There are many words that can be used to describe the 2011 Almanzo 100.
Back in January we wrote up a postcard and mailed it away to Chris Skogen in Rochester Minnesota. Having never ridden in an Almanzo 100 event, we didn’t really know what to expect at the time we had visions of riding through Minnesota farmland over dusty gravel roads with the wind at our back and the sun in our face. January seems like a long time ago, and Saturday was our reality. No dust, just mud, there was wind, but mostly in our faces, and the sun? Ha!
Waking up Saturday morning to 45 degree weather and rain was something that none of the Almanzo riders wanted to see, yet it was something that we all experienced. Out of the 700 people who signed up, rumor has it that only 450 showed up to the start line. After a quick round of Happy Birthday:
We were off. After only a few hundred feet of pavement the group made a sweeping right hand turn, and the mud started flying. We didn’t expect to get so dirty so fast, but with wheels spinning and a tight pack riding, it didn’t take long for full face, body, and bike mud-coverage. Here is a video shot by Almanzo organizers at the first turn. It takes quite a while for all 450 riders to pass.
It took us between 8 and 9 hours to finish the course (significantly longer than the winners), but it was a finish none-the-less. Many riders chose to cut back once we hit the neutral support stop in Preston, but they missed out on a lot of fun. By the end of the day most riders shifting didn’t work well, if at all, and we felt particularly sorry for the man we passed with two miles to go who had his first, and only flat of the day.
While the actual race raged up ahead, those of us who were just out to finish, were able to have conversations, and see some pretty amazing things. The highlights of the ride included; seeing a woman on a single speed consistently out ride us, both uphill and down, the gentleman riding in a sweater vest, the hairpin downhill to uphill switch at mile 36-ish, the water crossing (mid-shin deep water), walkers hill (seven-miles to go, we didn’t see anyone actually make it all the way up on their bike). But above all else, our favorite part of the day was crossing the finish line after 100 grueling miles and seeing the man responsible for all of it waiting to shake our hand.
After having experience Almanzo, we cannot help but express our gratitude and humble amazement at what Chris Skogen and his team of volunteers have been able to build with this event. We have paid plenty of money to ride in events across the country, but not a single one can hold a candle to the free event that is Almanzo. The time, dedication and thoughtfulness that goes into this ride, shows itself in every little detail and come together for an event that we will never forget.
We will also never forget the taste of southern Minnesota gravel.