Missoula, MT

A coffee and two croissants at Le Petit Outre (a misconfiguration, a mistake by the sign company, not of the owners, a mistake that stuck). We have two ride hosts today, three for the location. Ben Ferencz and Selden Daume. They have set up sponsored breakfast, lunch, and dinner stops. Ben co-owns Freeman Transport (http://freemantransport.com), works at Adventure Cycling, and is a farmer. Selden is the manager at the breakfast bakery stop. Tom Robertson (http://thrphoto.com) opened his house and refrigerator to us. A gorgeous space, walls covered in photographs and a gallery of bikes.

I am really enjoying this way point. A backyard BBQ last night at Tom’s place, thirty minutes after we landed. Burgers and pasta salad. Romain lettuce and ripe tomatoes. A keg of home brewed beer and a pyramid of spicy ginger ale cans. People spread out on chairs and steps. Happy to be out of the van, in a house rather than hotel, under the trees in a grassy backyard.

Then this morning. Free food and a coffee of your choice at Le Petit Outre, a modern French restaurant. Plenty of pastries, but also shelves and cases of blocks of wax encased cheddar, paper wrapped aged meats, and bars of artisan chocolates. A medium drip with sugar and cream, a ham and cheese croissant, and then a cream cheese danish with embedded black berries for a post-breakfast/pre-ride dessert. Team Rapha fills up the outdoor benches, back leasing against the store front wall, legs crowding the narrow side walk. Spirits are high, everyone one is excited. The entire travel group is getting to ride, everyone is getting fed.

A short drive to the new start point, eight miles closer to town. Ninety six miles rather than the original eighty eight listed in the header of the queue sheet.

Form up, double pace line, flat twenty to twenty three miles per hour warm up with a partial tail wind. Easy pull throughs, up to the front, and then the slow glide to the back of the pack, resting before your next turn. Overcast with no outlook of there being a break. Finally, a no sunblock day.

The first legit climb. Rock faces to the left, waterfalls to the right. I stick with Ira, using him to set the pace, for one third to one half of the way up. The tempo is a little fast and I need to make sure I can finish the day after my forced sabbatical. One hundred and eighty five heart beats per minute is only fun for so long. I ease up on the throttle. Ira pulls away and James catches up and passes. The main climb is three miles of maybe five percent leading to a ridge full of rollers. Hahn catches me as I am trying to conserve momentum up each rise. We chat and cruise for a while before I take off in search of the two ahead. We connect at the gravel T turn off to the lake. I pull over, Hahn rolls up, we wait for the remainder of the group.

We are all together again, flowing easily over the mile or two of unpaved but relatively smooth road which leads to our first scheduled stop: lunch by the lake. This, like breakfast, is also provided by Le Petit. Hard tack. A roll with sharp cheddar cheese and thick slices of dry salami. A raisin roll with peanut butter. A chocolate brownie in the shape of a blunted ice cream cone, dry and semi-hard on the outside, moist in the middle, topped with dark chocolate sprinkles. Everything is delivered to each rider via a bakery and Freeman Transport logoed white mussette bag that are ours to keep. Very pro. Very Euro.

We finish with our meal and stretching and end up riding into the rain. Rooster tails of water and dirt spray across each rider as we continue our trek. The single fie column sticks to the edge of the road, the light traffic passes easily. All the up hill was in the morning, once we escape the rain, the afternoon is filled with conversation and descents.

The ride ends at a local BBQ joint in a small town. Prearranged and prepared for our arrival. We are a little late but the owner is unconcerned. The pork ribs, beans, and coleslaw was going to get paid for had we shown up or not. And the cooler full of chilled beer would probably have mysteriously found its way into the fridge at his house. We trade our kit for something a little less aero and dig in. Everything is delicious. He claims that this is the first time he has made coleslaw and that he got the recipe from the Internet. True or false, it should make it onto his permanent menu.

The pans are emptied, the plates are piled, the cooler is bare save for some melting ice. With no room left for dessert, our bill is paid, the van is reboarded, and our temporary home is sought. Showers are taken and laundry is started. We pile onto couches and floors for the second and last night in this comfortable house.

Rapha made a “Kings of Pain” t-shirt, once upon a time, which featured a column of rider’s names down the right side ribs. If a “Kings of Class” version were ever to be released, Ben, Selden, and Tom would easily make the list.

Ride Time: 5:20:58
Distance: 96.24 miles
Speed: 18/47.8mph
Heart Rate: 149/196
Cadence: 85/134

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