Now that the weather is warming and Almanzo is coming up fast you'll probably want to get some gravel training time in saddle. You don't have to drive that far from the Twin Cities to find some very scenic gravel roads with some hills to climb. Living in the South Metro for many years, I have come across some good spots to crush gravel close to home.
The Cannon River Valley
The Cannon River Valley has been a long time favorite of mine not only for the beauty of the area, but the big climbs and long descents too. Below are two short loops that are easily accessible from the Welch Station on the Cannon Valley Trail. Though these loops may not be that long they have some good extended climbs to train on. Ride them both clockwise or counter-clockwise to turn those long descents into a new climb or combine them for a longer ride.
Welch North Loop
Welch South Loop
|Cutler Hill Rd/Collischan Road|
Northfield/Cannon Falls/Nerstrand Area
Cannon Valley Velo Club. These cyclists know all of the best gravel road routes in this area and ride them regularly. I had a chance to ride with them and they took me through some beautiful countryside with some challenging climbs.
Last Fall I wanted to get in some training for the Tour of Filmore and the Filthy 50 so I contacted Christopher Tassava, who regularly rides gravel in this area, for some route suggestions. Through his help I was introduced to some beautiful areas with single lane gravel, a minimum maintenance road, breathtaking views and some challenging climbs. Thanks, Christopher.
Northfield/Nerstrand Gravel Loop
There are many more options to crush gravel in this area. Satellite view on Google Maps will help you plan a new route. Use one of the above mentioned cycling app websites to make navigation easier. The Cannon Valley Velo Club mixes it up with a variety of gravel rides that they post regularly on their Facebook group page. Join them for a ride sometime, they are a great group of cyclists.