The Custom Wheel Set

Building a custom wheel set for a customer is a uniquely satisfying experience. It isn’t simple the act of building the wheel from it’s component parts but rather the entire process, beginning with the initial conversation about what is gong to be built. There are an endless variety of very well designed and solidly assembled pre-built wheelsets available from large and small name manufacturers. While there are several quality options the custom handbuilt wheel is still the best way to get exactly the wheel you are looking for.

It all begins with the first conversation. There are so many ways to build a wheel and so many ways to manipulate the characteristics of the wheel that it is critical that a thorough conversation takes place to determine how exactly the wheel should be built to best serve the needs of the rider. There are many variables to consider. Obviously what kind of bike will the wheels be used on, rider size, how will they be used, what kind of terrain and what demands does the rider style put on the wheels. Those considerations are used to determine how strong or how light the wheels can be. Once you figure out how you want the wheels to ride the fun part starts, that is, component selection. This is where you can really bring some personality to the wheels set. Liven it up or tone it down, blingy or understated. This is really where the bespoke wheelset is created.

Prepping the components. Blue spoke prep for the drive side, yellow for the non-drive side. No particular reason for this. It is just the way I have always done it.
Spoke Prep
I am a fan of Wheelsmith spoke prep. It make the build much easier and it hold the nipple well over time.

As a wheel builder that is part of where the satisfaction comes from. Regardless of how common or unique the final product will be the custom wheel really is built specifically for the individual. Standard components certainly does not imply any lower quality of a build than a wheel with rare or unique components. As a wheel builder knowing the individual that will be riding the wheels means that I have a deep vested interest in building wheels of exceptional quality.

Wheel Color
Do you really want to personalize your wheels? Sometimes you can choose the color of the hubs, spokes, nipples and even your valve cap.

A custom wheel set does not have to be expensive. It is natural to think that custom means expensive but the beauty of custom wheels is that one of the considerations when building a wheel is price. Just like ride characteristics are a consideration, price is just as much a consideration. Obviously when trying to keep costs down the number of potential options for hubs and rims decreases but the quality of build certainly does not. The same attention to detail remains. A very good quality but relatively inexpensive custom wheel set could cost right around $350. Maybe that is not entirely cheap but when you consider that the wheel will almost certainly last several times longer than a factory wheel set that costs half the price, it will almost certainly stay truer, and will have a better ride quality then the value becomes more apparent. In addition to the beneficial qualities of a custom wheel is the warranty that comes with a custom wheel set. All the wheels that we build here at Missoula Bicycle Works come with a lifetime true guarantee. That means that if your wheel comes out of true we will true it for you free of charge. Fortunately due to the quality of the hand built wheels we rarely see those wheels in our truing stands.

Spoke Length
Dimensions measured and spoke lengths calculated.
There are several ways to build a wheel. I prefer to start with all the spokes on the hub.

Limitations. If I am being completely honest there are some limitations to custom wheels. Mostly I would say those limitations mostly involve factory wheel sets that are built as a system. Meaning the hubs, spokes and rims are designed to work together as a complete product. I certainly would not say those wheels are of lower quality than a hand built set. Far from it actually. In fact I have really nice set of Mavic Carbon aero wheels that I think are fantastic. They are light, aerodynamic and, yeah, they look really cool. The downside is if I were to break a spoke for example. The likelihood that a random bike shop has the specific spoke or tool to repair that wheel is not very high. But, for the benefits Mavic wheels offer, I am willing to take the chance.

On a mountain bike the situation, in my opinion, is a different one. Super light and aero are not the terms we usually hear to describe the ideal wheel set. Rather strength, durability, ride quality and to a lesser extent, weight are the main goals here. Mountain bike wheels are regularly subjected to hard riding, they need to be able to take a thrashing and come out still riding straight and true despite sustaining scratches and dings. What if you do happen to come up a bit short on you landing or find just the wrong rock and your rim is no longer round enough to ride. Well replacement is usually pretty simple. The hub can be reused and only new spokes and rim are needed. Actually, while not recommended, there have been a few occasions where even the spokes were preserved.

Builing Wheel
True, round and perfectly tensioned.
Wheel Weight
It could be lighter but why? This wheel is built to take some abuse.

