BUTTE — For even hardened mountain bike riders, completing the Butte 100 is a rite of passage and a testament to peak physical and mental endurance. It is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Well, Bear Stillwagon has decided to get a double helping of it this weekend.
"The longer the race, the better it is for me, it's more what I'm geared towards," said Stillwagon, who finished a 400-mile race in California this year and has also completed the Tour Divide, a 2,750-mile trail that runs along the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico.
The Butte 100, with upwards of 500 registered racers this year, will kick off at Homestake Pass at 6 a.m. on Saturday. If things go according to plan, Stillwagon will ride the entire course the night before and reach the start/finish line in time to ride it again with the other racers.
Stillwagon is certainly no stranger to endurance racing, and the inspiration to complete back-to-back Butte 100s came to him after last year's race was called off.
He had two friends who still wanted to ride the course. Stillwagon rode it with one friend on Saturday and the next day traversed it again with the other friend.
"I started thinking 'that was pretty cool, I did back-to-back 100s,'" said Stillwagon. "I wondered if I could do it consecutively, just like a 200-mile race. I started thinking about it a bit and it just kind of grew and grew. I was like 'I have to try it.'"
Preparing for this daunting challenge began back in November.
"I write out a program and know exactly how many hours I have per week and what days I'm doing what," said Stillwagon, who will be riding in the Butte 100 for the fourth year. "It's a regimented training schedule."
With some 20-straight hours of riding ahead of him this weekend, Stillwagon's upcoming adventure will be as mentally taxing as it is physically draining. His secret to moving forward when the going gets tough is simple.
"Just keep pedaling," he said. "You've just got to keep moving. Sometimes you push your bike, sometimes you walk it. As long as you keep moving, you've got a chance. If you quit, you're done."