Last weekend I lined up wheel-to-wheel with 1,000 other cyclists at the starting line of the Almanzo 100 . The free, self-supported, 100-mile gravel bike race takes place along the rolling, twisting, climbing countryside of southeast Minnesota.
At 9 AM Saturday morning, Christopher Skogen stood up in the flatbed of his pickup truck at the starting line. He started the race the same way he does every year, with a heartfelt “thank you” to each of the cyclists for being there.
(See more photos from the race on page 2 of this report.)
Skogen shouted “GO!” and we were off. The mob of cyclists began rolling down the main street in the small town of Spring Valley, Minnesota.
This was my second time racing the Almanzo 100. Having ridden the course last year, I felt confident and prepared to take on the miles of gravel ahead of me. The pace picked up as soon we hit the first gravel road about 2 miles in.
Conditions were perfect. The gravel was fast, hard-packed, and in places it felt more like riding on pavement. Plus, rain from the night before kept the dust down.
Those first few miles flew by. I sat in with a group of riders rolling at a comfortable pace. The first time I looked at my Garmin we were already 30 miles in and I was barreling down a gravel hill at 31 miles-per-hour.
The downhills were fun, and the course was beautiful. The race even brought about the opportunity to get extra adventurous. There were two water crossings on the course that racers had to hike their bikes across.
The majority of racers were eventually re-routed around the second water crossing. Heavy spring rain had made the water too deep and the current too strong to cross safely.
I stopped twice throughout the race. Once at a farm around the 50 mile mark, to eat the bean and quinoa burrito I had been saving in my jersey pocket, and to fill up my water bottles on the side of their barn.
continued on next page. . .