The bottom line, if you are looking for a wheel set that is unique to you, that has the ride characteristics that you are looking for, then a durable, repairable and predictable then we recommend you consider a custom wheel set.

Bring new life and personality to your ride. A custom wheel set is arguably the best way to improve your bike’s performance.

Piece of Mind

Winter months around the bike shop can be quiet and slow but idle time is ideal for project time. Repairs, reorganization and updates are welcome after a busy summer season. The folks here at the shop have been keeping themselves busy checking off items on their to-do list. Lots of painting, woodworking, drilling and cutting has been going on here in the shop for the last few weeks.Bench

It is always fun to see the bike shop transformed however small (or large) that change may be. We spend a lot of time together here in the shop, probably more time than we spend with our own families, so we appreciate having a space comfortable and efficient. The added bonus to keeping things more organized around here is that it makes life much easier for Chad. Chad does all of our ordering and making it easier for him to keep track of inventory keeps a smile on his face. Tool Wall

If you have a chance to stop by the shop this winter we hope you will pardon the occasional mess that we are making. Even better step to the back of the shop and admire Andy’s “Smokey Eyes” – that is his paint color of choice, or the high shine that Danny added top the newly shelves lacquered shelves. Smokey Eyes

At the end of the day we hope that when springtime returns and the shop starts buzzing with activity we will be organized and well stocked to make sure that we can take care of anything that your best bike needs.

We Are Selling Our Rental and Demo Bike Fleet


It is that time of year for us to part with our fleet of rental/demo mountain, and road bikes. All of these bikes will go on sale Friday 29, September 2017 at 9:30. We price these bikes to sell and they go pretty quick so, if you are interested in one arrive, early Friday morning.


We will be selling the KONA Blast with 27.5″ wheels for $350. We have them in sizes small to large. The KONA Kahuna with 29″ wheels for $400. We have them in size large and XL. Full suspension Cannondale Habits with 27.5″ wheels for $1100. We have in sizes small to XL.

Our Cannondale CAAD12 demo road bikes will also be on sale for $800. We have them in sizes 48cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm and 58cm.

The bikes will all be fully serviced prior to the sale so each will be well tuned and in very good condition. If parts, such as brake pads or chains, are completely worn out they will have been replaced. If the parts still have life left in them they will not be replaced. The bikes are all sold as is and do not come with any warranty on frame or components.

Bike Trade In Program

We’ve been ironing out the kinks on this one for a long while. We had a soft roll out of it last year but, this year we’re set to help you get off that old bike and on a hot new whip.

How’s it work? It’s pretty simple actually. Give us a call (406-721-6525) or an email ( and talk to either Chad or Alex. They’ll schedule a time for you to bring your old ride in for an evaluation. We’ll give it a once over and let you know how much we can give you on trade. That amount can then be applied towards the purchase price of a new bike. Easy, right?

To be honest, you could probably get a bit more by selling it yourself on one of the various online platforms (Craigslist, PinkBike etc). But with us, you won’t have to deal with paying eBay/PayPal fees. You won’t have to deal with shipping. And you won’t have to deal with meeting folks you don’t know to show off your ride and HOPE that they buy it.

Once we take the bikes in on trade, we’ll do any necessary work on them (chains, cables housing, etc) get them cleaned up and ready to ride and list them for sale so they can move on to someone else.

We’re stoked to get folks on new bikes and just as stoked to be able to offer great used bikes at a price that will get more people on good bikes!

If you have any questions on the program don’t hesitate to contact us!

Alright, enough talk about how the program works, how about we post up our first used bike?

Here we’ve got a custom built 2015 Kona Big Unit that we put together for a customer over the last few seasons. The Big Unit was available as a frame only this model year, made of Scandium Aluminum.

This build sees a set of hand built Stans Flow rims laced to XT hubs front and rear. Up front a RaceFace crankset spins a RaceFace NarrowWide 32t chainring. Out back, a single Surly 22t cog puts power to the wheel.

A 120mm RockShox Pike is ready for any terrain you can throw at it while a RockShox Reverb dropper posts makes handling those steeps even easier. The cockpit has Kona Bars and Stem riding above a CaneCreek 40 headset.


