The Almanzo 100 is the best gravel ride in Minnesota and given the conversation with a rider from Canada it's possible the best in North America. I've ridden it twice. The first time I wanted to get a good time but that may be an unexpected double entendre, true none the less. I wanted to race for the best finishing time. This year I wanted to have a good time with some buddies and not focus on time. For those that read this blog I like to hammer it out. That is, if someone is speeding away I chase like a lion after prey. I did have a goal of a 7 hour finish and I expected that it was possible with two buddies helping pull (be in front) as we each rest for a few minutes.
A great American Chris Skogen has created and hosted this ride for 7 years. This year we found 1300+ riders take the line and fill Spring Valley's Main street. Thank you Chris.
Pete and Blake were suppose to ride with me as a team but work got to Pete late into the evening before the ride so it was Blake and I.
The start was awesome. The pace was fast. I saw 31 mph on the last road before the gravel. The first down hill on gravel was 41 mph and I was a lion chasing the leaders. I knew I had no chance of staying with the leaders but for 3 furious miles I was hanging on to the back of the lead group. At mile 3.36 I shut it down knowing I had 97 more miles. Blake and I regroup but I can tell the got hurt in the sprint. I try to get to a normal grind but every time a faster team passes, the lion in me wants to chase so the speeds go from 14 to 22 and back over the next 30 miles. I try to set a pace but I'm all over the place. I know I'm wasting gas on the sprints but I can't help it. I eat extra and feel good but unknowingly I'm killing my buddy.
Into the first check point at 40 miles.
Eating and drinking are tops on the list. Some stretching is therapy for being in the saddle for two and a half hours so far.
Out of the check point and we run into a closed road but the route notes (tulip cards) tell us to go straight.
"Embrace the water", were the last words of Mr Skogen so some take off their fancy shoes and tip toe across.
Blake and I jump the line and just walk across. Wet shoes don't mean anything and many times it means cool feet for the next 40 miles.
Out of the water and we get a good lead on the riders trying to dry their feet.
The next check point come quickly at mile 67. Blake is hurting so I pair up with him as best I can and we talk and pass some time to the next check point. My original plan was to ride as a group and talk and have a good time but the punchy start and the early sprint made a mess of the plans.
We make it to Forestville State Park and have a long rest.
The water and rest rooms are a nice upgrades from trees and the hot water in our sports bottles.
By this time lots of riders are showing signs of strain and it isn't hard to find riders sitting along the road or any shady knoll.
The last leg of the Almanzo contains a lot of huge hills and I lose contact with Blake but see my wife at a road crossing and tell her that I lost him and that he's cooked ... I'm going to finish.
This is the last turn on to a bike path and in grand style, it's all gravel! In the far left is the long thin line that we follow to the finish.
Coming into the finish I take this so I remember it. I'm beat up and both knees are sore. The left knee stopped working for me about 9 miles back after a difficult hill.
And across the line.
I started out wanting to have a good time with my buddies, that changed to a good race time and then back to just riding with a good friend. I cross the line but alone and 90 minutes behind my goal. Lots of people at the finish were yelling good job but little did they know, It wasn't the plan to be alone.