Sunday, May 16, 2010

Almanzo 100 recap - Wow!

Beautiful Minnesota gravel goodness

First and foremost, I want to thank Chris Skogen and all the volunteers and sponsors who made the 2010 Almanzo 100 possible. That was an amazing feat of organizational skill to pull off, and I think it's safe to say that it went off really, really well.

For those of you who aren't in the know, the Almanzo 100 is a 100 mile gravel road race. This was the fourth running of the event. The first year there were 12 people. This year there were over 400 riders registered and 250+ lined up and ended up finishing. BTW, the race is free to enter!

I'm still a bit floored at the quality of this event. It was an incredible grassroots race experience and I'm lucky to have been part of it. Alright, now on to the recap.

Wow, personalized and embossed!

The Nebraska crew (Troy, Schmidty and I) headed up for the Almanzo 100 on Friday morning. We made pretty good time on the way up and decided to head into Rochester to pick up our race packets. Chris Skogen, the event promoter, and his buddy were at the local bike shop manning the registration. We grabbed our packets (which were freakin' pimp!) and chatted for a bit with Chris. Those Minnesota folks are good people!

Welcome from the A&W in Spring Valley, MN

After picking up the packets we headed for Spring Valley which was the starting town for the event. The whole town was behind the event. The locals seemed happy to have all the lycra clad warriors roaming around town.

Troy and Schmidty - they go to the same barber!

Troy and Schmidty (the PCL Founders, right?) are awesome travel companions! I have a feeling we'll be heading back to Minnesota again next year. Troy and I will be crushing some Kansas gravel together soon.

Lots of windmills up North

Friday evening after checking into the hotel we kitted up and headed out to stretch out the legs. On the ride we noticed a lot of windmills spread across the landscape. The same question kept popping up all day. Why doesn't Nebraska get in on all that clean energy?!

Pancake flat

So Friday's ride had us scratching our heads. We heard that the Almanzo 100 route was hilly, but all the gravel we rode around Spring Valley was flat. You could see for miles and not spot even a tiny roller.

Tiny white rock

The Minnesota gravel is a lot smoother than the stuff in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. Some sections were super smooth hardpack and almost like pavement. The dust content was low and the rocks, which were sporadic, were tiny pea sized. There weren't any wash boarded out sections and very few ruts and pot holes. One could get spoiled riding that stuff all the time!

Trickling in

The race started at 9 AM which gave us plenty of time to get a good breakfast and do a bit of socializing. Troy and I lined up early cuz it was first come first serve basis. As we waited for the start I was able to snap several pics of the folks behind us.

Gaining momentum


OK, now that's ridiculous

Brian and Kim Eppen on the tandem - Overall Winners of the 2010 Almanzo!

There were several call ups prior to the start including past winners and Hurl Everstone who has competed in every Almanzo 100 event since it's inception in 2007. That's badass.


Hold your line!

The event started in a mass start and was a neutral roll out until we hit the first gravel of the day. The mass of cyclists settled into a chill pace for the first few miles until the hills started. The first split in the group came on a smokin' fast descent. A couple of folks ended up over cookin' the turn and rolled through some of the ditch. Fortunately, no one went down at that point. Later on in the day I heard that a ten person pile up happened on that first descent. Ouch!

No end in site

Lead group about 20 miles in

In order to stay in the lead group you had to be close to the front of the peleton prior to the descents. Brian and Kim Eppen were crushin' the descents on a tandem. Everyone had to sprint to keep up. My max speed for the day was 44 mph on a gravel descent! Yikes!

A couple of times I got caught in traffic on a descent only to get popped off the back. I had to bury myself to latch back on the lead group which was really movin'. After a couple of those I tried to stay as far up as possible.

Shoulder to shoulder

Clippin' along

The lead group was movin', but nothing too crazy. Once the hills started the group began to separate a bit more. We were averaging around 20 mph for the first 30 miles.

