By Bill Foley
As he steps into the role of race director of the Butte 100, Len Janson knows he is taking over a “jewel of a race.”
That was obvious when the 50-mile race and the Sorini 25 sold out like a Bruce Springsteen concert when registration opened last week.
Both races sold out in a matter of minutes, and the list of riders on the waiting list for the two shorter races has reached triple digits. Only the 100-mile race currently has openings.
The 62-year-old Janson, though, still has some lofty long-term plans for the race, which will be run for the 12th time on July 28 along the Continental Divide Trail.
“I would love to see the Butte 100 be a bigger representative of Butte,” Janson said. “Ideally, we would like people to come here to ride, and them come back to visit.”
For now, though, Janson said he is not messing with a great thing he inherited from Gena Evans, who directed the first 11 Butte 100 races. Evans retired as race director in September.
“She did a wonderful job on it,” Janson said of Evans. “It’s a very well run race. Right now my goal as a first-year director is to not diminish the race. I want it to be the same wonderful race it was last year.”
The race grew from 41 riders in its first year to 350 last year. The race would have likely had even more riders than that, but 350 is the limit for the race’s use permit.
The 2017 event was the first time Janson, a long-time, cyclist was part of the race. He crashed and had to drop out of the 50-mile race because of mechanical problems.
“As soon as I stopped, I sat there and licked my wounds,” Janson said. “I said, ‘I’ve got to do this again.’”
For this year, though, Janson will focus on running the race instead of riding it.
Janson, a 1973 Butte High graduate, worked in the oil industry for 35 years after he graduated from Montana Tech in 1977. After his retirement, Janson and his wife, Lynn, moved back to the Mining City, where they’ve resided for the past five years.
An avid cyclist, Janson has competed in many cycling events, such as the Hotter’N Hell Hundred in Texas, The Enchanted Circle Tour in New Mexico, Bike Across Kansas, FreeWheel in Oklahoma, and the Ride the Divide from West Yellowstone to West Glacier.
In 2015, Janson completed a bike trip from Astoria, Washington to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Janson pointed out that most of that riding, however, was on a street bike.
“I’ve been on a bike all day to ride 140 miles several times,” Janson said. “There’s no way I’d want to be on a mountain bike for 100.”
Still, Janson’s qualifications for his new job are clear, and he said the race has everything it needs to successful for years to come.
“It’s a really healthy event,” Janson said. “It can coast on its own for a while. But we need to keep feeding it so it can grow into a bigger event.”
Janson pointed out that the Butte 100 is one of only two races to use the Continental Divide Trail.
“That’s a jewel for this event, and we want to utilize that,” he said. “We have to be the gate keepers to protect it.”
The 2018 Butte 100 already has riders signed up from all corners of the United States. It has riders from New Zealand and Germany.
For those still wanting to race, there is still hope.
Janson said in the coming weeks they will adjust the races to let more riders in the 50- and 25-mile events if the 100-mile race does not fill up. Riders can register at butte100.com.
Either way, the race will easily hit the cap of 350 riders.
That is a number that Janson wants blow by in the future. He wants to make the Butte 100 bigger for the Mining City and for those visiting it.
“The Butte 100 is a jewel, and nobody knows about it,” Janson said. “I’d love to see a time trial up Buffalo Street. I’d love to bring the riders into town and let them see what she has.”