2013 Almanzo 100/Royal 162 Stories

Image Credit:  Almanzo.com
This year's Almanzo 100 and the Royal 162 in Spring Valley, MN presented some unique challenges to the riders and there is no shortage of accounts of these races being blogged about on the internet.  I have compiled a list of some of the best ones here for you to read.  Whether you participated this year or in previous years, are thinking about doing the Almanzo 100/Royal 162 next year or you're a cyclist that would just like to read about what it's like doing the granddaddy of tough gravel grinders, you are sure to enjoy these stories.

To learn more about what is required of the rider to participate in the Almanzo 100 from race founder Chris Skogen, watch this video put together by Royal Antler.

Image Credit:  Craig Lindner

Almanzo 2013
Rode it, finished it, much to say.
I don’t know where to start, and I have had thoughts about this kind of percolating out of my mind since Saturday.  I can’t hope to do it justice in one blog post–for that matter, I can’t even get all of my thoughts about it into one post.  It was an amazing event–one of the best events I’ve ever ridden. 

Ride on Purpose
2013 Almanzo 100
It was Sunday around 11:00.  After the race I'd gone home and ridden some around Rochester, seen some friends and tried to unwind.  I'd not slept well, tossing and turning while envisioning going out and just punishing myself for 100+ miles. 

Otter Adventures
2013 Almanzo 100
The Almanzo 100 is the best gravel ride in Minnesota and given the conversation with a rider from Canada it's possle the best in North America.  I've ridden it twice.  The first time I wanted to get a good time but that may be an unexpected double entendre, true none the less.  I wanted to race for the best finishing time.  This year I wanted to have a good time with some buddies and not focus on time. 

Image Credit:  Craig Lindner

2013 Almanzo 100 - Again, I Did Not Win - or - the year Almanzo got huge
Make a donation to keep Almanzo free for everybody.  Do it.
That was a beautiful day for a ride.  The wind was a bit stronger later in the day than I would prefer, but the roads were packed and fast and the sun was never too intense.
edit: added all the words below. 
So Kevin and I headed down on Saturday morning, just like last year.  The 9am start time is a bit late for my preference, but it gave us plenty of time to get down to Spring Valley after a 6am wake-up. 

Two Wheels From Home 
Crushing Gravel?  Part 2 
Once again in my life, I have fallen into a "monkey see, monkey do"  adventure with my friends.  As a teen I took up skateboarding because  some friends did it, in my late teens and early twenties, I took up canoeing and rock climbing because of friends.  There was also a stint of dog sledding and winter camping thrown in there; and now, it's gravel road racing.  

Bicycle Theory
The #BTriders Crush Almanzo
We're proud to report that of the 14 Bicycle Theory Cycling Club riders that started the Almanzo 100 or The Royal 162 this past Saturday, 10 of them successfully crossed the finish line.  And at least one of them - "Buffalo" Dave Knox - recorded a personal best century, completing the 100 in approximately 6 hours and 45 minutes - which is even more remarkable considering that (1) it was on gravel and (2) it included over 6,500 feet of climbing. 
Image Credit:  - Fat Tire MN -

Gear Junkie
100 Miles of Twisting, Climbing, Gravel Road Biking at Almanzo Race
Last weekend I lined up wheel-to-wheel with 1,000 other cyclists at the starting line of the Almanzo 100.  The free, self-supported, 100-mile gravel bike race takes place along the rolling, twisting, climbing countryside of southeast Minnesota.At 9 AM Saturday morning, Christopher Skogen stood up in the flatbed of his pickup truck at the starting line.  He started the race the same way he does every year, with a heartfelt "thank you" to each of the cyclists for being there.

Minneapolis Bike Blog by Freewheel Bike
I registered for the Almanzo 100 my sophomore year of college. My close friend, Rueben, rode it the year before on his fixed gear, and his experience inspired me to point my wheels toward the abundance of gravel roads surrounding the small, college town in which I resided. However, my plans came to an abrupt halt when I received word that my photography professor scheduled our class final for the day of race.   

