The inaugural TLBR Gravel Race in Whitefish/MT had it all: rain, mud, steep climbs, hike-a-bike, long downhills ... and some of the best gravel racers of the US.
After a long hot, dry and smokey summer everyone was surprised about the cold and rainy weather which came back 2 days before the race. It definitive made the race harder than expected as if 90 miles and 8.5k ft of climbing was not challenging enough. With a lot of pros in the pack the pace went up fast after the neutralization and it was fun to ride in their pacelines for a while or better as long as my fitness allowed - racing with others who could be your grandkids and are on top of their game is quite eye-opening about your own capabilities. After 20 miles the different groups did build and I found my comfort zone. When the real climbs finally started after 40 miles to get on top of Whitefish mountain everyone was on its own and it got really tough. Everyones bike was in dire conditions as the mud just clung every - some locals even stopped at their homes to clean bikes and themself mid race - and moving chains was pretty squeaky. But this was actual a good thing as riding the last 1/2h to the top was completely in the clouds and visibility was around 30ft. And then the last 1/4 mile of the overall climb was so steep that I was happy to had my MTB shoes/pedals mounted; rumor was that only one rider was able to ride it - he rode a MTB and from Colorado and so probably used to these grades... The downhill was then 11 miles on a nice logging road which was fun and fast. But I guess I took it too fast and did not avoid enough of the little pesky rocks and flatted 1/2 mile before the bottom. Although the repair was fast - had to use a tube as I could not find the hole for a plug - the tube didn’t take air from my pump. Even pumps of kind riders who stopped to help didn’t work. Finally a gracious local stopped and helped with a CO2. So I lost 45 minutes but at least the sun was finally out and I dried up and got warm again and rode then with my new friends back to the finish. So overall a typical gravel race in Montana, full of surprises.
Will be back next year and if someone else wants an adventure my advice is to sign up early as the race sold out fast.