Words by Amber Hoadley
I moved to Montana a little over a year ago to pursue cycling further, and to challenge myself in the mountains. I was born and raised in Florida where it’s flat and humid, and you have to do bridge laps in order to simulate any sort of climbing.
In an effort to get connected with some other women on bikes, I had scoured the internet searching for events and group rides. I stumbled upon a brand called FemmeVelo. And a women-specific group ride on 4th of July weekend in Whitefish. It sounded perfect; they were offering a 50k, 100k, and a 160k distance road ride; all of them fully supported. I mean, if you're going to do a century ride in Montana; it might as well be with a bunch of other girls and someone feeding you snacks! I couldn't wait to get to the lodge and start meeting people.
I arrived Saturday afternoon, just in time to catch the recent documentary on the women's USA indoor track cycling team; "Personal Gold". Everyone was starting to get excited about the ride. We all had dinner and laid out our kits for the next day. It was so exciting to meet so many other ladies who were interested in some of the same things as me. Over 60% of the ladies at the expo were from outside of Whitefish! I met women from Tulsa, San Francisco, Boston... and so many more places! It was really quite exciting to see such diversity, yet so many ways to relate.
Sunday morning came, cool and crisp. We carpooled out to the shop sponsor; Great Northern Cycle and Ski in downtown Whitefish. Stella is the co owner, and was doing the ride also. This event had QUADRUPLED from last year... with a whopping 68 women signed up for the various ride distances! Words cannot express the amazing energy and positive attitudes that everyone had that day. It was so cool to see the more experienced riders helping out some of the girls who were new to the sport. We all had coffee and muffins while Kurt explained the routes and signs along the way.
The start of the ride was smooth and filled with nervous excitement. Seeing so many women on their bikes, you couldn't help but smile.
We started off with a loop in West Glacier. It was great to have a few of the women explaining how to ride in a group, and how to draft. As well as pacing. We glided along the roads averaging about 16 mph until we got to the first aid station at Mile 20. All the race volunteers were fantastic, and so helpful. It was pretty neat to be part of something like that.
As the ride progressed, everyone settled in, and I found myself in the 2nd group of ladies. There were 4 of us riding together from about Mile 40 until the end. We experienced strong winds, a lot of unexpected gravel, and more climbing than we originally anticipated. But we also saw beautiful countryside, stopped for orange sodas, took pictures, and pushed ourselves beyond anything we could have done alone. It was an incredible day. Our group finished at about 3:00, we enjoyed lunch and refreshments, and stayed to cheer on all the finishers. The best part of the day was when the final 2 girls came in to finish, at about 7:00p.m., one of the girls had slipped on some gravel, but they were both so determined to complete their first century. And there was more celebration for those 2 girls who came in at the end.
It’s so cool to see this sport have such a positive group, and to see so many new women getting into the sport. Congrats to everyone who finished!