Monika's Race Blog
The Royal 162
I was really looking forward to race the Royal 162 because that gave me the chance to see so many people who I met at Trans Iowa.  It's like a re-union of sorts.  In fact that is why I love gravel racing - the community creates such a laid-back but still competitive atomosphere.  Chris Skogen, the race promoter, is the incarnation of the gravel racing spirit.  His race was a perfect example what gravel racing is all about.  "Be nice and enjoy the ride."  That was his mantra for this race.  

Image Credit:  Craig Lindner

Boney Bikes
This is what passes for a race recap around here.
I love the Almanzo for a lot of reasons, most of which are pretty obvious:  the course is gorgeous, the event attracts a good crew, and race director Chris Skogen has so thoroughly infused the event with his personality that every person who participates walks away feeling like they've made a new close personal friend.  With these qualities, the exponential growth of this event isn't too surprising.  But the thing I love about the Almanzo is a little more personal - it's how closely I associate it with my development as a cyclist.  

Just Go For A Ride...any ride
The Almanzo Report...finally.
Last Friday I made my way down to Spring Valley, MN in a constant rain.  I told myself if it was raining Saturday morning I'd pack it up and head home.  I rode in the rain two years ago for the Royal and that was enough.  But after I picked up my packet and had some spaghetti the rain stopped and the sun was working it's way through the clouds. 

The Almanzo 100
There are certain things in life that you know are special.  You don’t know what it is but you do what you can to be there.  This is one of those events.
A lot of things conspired to keep me from riding the Almanzo 100.  Matt and I did our best to make sure one of us will be able to ride. I did manage to create just enough time to support Matt on his journey.  Despite the protest of my managers at work, I switched shifts on the Friday before the race so we can leave at 6p instead of 9p. We left for Minnesota on time. Other than almost killing a opossum, our drive to our hotel in Rochester, MN was uneventful.      

This video shows the first rider as he fords the Root River at mile 81.5.  Eventually the race was rerouted by race organizer Chris Skogen because of the swift moving water.

Almanzo 2013
I have never done this or any other gravel ride before, but when I went to an Almanzo fundraiser this winter, I met a lot of people that said so many nice things about the organizer and the race that I was positively peer pressured to participate!  I felt I could do the distance, but I was nervous about this "gravel" stuff, because I've never ridden on anything like 1-3 inches of pea-sized gravel laid over a hard-pack road before.  But how hard could it be, right?  Not to mention my doubts about how to ford the river where the bridge was out.  (I usually just caulk the wagon and float across if there's no ferry.)  But how hard could it be, right?  Right??  For better or for worse, I still believe that if I'm given enough time and gears, I can do anything.

Addictive Exertion
Almanzo - May 18, 2013
My friend and neighbor, "Deathrider", has been trying to get me to join him on these crazy endurance events since I met him 5 years ago, right about the same time that I started to take cycling "seriously".  For me, 5 years ago, telling someone that I was getting into cycling a bit more meant that I bought a nice pair of cycling bib shorts and a matching generic jersey online and that I was going to do my first sprint triathlon back in my hometown that summer.

Supplemented Cyclist
Almanzo 100 Mile Race Recap by Dr. Aaron
The following is a short review of my preparation and plan for 100 miles of cycling on gravel. Its not what I necessarily recommend, or even what I think is a good idea (case in point: beer and bourbon at mile 80) but I finished the ride and even had a good time doing it. I’m planning a number of long rides/races this summer and hopefully each one will be a little more dialed.

Image Credit:  Craig Lindner

Minneapolis Musette
Spring Valley, MN
The Almanzo 100: 10 Thoughts, Observations, Recollections
1. It is important to ‘Roll with a Good Crew’.

1(a) – See Birchwood Bike Team

1(b) – See Omnium Bike Shop

1(c) – See the Banjo Brothers

1(d) – See Greg Neis and Brianna Lane

2.  The Almanzo 100 is now large enough that saying ‘Howdy’ or giving high fives to all of those I should is highly improbable without a large amount of planning. To those of you I missed, consider this your ‘Howdy’, your ‘Good Luck’, your highest of fives.
Heroes Slay Dragons
I love biking, but I hate exercise. I’m 41 and not getting any younger. And in December, I was at my trough of fitness. I needed a goal large enough to scare me into training. A goal I couldn’t complete without serious exercise and some discipline. Completing the Almanzo 100 was that goal.

