BUTTE — Back in 2007, the inaugural Butte 100 mountain bike race took place with about 50 local riders pushing themselves to the limit on the slopes of the Great Divide.
15 years later, the Butte 100 has evolved into a must-do race for mountain biking enthusiasts looking for a challenge that is as arduous and taxing — with about three miles of elevation gain awaiting the participants — as it is rewarding.
This year, nearly 500 riders are set to depart from the start to finish line at Homestake Pass in the early morning hours on Saturday. They'll be split across the three race events — the eponymous Butte 100, the Butte 50, and the Sorini 25, named after the late husband of race owner Stephanie Sorini, who is also the director of the Butte Chamber of Commerce.
Sorini purchased the race in 2016 and has since then seen it grow into an event that draws riders from all over the country.
"Over the years, the support I've received has been unbelievable," Sorini said. "Very blessed and very lucky to grow this."
Joining the race, or even just spectating while hanging out at Homestake Pass, gives people from out of state an opportunity to see what this part of the country has to offer.
"People make a lot of sacrifices to train for this race," Sorini said. "But they are happy to come across the country, bring their bikes, take their families. They bring them to Butte, they enjoy it here very much. Everything we've heard has been very positive."
Last summers chaotic wildfire season meant riders were having to contend with a thick blanket of smoke for much of the race. That shouldn't be the case this year, but the numerous summer storms that have rolled over the area have created a different kind of obstacle.
"We have trees down and debris on the trails," Sorini said. "But we're very lucky to have a great Forest Service and BLM that are working extremely hard in making sure the trails are cleaned before the race."
Aside from those two agencies, Sorini spoke at length about the countless volunteers that make this race possible.
"I couldn't do it without these volunteers, I have so much respect for them," she said. "The flagging team that is out there. They're out there day and night flagging making sure the trail is ready for the race. We have volunteers at aid stations, we have volunteers at the start/finish line. We have search and rescue. I mean we just have a crew of people that are all hands on this week."
For an area surrounded by mountains and endless miles of trails, the Butte 100 continues to be an ideal way to showcase what this neck of the woods is all about.
"We are so lucky to have Thompson Park, all the training that we do," Sorini said. "The East Ridge, the trails that people use for recreation. We're lucky. And I love that we get to share this with the rest of the world, our backyard."