It has a Maxxis High Roller front and Ardent rear tire with XT brakes bringing the whole package to a stop.

This bike is ready to rip in its current single speed form or you can throw gears on here and spin whatever combo the grade calls for.

$1500 puts this 29er hardtail beauty in your garage and then it can start putting smiles on your face.


The unsung heroes of the biking world. We don’t usually have too many previous model year commuters hanging out. But, we do have a couple Cannondales. Stop by the shop or get hold of us by your preferred method today!

2015 Cannondale Quick 5 We have 3 of these available in size large. Retail was $549.00, 25% off puts them at $411.75

2016 Cannondale Adventure 2 Mens We’ve got three of these left in stock as well, one medium and two larges. 15% off gets you on one of the best “comfort bikes” in the business.

Used Kids Bikes

Kids are expensive. We understand. AG’s are almost all high school age but they don’t get any cheaper. And Chad and Danny both have little ones and are learning the joys of buying expensive things that get outgrown in seemingly no time.

With that in mind, we do our best to help make it as affordable as possible to get kids on quality bikes without breaking their parents banks. If you purchase a new kids bike from us, we’ll give you 50% of the retail purchase price in trade towards a new bike when they outgrow the old one. But what do we do with those bikes we get back in on trade? We have our mechanics run through them, do any needed repairs and get them up for sale at a discounted rate. Our trade in program doesn’t apply towards used bikes but, it’s a great way to save some money and still get your kiddo on a quality ride.

We’ve got some good examples in the shop right now. As always, give us a call/email or swing by the shop if you’ve got questions on any that you see below.

Kona Makena 20″ $150

Jamis Laser 16″ $75

Kona Hula 24″ $150

Kona Hula 24″ $150

Jamis Starlite 20″ $100


2016 Mountain Bikes

How’s 15% off 2016 MTBs sound? We’ve got a good selection from entry level to a couple high end full suspension machines. Give us a call at the shop or pop us an email at for more info.

Kona Lanai Medium 27,5″ tired entry level MTB

Kona Lava Dome Medium Entry level 29er MTB

Kona Fire Mountain Small, Medium(3), and Large 27.5″ MTB also available in Black/Yellow

Kona Mahuna Medium(2), XL(2) 29er, we used this model as our rental for several years, a great durable bike.

Kona Blast Small(2), Medium 27.5″ We use this model as our current rental bike and it’s fantastic. Lots of room for skills growth.

Kona Cinder Cone Small 27.5″ Same geometry as the Blast with a step up in components. This is the bike we all say we’d probably be riding if we didn’t work in the industry

Kona Kahuna DL XL 29er Awesome XC bike

Kona Process 134 Extra Small 27.5″ all mountain shred sled

Orbea Occam TR H50 Large 29er XC full suspension fun

Kona Process 153DL Medium 27.5″ Enduro machine. Shred local trail then send it at the bike park, this bike can do it all.

Road Bikes, Road Bikes, Road Bikes…

We’re a couple weeks into 2017 already. Hard to believe. Seems like we were just doing this post for 2016… It’s hard to think about road bikes right now but, we figured discounting some bikes might get ya thinking about warmer weather and skinny tires. All our 2016 road bikes are 15% off and anything older than that is priced at 25% off or more! Check out the bikes below, give us a call or come in and check them out today!

2015 Orbea Orca M20 53cm This carbon beauty was $3899, we’ve got it marked down 25% putting it at $2924.25

2016 Orbea Ordu M20 Medium. 15% off this aero machine. Step your tri game up and shave time off your cycling segment while keeping some cash in your pocket.

Surly Straggler 54cm. We had a frame sitting around so we threw together a nice little CX build using a parts kit from a Kona Jake. Stragglers from this year were normally $1549, we’ve got this one marked at $1375

2014 Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Sora 53cm. Normally $969.99, we’ve got this bike marked down to $675. You won’t find a better price on an entry level road bike!

2015 Cannondale CAAD10 105 58cm. Retail was $1549.99 we’ve got this one marked at 25% off, $1162.50 gets you one heck of a road bike!

