Strava Gran Fondo Challenge in Yellowstone National Park: 130km in Freezing Temperatures Alongside Bison and Hotsprings

On Friday, a couple of buddies and I decided to complete the Strava Gran Fondo challenge for April in Yellowstone National Park. Or, at least attempt to complete it — neither of my buddies had ridden over 65 miles and none of us had ridden for longer than about 30 miles yet in 2015. There is a brief window in the spring when the roads in the park are cleared of snow but not yet open to cars. We figured we would have a very unique route compared to the approximately 90,000 other entrants in the challenge. Who else was going to cycle 130km in Yellowstone National Park in April?

The forecast called for sun which also meant it was cold, 10°F when I woke up, 23°F by the time we had driven down from Bozeman and were ready to ride.

We donned cross country ski clothes; insulated gloves, neck gaiters, beanies and jackets, and rolled out around 10am.

We rode from West up towards Mammoth, turning around just past Sheepeater Trail, almost exactly 40 miles from our start.

The Madison River, just inside the West Entrance, reflecting the bluebird sky with fresh snow on the peaks in the background.

Close to the turnaround with Electric Peak in the background.

Wind-swept thermal steam near Madison junction.

Pausing just up the road from Madison junction to take some photos, stretch and eat.

Madison Junction. Yes, that's bear spray in the downtube bottle cage of my buddy's lovely, Minneapolis-made, All-City steel frame.

Pausing to rest after climbing up Gibbon Falls. The only point in the day where we really felt warm, although, the view more than made up for the temperature and wind.

Waiting for traffic — bison traffic — to clear between West Yellowstone and Madison Junction.

We finished back at the truck around 5:30pm, having ridden 132km and finishing the challenge feeling pretty amped. It wound up being the longest ride any of us had ever done both in terms of miles and ride time.