HOMESTAKE — Max Kluck burst across the start/finish line riding atop a Giant Hardtail, brought his mountain bike to a skidding halt while kicking up gravel and then collapsed for about 30 seconds before getting to his feet.
"I'm completely crushed, everything hurts," Kluck said a few minutes later. "I just want to keep drinking water but my stomach's just saying 'no.' Hands and feet are numb. Everything hurts."
But for the 16-year-old Butte High junior, the pain was worth it.
Competing in a field filled with pro riders twice, sometimes three times his age, Kluck, a member of the Highland Cycling Club, overcame an early miscue and rallied to win the 15th Butte 100 Mountain Bike Race on a hot Saturday afternoon at Homestake Pass. His winning time was 8:57:16.02.
This was Kluck's first time competing in the Butte 100. After last year's race was canceled he rode the course with Bear Stillwagon though that was not a sanctioned event.
He dedicated last year's ride and this year's race to the memory of his late friend, Soren Hartnett, who died last year from an undetected heart condition. The two were ski teammates in Bozeman.
"This race was for my friend Soren," Kluck said. "I was definitely thinking sometimes 'just push it for Soren.' I think it got me to the finish last year when I was struggling to even finish it and it definitely got me there today."
Carter Hall of Wedgelite Industry Nine took second place (9:19:16.11), Daniel Dean Mazza of Big Sky Bikes placed third (9:50:11.67) and Adam Farabaugh took fourth (9:56:13.03).
Defending Butte 100 champion Josh Tostado settled for fifth place with a time of 10:01:08.39.
Two-time Olympian Tinker Juarez, who set the Butte 100 course record in 2013 (8:03:51), got lost early as he did in 2017 and did not finish the race.
Rose Grant of Juliana/SRAM Pro Team was the top female finisher in the Butte 100, clocking a time of 9:28:04.95.
Kluck, Tostado and Juarez all got off course about five miles into the race. Kluck was able to find the trail again but was concerned he had exerted too much energy in catching up with the main pack.
"I was chasing back and worried that I put down too much power there," Kluck said. "But eventually I caught up with the leaders and we were cruising at a pace that was a lot faster than what I was expecting. I started burning out but then it came back eventually and I made it to the finish."
Kluck estimates that Hall led the race for about 70 to 80 miles of the race. Then Hall got a flat tire.
"Right then I was like 'I'm going for it,'" Kluck said. "I just gave it everything I possible had until the finish.
Missoula's Jake Yahrmatter of MTCX won the men's Butte 50 with a time of 5:08:51.89 and Chelsee Pummel won the women's Butte 50 (6:19:50:56).
"I'm actually very surprised," Yahrmatter said. "I didn't think I was going to be feeling this good at the end. Just a lot of good people out there and it was awesome to just have some good weather and a smoke free day."