2014 Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Tiagra 57cm Was $1249.99, down to $825. If you’re thinking about giving road biking a try, or you know you’ll love it and just want a screaming deal on a great bike, this is for you.

2016 Cannondale Synapse Ultegra 3 58cm. 15% off. Road endurance bikes don’t get much better than this.

Surly Pacer 52cm A classic road bike with modern conveniences. Normally $1850 for this steel beauty we’ve got it marked down to $1200.

2015 Cannondale Synapse Carbon Rival Disc 54cm Retail $2699.99 down 25% puts it at $2024.99. The Snyapse is one of the best endurance road bikes out there, thinking of doing RATPOD? This is the ride for you.

2016 Cannondale Synapse 105 Carbon 54cm. 15% off on this red beauty

2015 Cannondale Synapse Alloy Disc Rival 56cm Retail was $1999.99 and this one is 25% off bringing it down to $1499.99. Light weight aluminum frame, disc brakes, and good looks. What more can you ask for?

2016 Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra 3 56cm 15% off

2016 Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra 3 52cm 15% off.

2016 Cannondale CAAD12 105. We have several of these from our demo fleet, size 48cm, 52cm, and 54cm. Retail was $1549.99, these are marked down to $1000. They received full tune ups at the end of the season and are ready for many more miles.

We also have two brand new never ridden ones, a 54cm and a 50cm. The new ones are 15% off retail.

2016 Cannondale Touring 1 54cm. 15% off and you’re ready to spin off into the sunset and never look back. Or just take a weekend trip… whichever.

2016 Cannondale Quick Speed 3 We’ve got two of these upright roadies, a medium and a large and they are both marked 15% off. Fast and light while keeping you in a more comfortable position. Perfect for a road cyclist who’s body may no longer agree with drop bars.


That is so Euro…

The Long Goodbye

Almost seven months ago I found myself in the center of a city that traces its roots to a time well before the Roman empire. Ljubljana has been at the crossroads of European and Asian trade routes for several Millenia. History and lore are rich in this city with dragons featuring as prominently as the mountains that surround the valley. The Ljubljana we were introduced to was draped in lights and Christmas decorations. The city center was packed with people each night. The smell of kuhano vino – warm mulled wine – filled the air. This looked like a fun town.

Our introduction was festive but being new it was easy to feel anonymous. The culture and normal demeanor of the people we encountered did not help to diminish that sense of anonymity. People tend to keep to themselves, their eyes directed forward, even on the bus I would rarely make eye contact with people. The city felt cold, the people in the city seemed distant. It was easy to worry that it would be seven months of being outsiders, separate from the folks who called Ljubljana and Slovenia home.

Prešeren Trg
The heart of Ljubljana. The center of activity.

Our kids felt the same, well except for my daughter. Within days she was hanging out with “friends” as if they had know each other since kindergarten. The boys hated school. They didn’t have friends, they felt excluded and they missed home. For a couple of months we heard only complaints and dread. I wasn’t dreading each day but I also didn’t have any friends that I could meet up with either.

But slowly things changed. We met a few people that we would spend time with. Our kids came home from school asking if they could go to a friend’s house and the anonymous faces that I passed on the street began to look occasionally familiar. The blank forward looks turned to the occasional wave or greeting. The cold hard edge that I felt had rounded and softened. The owner of the corner cafe would always wave. When I sat at one of his tables he was eager to engage.

The city was opening up to us. We were not just visitors, we were part of the activities and daily life in Ljubljana. The farmers at the vegetable stand that I frequented watched as my Slovene language skills slowly improved. I even received a compliment. One of the farmers told me she was impressed at how well I was now speaking Slovene. Ironically though, she said it all in Slovene and I had to sheepishly admit to her that I didn’t understand quite what she said. The fruit seller, a big Macedonian guy was always ready to toss in one extra pear or apple when he saw me. “My Friend,” he would say, “take this it is sweet and you will love it.”

Outdoor market
The outdoor market is open every day but Saturdays are packed. The whole town shows up to fill their baskets with fresh produce for the week.

Eventually, I would say, the city embraced us. Ljubljana now feels like home. Our kids were involved in basketball, drumming, voice lessons, skiing. It was much like life in Missoula except in a different language. After these many months I no longer feel like an outsider. We take short trip up in to the mountains or south to the Adriatic and return “home”. We all call Ljubljana home and consider it home.

