Eric Thompson, Almanzo 2012 winner, handling the tricky Root River crossing like a champion.


The Almanzo 100. A bike race in Spring Valley that takes place over the course of 100 miles, 95% of which consists of rural gravel roads. Besides one checkpoint, there is no outside support allowed. Riders are given twelve hours to finish the course. Sound enticing? Evidently it sounded enticing enough to get me and my buddy Jake to sign up for the crazy thing.

I knew going into this race that it would be no walk in the park, but I never imagined the challenge that unfolded as the we rode the first leg of the race. As if riding gravel wasn’t hard enough, the course also consisted of seven to eight category five hills, only one of which I was actually able to climb while in the saddle. Flying down slopes was always a thrill until I realize that I was going 35 mph on two very thin tires with the high risk of hitting a loose patch of gravel, which would no doubt send me into an imminent doom. Fresh gravel began to seem quite similar to riding in snow, and I must say, I wasn’t too fond of it.

The one thing that made this ride of bump-bump-bump bearable was the fact that we were surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside imaginable. There was a moment when reaching the top of a small climb at the edge of a pasture that two curious horses came galloping alongside us as if to cheer on our small achievement.

Picture perfect.

Diving through deep river valleys in tunnels formed by expansive tree canopies. Gazing out over endless rolling hills of picturesque green grass as clouds patched the sky. Passing by numerous farms with tall red barns and long-horned cattle grazing about. These were just a few of the great moments experienced along the ride. I almost began to forget the milage, the tightness of my shoulders and the fatigue of my legs. This was an escape from everything and it gave me all the energy I needed to press on.

The Almanzo is an amazing event that anyone can conquer because it’s not about pain or racing or anything like that. Whether you ride 60 miles and drop out or finish just within the twelve hour window with scuffed knees and bent handlebars, it’s about getting on a bike and experiencing the journey. That’s what biking has always been about.

Thank you to Chris and all the volunteers for organizing this event. I will be returning with every ounce of enthusiasm I can muster for next year’s ride.