BUTTE, Montana - Tinker Juarez was in attendance in Southwest Montana for his third Butte 100. He was on a mission to defend and avenge his last year’s winning performance where a missed turn cost him time, energy and mental angst. And defend it he did by laying down a blistering time that broke last year’s record by an hour.
Promoted by Triple Ring Productions out of Butte, the race brags of a course consisting of two separate 50 miles loops with 17,000 feet of climbing. The figure-8 course with the start / finish in the center intersection straddles the Continental Divide offering up some of the areas finest trails – almost 50 miles of singletrack – and plenty of suffering.
The start / finish area is just off the Homestake Pass exit on I-90 exit 6 miles east of Butte where the Continental Divide crosses the highway. Under clear skies, the 6 a.m. start for the 100-milers sent 90 riders off on the 50-mile clockwise loop that consists of mostly fire roads and ATV tracks with some singletrack that zigzagged through the arid landscape east of the divide. Due to recent heavy erosion, the loop was rerouted away from some sections of the 2011 course for safety reasons. The previous night’s rain had firmed up the decomposed granite trail surface so the sandy sections that have been a curse in previous years remained firm and fast for the early riders.
Juarez took the lead from the start and stayed out front for the entire race. At the 50-mile checkpoint Elite riders Jamie Lamb was 8 minutes off Tinker’s pace with Ben Parsons another 16 minutes back. The last 20 miles of the race is on a sublimely smooth and flowing singletrack section of the Continental Divide Trail and is where the Cannondale rider put the hammer down crossing the finish line in 8:22:41. Lamb crossed the line 14 minutes later with Parsons clocking in at plus 24 minutes. Elite rider Lisa Curry put in the winning women’s time of 10:50:53 for the GAS/Intrisik team.
Referring to Friday night’s storm, Juarez observed, “ the rain really helped. The course was ripping fast. I ran high tire pressure and was just flying out there.”
The 50-mile event started at 9:00 a.m. on the counter-clockwise half of the figure-8 loop. The route dives off the west side of the divide through stands of lodge pole pines and giant granite boulders before hitting the valley floor south of Butte. A rolling series of gut busting climbs and speedy descents eventually winds back to the start / finish area.
Hammer Nutrition Elite rider Adam Jensen put in a smoking time of 4:57:31 for the men’s 50 – nearly 36 minutes ahead of Ben Ruffatto in second place. Another Hammer Nutrition rider, Heidi Gaskill, put in the winning Women’s Elite time of 6:13:43.