Victor DeLeo tackles the trail during the Lone Peak Revenge mountain bike race at Big Sky Resort. Photos courtesy of Gallatin Alpine Sports.
I DON'T LIKE to lose. It could be arm wrestling, checkers, even a coin toss. I'm like most guys I know. I'm competitive and I always want to win.
This year, Big Sky celebrated its 14th Annual XC mountain bike race, The Lone Peak Revenge. It's a local event, bringing together 40 of the area's fittest bikers. But while I like to think of myself as a strong rider, I wasn’t up for it, and you can't lose if you don't enter.
But friends expected me to participate. I've ridden the course leisurely so many times that it's practically my backyard. This was an event on my home turf. Like a buddy's band playing next door, it simply would be rude not to attend.
So there I was, on the nose of the start line among chatty, spandex-clad competition. Big Sky Resort's GM, Taylor Middleton, and several other friends were among them. The course ahead would climb a few thousand vertical feet, duck under ski lifts, and cross a dozen runs. When we were told "15 seconds," everyone hushed.
I thought about my game plan. Get out front, get out fast.
I was out of the saddle, ahead of the pack. My heart fired like a machine gun. I reached the forested single track first, just as planned. Then, 30 feet from the initial descent, I noticed, what looked like, a big German Shepherd blocking the trail. Breathless, I managed one syllable.
The four legged beast flinched backward, and oafishly scooted away. Then, in my blurry exhaustion, I realized that this was no dog. I was looking at the broad side of a 400 pound brown bear.
In most cases, I'd immediately warn followers and retreat. But safety and wildlife viewing were secondary. This was a race, and I had to keep pedaling.
For the next few miles I stayed in front until my body had had enough. One by one, riders began passing me. I grew so tired, I repeatedly considered walking. So much for home field advantage—I definitely was not going to win. Throwing in the towel would have been easy.
But somehow, I kept grunting up the climb and gained new strength by the second lap. If a bear couldn't stop me, I figured nothing would.
Competition is funny like that. It encourages persistence, helps us tolerate pain, and makes us find strength we didn't know we had. While I missed the podium by 40 seconds, I knew I’d gained more than I’d lost. At the finish line, we had burgers, beers, and raffle prizes. I walked away with a full belly, new gear, and a fun story to share with friends. Losing wasn’t as bad as I thought.
A special thanks to Gallatin Alpine Sports for running the event, donating prizes, and feeding the hungry crew.
- Victor DeLeo, Big Sky Resort Senior National Sales Manager
Read more about the Lone Peak Revenge in this article from the Helena Independent Record
A bear checking out the Lone Peak Revenge race excitement.
Lone Peak Revenge has both XC and downhill races.