Change can be frightening and difficult but it can also challenge a person’s ability to understand themselves and others. Moving to a new country provides a great opportunity to learn experience a new language, new food, new routines to the day and all the things that comprise culture. It has also offers an opportunity to redefine one’s self. I landed in Ljubljana with a clean slate, anonymous as I was. Everyone I met was new to me and I was new to them. How did I want to be perceived? What did I want them to know abut me? Would I make a positive impression on them?

My bike helped introduce me to a whole new community of people around Slovenia and Italy. These are folks with whom I would not normally meet, but our shared enjoyment with riding bikes provided the introduction. On my bike I feel at home, I am in my comfort zone. I was very fortunate here to meet up with a great group of folks of various backgrounds that are all part of a local cycling club. They have been exceedingly welcoming. I join them regularly for rides during the week and on the occasional weekend. The same was true in Italy. A random ride by myself exploring unfamiliar roads let to meeting a group of folks that ride together regularly. Their nature was all Italian, friendly, outgoing, welcoming and more than happy to be a tour guide. Man, I can’t help but love this place.

Summit Selfie
Summit selfie with Alberto and I. The Italian alps stretched out to the west as far as the eye could see.

And now it is time to leave. I don’t want to say goodbye just yet.The last couple of weeks since the kids got out of school has been a whirlwind of sightseeing and being a tourist again. Trips to the mountains, trips to the sea, visiting towns and sights that have been on our list of places to tour. The list is longer than out remaining time here but we are making the most of it. We are packing in the activities and doing our best to make the most of our remaining time here. We should be good and exhausted by the time we get on the plane.

Gorni Grad
Slovenia is dotted with small villages. Only 2 million people live in the entire country, most still prefer their home village.

Most important is saying goodbye to our new found friends. As difficult as it was for our kids to make new friends, saying goodbye is turning out to be just as difficult. They talk about seeing each other again but it is clear from the tone in their voices and the looks in their eyes they all know it is unlikely. So their play resumes as if they will all be here together in Ljubljana far into the future, trying not to think of the inevitable.

Our kids are packing in the last few days with friends.

I got out for one last big Hurrah! with the local cycling club. Every year they do a big ride around the northwest corner of Slovenia, The route goes through Triglav National Park and over a couple of big climbs. The ride is 230Km long. It is a full day on the saddle. The pace was casual but not slow. It was conversation pace and the group was full of conversation.

Into the Alps
Heading towards Vršič Pass. The first climb of the day.

We had a couple of follow vehicles with us carrying spare wheels and extra gear. Quite a luxury. The follow van even had a speaker attached to the front that played a non-stop stream of music. Traditional Slovene music, Balkan pop music, English language oldies, rock and pop. It was quite a mix and very entertaining. This was a ride and not a race for sure. It included plenty of stops for snacks and drinks including two longer stops at a cafés. CocktaI stuck with water and Cockta – Slovene version of Coca-Cola but better – and the the Slovenes, well they opt for beer! Not just a small beer but a beer the way they normally serve them around here. I am not sure how they do it.

Beer Break
Yes, these beers are as large as they look.

I think the beer gives them strength because on the last big climb of the day I found myself barely able to hang on to a pace that seemed to be increasing constantly. I may have to re-think how I hydrate.

Hanging on
I am barely hanging on to the group on the climb. At least the follow van is playing good music – John Denver, “Country Roads”

The day ended with a great picnic that included baked fish that was caught in the local rivers. Sixty plus people enjoying the day, enjoying another beer and occasionally remembering that I only speak a few words of Slovene.

Thank you Slovenia. Thank you for helping make your country feel like our home. Thank you for the unique warmth and beauty that defines Slovenia. “It is small but beautiful”. That phrase is like a Slovene tag line. We hear it very often when we talk to people about their country. But it is true. High alpine mountains, rivers, seaside, vineyards, forests. There is a little bit of everything in a compact package. I hope we will be back. There is still so much to see and do. So many memories still to be made. Fortunately we are leaving with a memories that will last a lifetime. And maybe, with a bit of luck, we will reconnect with old friends. But we are not ready to say good bye yet! We are still here for a little while and so I am off to find one more adventure today. Time to make a couple more memories. Missoula, we will see you soon.

