Missoula County OKs use of historic Lalonde Ranch for cyclocross race

Cyclocross is a form of nonmotorized bicycle racing that typically takes place in the autumn and winter, and consists of many laps on a short course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles. This will be the fourth year of the Rolling Thunder Cyclocross Race. (Rolling Thunder Cyclocross)

The Missoula Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday approved, for the fourth year in a row, a special permit allowing use of the historic Lalonde Ranch for the annual Rolling Thunder Cyclocross Race, set for Nov. 2. 

The primary staging area for the event is at Big Sky Brewing, but part of the course runs around the perimeter of the county’s nearby ranch. 

John Stegmaier, parks and trails coordinator for Community and Planning Services, said there have been no noticeable impacts on the landscape from past events, and that he believed race organizers were taking all necessary precautions to prevent damage. 

“It’s a one-day event,” Stegmaier said. “The activities are limited to the perimeter, and historic structures will be roped off, barricaded and protected. Should there be any damage, we have a plan in place to fix it. We have assurances that they will help restore it.” 

The permit required a $1,000 refundable damage deposit and liability insurance. Staff from the county Parks, Trails and Open Lands Program will inspect the course after the race and monitor any required restoration. Other conditions include providing temporary barriers to historic buildings and prohibiting alcohol on the property.

One of the last remaining historic ranches in the Missoula Valley, the Lalonde Ranch – located in the county’s development park just off Airway Boulevard – was purchased by the county in 1991.  It’s nearly 7 acres in size and includes a two-story brick ranch house, two wooden barns and a log cabin believed to have been built in the 1870s. 

Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said he initially had “mixed feelings” about the event.

“The event itself is good,” he said, “but we’re in the process of making plans to preserve the historic and natural values of the ranch, and we don’t want to do anything to interfere with that.” 

However, after discussing it with people working to protect the ranch, Strohmaier said “nobody expressed any concern that it shouldn’t happen.” 

Cyclocross is a form of nonmotorized bicycle racing that typically takes place in the autumn and winter, and consists of many laps on a short course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring riders to sometimes quickly dismount and carry their bikes while navigating obstructions, then remount.

“There’s not much environmental impact to it,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “It’s a fun, well-intentioned event with a lot of kids involved.”