A Nod to Nothing
Almanzo 100 2013
I'm going to go in reverse order and cover the Almanzo 100 Gravel Race first.  Ming and I and Kyle went down on Friday night and stayed at the Clarison so Ming and I would be fresh on Saturday morning.  Kyle was our emergency SAG in case we needed extraction, as neither of us had ever pedaled a 100 mile gravel race with 8500 feet of climb (4200 or so feet of ascent) before and didn't know what to expect.  There were almost 1000 people at the race.  We didn't expect to be contenders and, in the first few miles, the main body of the pack was completely outside our view.

Image Credit:  - Fat Tire MN -
My People are Crazy
Almanzo 100
My dad's still out of town. Damn him. He recently did another bike ride. This is what he had to say:
On my mission to Wisconsin from the great state of Utah I have had the opportunity to sample both the beer and the bike culture of the mid-west. A beautiful weekend in late May took me to Spring Valley in south east Minnesota to partake of the Almanzo 100. This ride/race is touted as the grand-daddy of the gravel grinders and is the passion child of Chris Skogen.

Chris Havranek
Gravel, Rivers and Hills:  My Almanzo 100 Experience
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.
Gravel Shark
Century of Gravel
I rode my first "Century of Gravel" last Saturday at the Almanzo 100 in Spring Valley, MN. For those of you that see me on a day-to-day basis you have already been bored to death hearing tales of my journey. My husband has playfully bantered, "This one time at the Almanzo..." Well, for those that haven't heard I rode 113 miles last weekend with a total time spent in the saddle of 9 hours 18 min. That's unbelievable for two reasons.
Image Credit:  FrozenTows

non-coastal simulacral extravaganza
Almanzo, revisited
What a difference a year makes!
Last year, I felt like I was prepared for the ride. This year, I knew I was. With some shifts in schedule and life, I've been more consistent and deliberate in my training. Add in the fact that I'm entering my fourth year of competitive cycling, and you can surmise that I'm getting the hang of it.

Green is a Coincidence 
Me Versus Almanzo  
I've been slacking on updating my blog for the past few months, but recent events have inspired me to write again. Namely, Almanzo. Almanzo is a 100 mile gravel road race held in Spring Valley, MN in May. Now there are dozens of great blogs about other experiences of riding Almanzo, but none of them adequately describe MY experience. Noting the differences between what people take from this event, further adds to the beauty. 

Image Credit:  FULL ON

Cyclova XC
2013 Almanzo Stories -- MN's Great Gravel Ride
Saturday, May 18th was the Almanzo 100, and a pretty good sized group of Cyclova cyclists headed on down to participate. Saturday evening, Facebook lit up with some great stories and photos, so I sent out some emails (that's what I do for a living) and asked people to send me a couple paragraphs about their experience that I could compile for an article.
Well, they did more than send me paragraphs, they sent me PAGES, so instead of one article, you're getting three over the next couple of days.

Cyclova XC
Evans on Almanzo 2013
To sum up the feeling I had nearing the completion of my first Almanzo of the two I have now attempted, I would simply use the word “emotional.”
This race is something special, everyone knows the story by now, it’s free, grassroots, it’s hard, and it’s something to be proud about participating in. It’s riding and suffering for the sake of the sport, not for a cause, not to say “look at me I’m changing the world,” it’s just a simple indulgence of 1500 like-minded athletes and adventurers.

Cyclova XC
Brianna on Almanzo 2013
This was the first gravel century, and longest ride I'd ever done by 47 miles. I sent in a postcard, almost on a whim after a text from my husband Tyler reminding me that there were "only" 27 more days left to register. I think I surprised us both a little.
Then I panicked, realizing I'd be riding this race with at least 2 guys that have done this race in the past. I kicked up my weekly spin routine at the YMCA and rode outside as much as I could.

In addition to the great stories I came across there were many photos taken during the race.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words and these photographers tell the racers' stories through the lens of a camera.

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