These words, said by Chris Veit on a CNBC interview, and attributed to one of Rapelje’s residents, perfectly describe a mountain bike race that shouldn’t exist. Yet, the 24 Hours of Rapelje, set to run its 14th year this June, is one of the most popular races in Montana.
Rapelje is planted deep in the rolling prairie of central Montana. While some of the tallest mountains in the state soar in the distance, the elevation changes only a few hundred feet as you climb out of town and into the surrounding hills. This isn’t some mountain bike Mecca. Except on race day, there are no trails that aren’t made by cows or ranchers’ ATVs. Rapelje has no bike shop, only a grain elevator, diesel-repair shop, and the Stockman Cafe.
So how could there be a mountain bike race here that draws riders and crews from as far away as Iowa, swelling the town’s population from less than 100 to ten times that?
Simply saying Rapelje is special is a disservice to all the struggling rural towns just trying to survive as agriculture prices fall, and people move to cities to make ends meet. They all have history, and all have hard-working residents. What Rapelje had in 2001, when the 24 Hours of Rapelje began, was a dwindling population and a cafe in danger of closing. It also had a few residents who thought that, just maybe, a mountain bike race might bring in the needed money to keep the Stockman Cafe’s doors open.
“Saving the Stockman” is the story of a town willing to volunteer hundreds of hours to save their cafe—taking a chance on the second dumbest idea they’d ever heard.