Western Montana, we are some lucky ducks: The valley air has been free of smoke, we only just warmed up while the rest of the country has been sweltering for days and days and the Summer Olympics in London begins in two weeks. Speaking of the Olympics, Missoula's own Sam Schultz is a member of the Team USA mountain biking squad. That's rad and all. Like totally rad. But what's more rad is that he and teammates Todd Wells and Lea Davison are in town for the Missoula XC race at Marshall Mountain this Saturday. That means some of the world's elite racers are tuning up for one of the biggest events of their careers in our own backyard and we have the opportunity to see them in action and cheer them on. Schultz recently finished in the top ten at the UCI World Cup race in Windham, New York, while Wells placed fourth in the same event and Davison finished fifth in the women's division. It kind of looks like the Americans are peaking at just the right time, friends. In a preview to the Olympic competition, Team Canada member Max Plaxton is coming down from the Great White North to race with his North American counterparts as well. This year, the elite riders are racing for the coveted first place elk antler mount trophy (second place receives mule deer antlers and third gets the whitetail antlers, all of which were obtained via the FWP shed auction). If you've never attended a cross-country mountain bike race, this is probably a good time to check one out. Courses are typically full of boisterous fans hollering, banging on cow bells or bike frames and waiting for a crash on the various descents. Televised races don't really show us how fast the elite riders are. Watching them eat up the singletrack like Hungry-Hungry Hippos™ snatching up marbles and bomb the downhill sections will either inspire you to get out there and ride harder or make you give up riding forever. If watching doesn't turn you on, and you fancy yourself an elite racer, why not join the Olympians on the course? Even if you don't race in their division, it would be pretty big time to tell your kids or the drunk next to you that you took on the same course as some of North America's best riders, regardless of the outcome.
The Hammer Nutrition Missoula XC at Marshall Mountain takes place on Sat., July 14. Racing begins at 8 AM, with Women's Elite riders at 3 PM, Men's Elites at 6 PM and a kids' race at 5 PM. Check-in for racers and pre-race course riding is on Fri., July 13. See missoulaxc.org for a complete schedule and costs. Organizers are encouraging spectators to ride bikes to the event and to leave pets at home.
THURSDAY JULY 12
All the pretty horses have gathered outside Kalispell for The Event at Rebecca Farm, a four-day equestrian competition. Visit rebeccafarm.org for a full schedule and admission info.
For summertime learning and such, the Montana Natural History Center's miniNaturalists Pre-K Program has moved to the Fort Missoula Native Plant Gardens. Bugs, dirt and explorations abound. 1011 AM. $3/$1 for members. Visit montananaturalist.org.
Too awesome! The Northwest Connections 15th anniversary event hosts special guest and all-round rad dude "Jungle" Jack Hanna and introduces the Bud Moore Conservation Award at the Hungry Bear Steakhouse in Condon. 5 PM. Visit northwestconections.org.
Your GPS dies, you're in the middle of the woods and your trail just got rained out. Guess you should have taken the Map and Compass Basics Class at REI, 3275 N. Reserve St. 6 PM. $15/$35 non-members.
FRIDAY JULY 13
Join the Wilderness Institute and explore the ridges and canyons of the Middle Fork of the Judith River over three days. Field leaders from the institute guide you and cook you dinner, but you have to help them monitor things. Pretty sweet. Call 243-5361.
SATURDAY JULY 14
Get going, get fed, get to see some darn fine waterfalls during Pancakes and Hikes, which begins with a pancake breakfast at the Swan Lake Campground group site at 9 AM, followed by hikes to Holland Falls, Upper Holland Lake, Morrell Falls and Crystal Lake. For more info., contact Bert at 542-7645.
Sure you can replace a tube or lube your chain, but do you know when it's time to tighten your headset or adjust your deraileur? Find out at the Comprehensive Bike Maintenance class at REI, 3275 N. Reserve, at 10:30 AM. $80/$100 non-members.
Get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and head to Drummond for a Family Backpacking Trip led by MNHC naturalist Alyssa McLean, who has planned a kids' astronomy program. Departs at 2 PM. Costs $200 per family of four. Contact the Montana Natural History Center at montananaturalist.org for more info.
Dr. Charles Jonkel of the Great Bear Foundation talks about the bears of Montana and how we can live with 'em during this week's Big Pine FAS Summer Wildlife Program Series. Take I-90 to exit 66, near Alberton, and head south on Fish Creek Rd. for approximately 4.5 miles. Free.
SUNDAY JULY 15
Get a workout and see some darn fine scenery, too, during the Tour of the Bitterroot, which has the family-friendly Sleeping Child Out & Back Ride, the Kids' Dirt Road Derby and the 46-mile Skalkaho Mountain Tour. Funds raised benefit the Bitter Root Valley Land Trust. $35. Visit tourofthebitterroot.org.
MONDAY JULY 16
At Slacker Mondays, from 6 PM until close, slackline fans can come to Freestone Climbing Center at 935 Toole Ave. to test their balance. $13/$10 for students. Visit freestoneclimbing.com.