The Eppens on the right - Big smile from Brian

Lead group of around 25 riders at this time

About 30 miles in we hit a huge climb followed by a wicked fast descent. This was the attack that I was waiting for. The climb popped me and many others off the back. A few of us linked up and sprinted down the descent to try to get back on the lead group, but at the end of the descent was a very sharp left hand turn. We had no idea it was coming! Chris, you evil genius! We had to go from our biggest gear and close to 40 mph, down to our smallest gear in a instant. The leaders were only 20 yards off, but that huge climb made it seem like 20 miles. I noticed my back tire getting a bit bouncy down the previous descent and confirmed my suspicions as I tried to make up some ground on the climb. Damn rear flat. I finished the climb and tried to ignore the soft rear, but then spotted another fast descent coming up and decided to stop and change it out. A piece of wire punctured the tire. Terrible timing for a flat to say the least. The lead group was gone in an instant and I knew there was no catching them. So I took my time changing out the flat in hopes of linking up with another group. Unfortunately, there weren't too many others close behind. So I ended up riding the rest of the race solo.

Super big climbs in that part of Minnesota

The good news is I really enjoyed myself all day. The rest of the ride was great. I got to check out a lot of the scenery and snapped a few pics. The hills are huge. Much bigger than the Nebraska variety. Riding those all the time will make you fast!

Dandelions in full bloom

The weather couldn't have been better. The high for the day was around 70 and the wind was very light. The sun was out for a bit, but clouds rolled in later. Pretty much perfect.

Water crossing

I tried riding the water crossing, but ended up hitting a large rock which necessitated a dismount. Both feet got wet, but it felt great. Ahhh, refreshing!

Long slow climb back to town

Troy had a very impressive ride and ended up 8th on the day. I'm not sure how the rest of the field ended up. I rolled in 45 minutes after the winners and Schmidty rolled in not too long after I did. We all had great rides and really enjoyed ourselves. Afterward we couldn't stop talking about how well done all aspects of the event were.

After the race we got to hang out and chat with some other gravel friends. We get to see a lot of the same faces at these events which makes them even more enjoyable.

Next year be sure to put the Almanzo 100 on your calendar. You won't be disappointed.

Next up is Dirty Kanza!


paxtoncoyote said...

with numbers like that it kind of looks like RAGBRAI on the rocks!

t-nuts said...

great weekend trip man! wish we could have ridden a bit more up there, a lot to see. perfect DK primer. week looks great, see ya on the home gravel...

jamesb said...

Great race, CB. If it wouldn't have had to be pre-pre registered back in January, I may have been there with you guys! Maybe next year...

jamesb said...

wow! Troy we just posted the exact same time (down to the second) Scary...

RD said...

nicely done !!!

shockstar said...

well done cornbread...sorry to hear about the flat. for what its worth, cleaning the water crossing didn't keep your feet any dryer. see you soon man...probably worlds if not sooner. good luck with dk.

TOMMY GUN said...

Cornbread Maxwell,
You pretty much nailed it. Terrific event and great volunteers. We couldn't have had a better day. Sorry I didn't get a chance to chat you up at the end.

Punch Showen in the stomach for me...


Marco Esteban said...

Nice write up, good to see the view from the front!

mw said...

nice post corey.
jim and i hit a hundy on sundy. out to union and thru weeping water. a route good enough to share. it was sweet.

MG said...

wow... nice ridin' cornbread. sorry to hear about your untimely flat tire, but glad to hear you made the best of it. thanks for the write up and photos.

lookin' forward to riding with you at the 'kanza.


Guitar Ted said...

Great write up as always, thanks! Great job of riding too! Too bad about the flat.

Top notch event and I've heard some other good stuff about Spring Valley too. Good for you guys to be there and for that town to get behind the event.

In fact, that A&W you took a picture of is where my Grandma used to take me when I was a little shaver for a hamburger, fries, and a malt. Good memories!

Anyway, see ya at DK 200 soon!

jmeiser said...

Good to see you again! Nice to chat about bikepacking and your future pursuits. Start planning. You've got the mindset for it, you've revealed that time and time again. Especially at TI this year.

mw said...

hey cornb. maybe i missed it, but how'd they do the cues at the almonzo? maps?

Cornbread said...

Great seeing everyone again! Looking forward to more gravel fun soon.