Photos and Words by Ian Matteson
Montana’s nickname is “The Last Best Place” and living up to its name The Last Best Ride is likely to be one of the most sought after races due to the area’s appeal and the fact it’s limited to between four-to-five-hundred entries per year. This year marked the inaugural Last Best Ride where all the stars aligned to give us fifty-to-sixty-degree temps, tacky dirt (but not too tacky) and smoke-free air. The two route options, 47 mile and 97 mile, provided something for nearly everyone.
The event started in downtown Whitefish, which showcases why Montana is known as the Big Sky State. Rolling out from the start, the gentle gain in elevation made for a fast paced start before tackling bigger climbs and descents through a tunnel of trees where each mile revealed new views of the layered mountains. To ensure each route option had its own challenges, the shorter route included an uphill section of rooty singletrack to keep you focused, while the long course delivered a monster climb that reached grades where a hike-a-bike was the only option.
Throughout the ride there is one thing on your mind that isn’t like any other event I’ve been to, BEARS. It was highly recommended that all riders have a can of bear spray at the ready. After being out on course I can attest that I did not see any bears but every rider was prepared and carried bear spray. Not dealing with a bear on course was just fine with me, and once back at the finish it was just about capping off a great day with catered food, local beer, ice cream, and a huge park to lounge in while cheering on other finishers.
The Last Best Ride is certainly not a race to be missed. Its hometown charm and community is unmatched at any other race, not to mention the easy access to Glacier National Park, mountain biking & swimming. Mark your calendars for 2022 because this event is going to sell out immediately.