That is so Euro…

This is perhaps a bit late in coming but it is the Giro d’Italia so I think this is worth sharing. Watching the Giro live has been a goal of mine for a long, long time. When the Giro route was announced last autumn I looked to see which stage or stages would pass closest to Slovenia. As luck would have it stage 13 would follow a route that very nearly passed into Slovenia. The finish of the stage was in a town called Cividale di Fruili. A very scenic town that is built high above a clear emerald green river. The added bonus is that this stage included four categorized climbs which would be a tough test for the riders. On paper it looked like it could make for a very exciting race. Four solid climbs, a long flat run in to the finish. Yeah, this could be a great stage. May 20th was marked in my calendar, I let the kid’s teachers know they would be gone and I went to the market to pull together a few things to pack for a day at the Giro.

Deep green and clear. The town of Cividale del Fruili is built above this river. You can see the Julian Alps of Slovenia in the background.

A couple of weeks prior to the race my enthusiasm got the better of me. I drove to Cividale di Fruili, met a couple of Italian friends and rode part of the Giro course. I was excited to sample a bit of what the racers were going to experience. The climbs were massive. They were steep, the roads were narrow and the descents were a thrill. The preview also gave me the chance to scope out a place for all of us to watch the race go by.

The funny thing about watching a bike race live is that in general you are out on small, out of the way country roads waiting for a few hours to see the peloton for a few seconds as they race past. If you want to see the racers moving at a slightly slower speed you find a part of the race where they are climbing a tall steep mountain. At the top of the mountain, where they are likely to be the most fatigued, they are usually moving even slower. A scenic spot up high on one of the four big climbs was what I was looking for. I found a spot near the top of the first climb; a category 1 climb! Category one means that the climb is long and steep! The spot I chose wound through a high mountain village. The road made a couple of switchbacks as it approached the village and made a couple of switchbacks as it passed through the village. The switchbacks meant we could watch them for a relatively long time, at least as as far as bike races go.

Race day came. We left Ljubljana early and made the 90 min drive to Cividale and then up the road toward the top of the first climb of the day where we would try and find our perfect Giro picnic spot. According to the race schedule the racers were expected to approach the top of the first climb around 2:00pm. If we wanted to have time to enjoy our picnic and celebrate the Giro with the rest of the crowd we would have to be at our spot by noon. We also had to get to the start of the climb before the road was closed to cars. We drove part way up the climb and then walked the last 6km to our picnic spot.

Giro Picnic
Waiting for the Giro to arrive requires a proper picnic

The walk up gave all of us the chance to get a sense of just how steep the climb was. There were plenty of people making the walk and even more riding bikes up the road. I guessed the walk up would take somewhere between 45-60 minutes. Along the way we passed both walkers and cyclists taking the occasional break from the uphill effort and several cyclists decide that pushing their bikes was a bit more manageable.

We reached the top of the climb and found a small crowd of people who arrived before us and came with the same idea. The crowds at the Giro tend to be smaller than at the Tour de France by they are no less enthusiastic. Actually the smaller crowds means there is more interaction. It is more like a party and everyone is excited to celebrate, especially the Italians. Italians are so warm and always eager to share their enthusiasm, not to mention their wine. The crowds at the Tour tend to be so large that you spend a large part of your time just trying to maintain the small spot you staked out. Our little corner up on Monte Maggiore was all about the festivities. We set out our picnic and joined in the merry making.

The thing about watching a bike race like the Giro is that you come to celebrate the Giro and its history, enjoy the crowd and join the party. We had a couple of hours to wait before the race made it’s way up the mountain. It was time to join in the celebrations. Music, food wine and lots of broken English and Italian combined with plenty of arm waving and gesticulating made for great, entertaining conversation. This is what watching the bike race is all about. The party, the socializing and soaking in all the Italian atmosphere. The race doesn’t take a back seat but it was still a long ways off so there was no reason to concern ourselves with something that was not in our immediate presence; and living in the present is something that the Italians do very well. La Dolce Vita!

