it is hailing, lightning, blowing or otherwise creating un-rideable gumbo — then riders tend to stop at the mid-way/1st aid station to seek shelter, nosh on fresh cooked bacon, guzzle cold beer and enjoy good company until the skies clear, and the course is rideable again.

By 11am on Sunday at the 2014 race, the 5-man  Spoke Shop team from Billings had circled the course the most with 28 laps (325 mi), a co-ed Bozeman team, “Rockford Files”,  completed 26 laps, fashion-conscious “Pearly Snap Shirts”  rounded 24 laps and the all-women Flying Butterflies with riders from Bozeman and Butte sporting wings and temp tattoos rode (flew?) 21 laps.  Smaller teams, solo riders and carnival class had appreciably fewer miles, but 18 laps by top double team, “Capt. Walrus and Ginger Yeti” of Bozeman, 16 laps by the top solo winner from Helena  and by an intrepid Missoulian on a single speed were no less impressive.   See more results here.

Photos of the race category winners go up on the walls of the Stockman Café; the 24-hour residents remain a permanent part of the small community hub.   

Leah Tietz, Helena

Rapelje looking south
Long road ahead! Looking south from Rapelje.
Rapelje 24 Team transition - LT
Leah finishing up one of her relay loops.

One thought on “24 Hours of Rapelje

  1. What a great, happy story!! I love it. Thanks for sharing it.

    Renee Valley
    UM Sports Information/Athletic Dept.
    Adams Center Room 137A
    The University of Montana
    Missoula, MT 59812
    (406) 243-6899


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