Gravel, Rivers and Hills: My Almanzo 100 Experience

We trucked down to Rochester the night before with bikes in tow.
This past weekend I rode in the Almanzo 100 in Spring Valley, MN. All that was required was a postcard and the commitment that I'd show up. This is a completely free and unsupported Minnesota homegrown bike race. It was one of the hardest rides I've done, but by far the most rewarding. 1,300 riders and I peddled through 100 miles of gravel, dirt and hills. The conditions couldn't have been better for a ride for the books. I might have only drove down with a handful of friends, but you can't help but notice the bond between yourself and every other rider brave enough to saddle up that Saturday morning.

Chris Skogen, the mastermind behind Almanzo, kicks off the ride; photo © Craig Lindner
Having minimal experience with gravel, it took me a couple miles to get my legs used to the unique qualities of the crushed rocks. Reaching upwards of 38 miles an hour down hills that occasionally feel more like small mountains takes a couple times to get comfortable with. Starting off, I was feathering my brakes, but by the end of it the brakes were only reserved for corning.

The scenery was a very welcome bonus.
With all the rain in the days and weeks beforehand there were two welcome (for some, maybe not) obstacles — river crossings. Unfortunately, I only had the chance to navigate the first one as the second was deemed too hazardous after the first riders barely made it.

Root River Crossing from Freewheel Bike on Vimeo.

Between mile 86 and the finish line there were two hills I couldn't conquer. At first it was defeating, but it was comforting knowing I was part of a large majority making this slow trek. My goal for next year and every year after that: crush those hills!

Well, time to start making my postcard for 2014!

*Note* As a reminder, I'm riding the the MS 150. Donate to the cause by visiting my fundraising page or spread the word by sharing the link,

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