Giro Offering
One of the locals made this beautiful offering to the Giro. Pastas, breads, cheeses and some colorful flowers.

Eventually the enthusiasm and noise of the crowd was interrupted by the distant thud of helicopter blades cutting through the air at the bottom of the valley. We could not yet see the peloton but we knew they were down there somewhere and that the helicopter would be hovering just above them. The other really cool thing about our spot on the hill was that we could see all the way down to the bottom of the mountain to where the climb began. We could also see a few short sections below us where the road emerged from the trees, but it was the helicopters that gave us the best indication of where the racers were on the mountain.

The entire atmosphere on the mountain changed from one of pure celebration to one of a celebration at a beautiful sporting event with dedicated cycling fans eager to support their favorite riders and favorite teams. The lively conversation changed to nervous and energetic chatter. The anticipation was obvious everywhere we looked. This was an important stage and one of the first big mountain stages. This day could play in important part in the overall outcome of the race and this particular climb would be the first test of the day. These die-hard fans knew they could witness something special today. The anticipation grew as the helicopter drew closer. Every once in a while someone would shout that they saw a rider through the trees. We were trying to guess would be the first to appear.Peleton Climb

A lone rider was the first to round the switchback at the bottom of the village. he had a small gap. 30 seconds later the main peloton appeared. At this point I think that most of the crowd forgot who they came to cheer for. All the racers received the same huge applause and cheers from the crowd. It was the race they had come to see and it was the race they were cheering for. Despite this being the first climb of the day there was a long interval between the first rider and the last rider to pass. The interval was a clear indication of just how difficult this day was going to be. But the support of the  was no less for the last rider than it was for the first rider. These athletes were riding their hearts out and the fans loved it and did not hold back their cheers.

Maglia Rosa
The leaders received huge cheers…
Final riders
… and the last riders heard the same applause.

Once the last rider passed we made a hasty depart back to the car. We wanted to get back to Cividale before the race passed through the city. After the Montemaggiore climb there was a short fast descent and then the second climb of the day. After the second climb the course passed through Cividale n the way to the third and fourth climbs of the day. If we were lucky we could get back to Cividale to in time to catch another brief glimpse of the race.

Cividale was also the location of the finish of the stage. After the last two climbs the course returned to Cividale to finish in town so naturally this is where most people were gathered. The city was packed. Forget the small crowds, the whole city was a party. The cafés, gift shops, restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops and sweet shops were all out eager to show off their specialties.

Local Fares
Yes, please!

The road along the route was packed with people. There were huge screens placed around the town showing the race live. Huge cheers would erupt when a the camera showed favorite riders. We wanted a good spot because the race would be at top speed through town. We chose a spot just before a hard left hand corner hoping the peloton would have to slow just a bit as they entered the turn.It was a good guess but the turn did not seem to slow them at all. I think you have to actually see the race live to understand just how fast the riders are moving and to see the skill it takes to navigate a hard left hand corner on cobbled roads all while moving at speeds above 45kph. We may have only seen them for a moment but the thrill is intense and memorable.

Now it was a waiting game. The race had two more climbs to summit before the flat 12km run in to the finish. There was a lot of racing left and the dynamic of a stage like this meant that lead changes would be inevitable. We watched the big screens to follow the race all the while cheering for the racers that had fallen off the pace. Judging by the gaps we were seeing the two first climbs must have been monsters. Riders were passing through in groups of three, four or five and well off the pace of the leaders. Many of the riders I am sure were wondering if they would finish within the time cut.

The whole city seemed to move as the crowd slowly made their way to the finish line on the other side of town. We had at least two more hours of waiting but we joined the crowd around one of the many big screens positioned around the finish area.

As expected the stage was decisive. Some of the favorites had a good day while others finished with looks of obvious disappointment. There were still several days left and anything could happen. If you followed this year’s Giro you will know that the days that followed were wild and the finish had an ending that no one could have predicted. For us it was a memorable day and I think that most of the fans would feel the same. I think we saw the racers for all of 10 minutes at the most but that does not diminish event. The build-up, the anticipation the festivities and the camaraderie are timeless. The racers may pass in a flash but the memories last much longer.