So, how do I start to describe the Almanzo 100?
First, what is the Almanzo 100? It is an event in southern Minnesota that commemorates the triumphant effort of Almanzo Wilder. If you don’t know who he is, he is the husband of the gal that wrote the Little House on the Prairie books. The actual books not the TV show. I guess this Almanzo fella drove 40 some miles in the worst conditions to save his town from an outbreak of some sort to get medicine. That’s the kind of shit that heroes are made of.
Well I’m no hero and I didn’t save any towns. But, I did finish this race. If you don’t know what it is all about, it is a 100 mile gravel road race that is set in some of the most epic area of southern Minnesota and is absolutely positively self supported. I mean you better bring all of your shit with you. Not only is it self supported, but you have to travel on 97% gravel and have to climb some of the biggest hills I have ever climbed. I’m talking hills that are a mile and a half long with a grade that will make your jeep want to go in low gear. Plus, you have to cross a river at some point that has no bridge. I’m talking epic!!
Now let’s tell you about the day we rode this. Past Almonzo’s have been sunny but not this weekend! It was 45 degrees and we had a 20mph head wind for a good portion of the ride plus rain and sleet. Rain had also been down for most of the night had soaked the course and turned it into mud pit, it made for a muddy day to come.
Once we started the wind was so bad it froze my hands and feet to the point of numbness and we had only been riding for an hour. My choice of clothing was limited at best, I was not thinking this was going to be
that kind of ride and did not bring my whole arsenal of goodies. Thank god, for the first stop is was a little town called Preston, that was the saving grace for me. I was shivering and my mind was saying ‘this is bad Jeff’. Word was spreading about a short cut that would take you back to Spring Valley but my riding buddy Ryan was not having it! He was the voice of reason. Plus what kind of pussy would I be if we drove all this way and didn’t get the 100? So after pacing up and down the isles of this little grocery store for about what seemed like a day I came up with a MacGyver fix!
I bought a box of trash bags and some gardening gloves. The trash bag was to be made into a poncho! And the gloves well, they went over my fingerless gloves that weren’t cutting it. You should have seen me I was shivering and hovering around hypothermia. It was not cool! Once I had my bag over my body and the gloves on, life was getting better! At this point, 20 or more people were already hitching rides back to the start. Bunch of pansies! But, Ryan and I soldiered on.
We had 60 plus miles to go and I was thinking ‘why I am doing this!!’ but as the ride progressed and my body temp got higher, life got better. Hell, I was even laughing! I think I was a bit out of my head. Once we hit the 65 mile check point you could mentally feel that the worst was behind you. That was a huge boost, exactly what I needed to finish strong. The last portion of the race was probably the hardest because of exhaustion and the hills kept getting tall and longer. Out of all of the hills I was able to pedal up all except one. At some points I could have walked fas
ter than pedaling my bike, but then I couldn’t say that I only had to walk one hill. If riding 100 miles wasn’t tough enough I really wanted to get all of the hills. Just cause. But, the one that I pushed up, got most folks.
Well we finished. We were not first, but not last. 92nd out of 177 folks that showed up. Out of those 177 people only 150 actually finished and 750 signed up for it. That means a lot of people woke up and looked out side that day, and said ‘NO WAY! I’m not riding in that crap’. But, hey we drove 500 plus mile to do this thing. So it was going down either way.
Would I do it again? Sure. But, I have to say, it would be easier on a bike a little bit newer. If you don’t know what rode? Well, it is my Iver Johnson that was built in the 1920’s with a coaster brake and a 71 gear inch. Let’s just say I was thinking I would be a badass and see what I could do. I will never learn. But, after this event I truly feel that I could accomplish a lot on a bike. It was the most grueling 100 miles of my life and looking back I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. My bike is now completely trashed and needs a complete restoration. And I have not quiet gotten the feeling back in my finger tips. But, what a freaking epic ride. If you have ever been to the Venetian Casino in Vegas and have seen those people that are all white and are supposed to be statues. That is what we looked like after this race. I feel bad for the people who had to clean up the grocery store and the hotel.
Thanks Chris Skogan, for putting on this event. I think it will truly become a classic. And if you have to prove how bad ass you are on a bike this is by far the way to do it! See you next year. And I’m brin
g more people to see how truly bad ass this course was. I can’t express it in words. 35mph plus, downhills on gravel! Need I say more?