almanzo100

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I’ve posted this like 4 times before.  But I’m leaving tomorrow to go ride/race this shit.  Kinda nervous.  Gravel, fine.  100 miles, whatever.  8k of climb, fuck me.  I can’t climb.

Excited as hell too.  Looks like there is a bridge out now, and possible thunder storms, awesome.  

WISH ME LUCK.

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Almanzo100

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

Ride long. Race free. We still love these graphics we did for #Almanzo 2013. The race has had many incarnations, but the spirit is still the same, the route is still fantastic, the root beer at their A&W still tastes better than anywhere else. Hope to see you on Saturday in Spring Valley. #TBT #Almanzo100 #crushgravel #exploreminnesota #gravelgrinder #industwetrust #graphicdesign #TwinSix

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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.

ILLmanzo

Lets start off by making it clear that this is/was in no way a DIS or a put down to the legendary ALMANZO100.  Rather, this is more of a pastiche of that race.  Almanzo is a beautiful ride, with challenging climbs and decents.  It’s what made us fall in love with Minnesota.  Illinois desperately needs something like that.  Illinois has the perception that its flat, windy, and boring.  Get your ass in gear and come ride with us.


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We start our ride about 2 hours north west of Aurora in a part of the state known as the Driftless, an area of the state that wasn’t smashed flat by that damn glacier.  The weather report for the days leading up was all over the place, 20, 80, 60% chance of thunderstorms.  The morning was clear and almost cool, but humid.  REAL humid. 


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We were 10 strong for a ride we made up less than a month before hand, and about half were people I’d never really meet before.  That’s pretty much a win.  We rolled out at 10:00 am, and it was pretty much GO TIME for the 1st ten or so miles, until we found the giant barrel mobile home thing on the side of the road.  We all took pictures and bullshited for a bit.  After that we more or less stayed as one crew, sure some would break of the front to stretch legs, others were riding safe to protect injured legs, but we would almost always come back together.  The humidity on top of the climbing really tested your heart and will to be out there.


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Each climb presented a new challenge.  Some you could maintain your momentum from the previous decent, others you had the montra “spin to win” going over and over in your head.  Each climb also brought a reward, seemingly never ending descent.  Some you were happy you survived the loose as marbles decent to make the next climb.  Others were on pavement were you could reach 50 mph.  Your eyes would tear, from either joy, fear, or wind. 


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All while trying to keep your eyes on the road, which was easier said than done.  With some of the most beautiful rolling green hills straight out of a story book, or at least a Jolly Green Giant add, your daily life stress evaporated and left you feeling fresh.  All the hills also had small bubbling creeks with meandering cows, lamas, and every kind of bird of prey you could imagine.


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As the ride grew near to an end, some took off to make a break with 15 miles left.  Everyone was caught by the much welcomed down pour, and DOWN POUR it did.  With little visibility and no braking power for those running rim brakes we all made it safely back to the cars, eventually.


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We got cleaned up and rolled out for brews & soda at a local brewery that wasn’t that good and had crappy service.  It was still a DAMN GOOD DAY.  We will make this a yearly alternative to heading Spring Valley.  

THANK YOU everyone that came, and thank you for hyping it up for next year.  If you didn’t go, you should have.

Ride totals: 66miles/5,800ft 

ALMANZO100

It’s taken about a week for this all to set in.  Last weekend was the 2013 Almanzo100 located in southern Minnesota.  An AMAZING 100 mile gravel road race put on by Mr. Chris Skogen.  I’ve posted that video like 100 times.  I even met him at the registration, super nice, little awkward, but I’m sure that comes with dealing with about a thousand strangers coming up and saying hi all day long.  That must get tiresome, but it’s very much appreciated Chris.  You are a true man.

Originally I wasn’t going to be able to do it, by the time I got a bike to do this ride this year, the registration had ended.  Thanks to a friend who couldn’t or wouldn’t go (wuss bag), I was offered to take his place by Eric Alexander from the Twin Six Metal team.

Anyway, we started the “race” from Spring Valley, MN.  My poor bike had way too much crap on it.  I had a seat bag, small handlebar bag, and a Jandd frame bag with 70oz. Camel Back bladder in it.  I also had two big bottles and one bottle in my jersey.   As this was to be totally self supported with no check points or rest stops.  There were however a couple of places to re-fill along the route.  My bike took awhile to get used to with all that weight.

About 10min off the start we past some cameras and all of a sudden I hear a familiar voice shout, “SCHRATZ, no wheelie?  WEAK SAUCE!” It was one of the guys ridding from NCC, a shop that puts on a similar event call the GRAVEL METRIC. That stuck with me the whole ride.  Thank you Dean.

The route…was the most beautiful route I’ve ever been on my bike.  It sounds kinda stupid, but it was one of those life changing bike rides.  The gravel was fast and hard due to a long winter.  Not like the loose golf ball gravel we have here in Illinois.  climbs, real climbs.  It was just shy of 7k feet of climbing.  Which is a lot considering the most I’ve ever climbed was under 3k, and that was a lot of work to get it to be that much.

Personally, I was riding stronger than I could have imagined.  Especially just finding out I was going a month earlier.  I was pulling away from Eric quite a bit once we got going.  Not wanting to ride alone or drop him, I would stop and take in the scenery until he came back up to me.

We stopped at the 40ish mile mark in a little town and picked up some more water and some snacks.  I ran into my friend Annette from the Half Acre Cycling team.  She had lost her cohorts and I offered her to ride with us.

Creek crossings, climbs, sun, cramping, climbs, diverted routes and yo-yoing was how the rest of the day went.   The other creek crossing was so gnarly that people were getting swept away. The three of us stayed with in an eye-shot of each other.  I cramped at 75ish cause I ran out of water, Eric was killing it from 70-90, Annette rode a steady strong pace.

After what seemed like a 10min long decent I was feeling better and happy, then Oriole Rd came up.  F-THAT road. Cat 4 climb, apparently. I rode about 1/3 up and jumped off and walked 1/3 till I saw cameras and hooped back on and killed the rest of the ride.  The last 8 or so miles I went for it, dropping Annette and Eric.  I came off the gravel with another guy and turned into the “head wind” and I could hear him grown and course the headwind, which was barley 15mph.  I looked at him and said, “your not from Illinois are you?”  then dropped his ass, being used to riding in 40+mph head winds of the barren waste lands of Illinois.  I finished strong and waited for Annette and Eric.  Annette was right there, only like 5 min behind me.

I still can’t tell you how amazing this ride/race was.  I finished about 341 out of close to 800.  Not bad, pretty sure I can finish the top 100 next year.  I felt so strong all day, and really happy with how well I did on the hills.  My fat ass can’t climb for shit! haha. 

I saw so many wonderful things and people.  Minnesota is everything I ever wanted it to be and more.  I can’t wait to go back.  Thank you Chris Skogen, thank you.

Pictures taken by me, Eric, Paul Anderson, Craig Linder, Kevin Corrigan,and the internet.