5/29/2017

2017 Almanzo Stories


The 2017 Almanzo Gravel Races took place May 19-20 in the small town of Spring Valley, Minnesota.  What was started by Chris Skogen with a small group of friends back in 2007 has grown over the years into something truly special.  The gravel community has embraced the Almanzo 100 as the "Granddaddy" of gravel races.  Spring Valley Tourism with the assistance of Penn Cycle & Fitness made sure that one of the largest free gravel races in the country continued with the traditions that founder Chris Skogen set forth for this yearly event.


Once again, the 2017 Almanzo 100, Royal 162 and Alexander 380 did not fail to challenge racers. This year presented weather conditions that brought about one of the lowest completion percentages in the history of these races.  Temps in the 40's, wind and pouring rain made it extremely tough  on both cyclists and their bikes.  I have compiled a list of racer accounts from blogs as well as links to photo galleries, some videos and local press.


Almanzo 100
Almanzo 100
Chasing While Living the Dream-Tim Savre

The Almanzo 100. The "fun gravel ride" that always turns out to be one of the hardest days of the year on the bike. The Almanzo has been on my bucket list since last year when I came up a little short finishing second to a well deserving winner that survived a solo break from nearly mile zero. As some have mentioned no one thought the weather could be worse than in 2016 but it certainly was. Read the full story

2017 Almanzo
ride on purpose-Drew Wilson

Almanzo is the hardest gravel race I do. It's harder than the longer races. It's harder than the 'harder' races. It's harder than the races promoted as "hard". The competition makes it and 2017 was no different in that regard. I knew going in that I would simply not be the strongest person in the field. It would take my best riding, strategy and some luck if I would have a chance.  Read the full story

Almanzo 2017 Race Report
Bike Iowa

This was my 5th Almanzo. It has always been a challenging ride that is fairly close to home. The gravel is fun to ride and the scenery is pretty cool. The City of Spring Valley MN has done a great job of taking over the race after race creator Chris Skogen backed off after some burn-out and life changes a couple years back. We miss Chris' passion, but appreciate that his dream still lives on. 
Read the full story

ALMANZO with Nadia DNF expierense
wildwayMN-Sveta Vold

ALMANZO 100 have special space in my heart.Because this is 1st race which I did in USA. I do not know what waiting me at this race, I just knew that everyone from Minneapolis bike community going to this race.  Read the full story

Almanzo Report: Cherry Grove Checkpoint
Guitar Ted Productions

The Almanzo 100, probably one of the most classic of gravel road events, was held again this past weekend up in Spring Valley, Minnesota. The 11th running of this event was marked by some brutal conditions. My son, Jacob, and I were up to help with the RidingGravel.com Cherry Grove Checkpoint. This is the tale of the day as I saw it....  Read the full story

Bikes Of The Almanzo
Guitar Ted Productions

Of course, as a dyed in the wool "bike nerd", I notice the bikes folks are riding at these gravel events. So, I took note of a few rigs and I have some comments to share. Let's take a look at what caught my eye at this year's Almanzo Cherry Grove checkpoint. (NOTE- Obviously there were other cool bikes. Not everyone went by me and some that did never stopped, so it is entirely possible I missed a lot of really cool rigs.)  Read the full story

2017 Almanzo 100 Ride Report - HOLY SH.T, that was brutal!
Hypno Toad

Temp was 40F at the start line with light rain, we rolled out into a steady 15 mph wind with gusts up to 25 mph. Rain never really stopped and temps might have gotten up to 50F. I want to congratulate every rider that clipped in at the start, that right there, that took commitment. Happily the headwind were on the start of the course, when we were in larger groups for more protection. I was able to hold with a big chase group for about 25-30 miles, and we could see the lead group on the straight roads. I felt good about that, but as the miles and cold started having effect, I found myself in no-man's land.  Read the full story

Race Report: 2017 Almanzo 100 – The Granddaddy of all Gravel Races
Gravel Cyclist-JOM

The Almanzo 100 touts itself as the race where it all began; the Granddaddy of all gravel races. If you call yourself a gravel cyclist, you’ve probably heard of Almanzo 100. Almanzo is a 100 mile gravel road race that starts and ends in the small Minnesota town of Spring Valley. Created in 2007 by then resident of Rochester, Minnesota, Chris Skogen, Almanzo first drew breath as a race from Rochester to Mankato, Minnesota.  Read the full story



Alexander 380

Lucien Gonzalez

It begins with last year's end, being treated for hypothermia in the ED at Crossing Rivers Health in Prairie du Chien (PDC). Coming into this year's event, knew I'd be on my own and needing a better plan for heat trapping in the rain. Was modestly successful, as I stayed out of the hospital. More details further on. I planned for conditions to be similar to last year, but admit to a bit of surprise and annoyance upon realizing that repeat conditions were actually coming true. Welcome to HTFU. 
Read the full story


Press

Rain, cold, wind strike Almanzo riders
Spring Valley Tribune-David Phillips

“Al-monsoon-zo,” commented one bicyclist taking cover from the rain under a downtown business overhang just prior to the start of the Almanzo 100 Saturday morning.  Read the full story

Photos

2017 Almanzo Gravel Races
Penn Cycle-Chris Chavie

Video











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5/13/2017

30 Things I Learned During 30 Days of Biking-Part 2


In previous years I have passed up on making the pledge for 30 Days of Biking because I didn't think I could commit with my busy schedule.  This year was different and even though my schedule was still hectic, I decided to make the pledge anyway and commit to ride my bike every day in April.  I would learn a lot of things about myself, my bike and where I rode over those thirty days.  I would like to share these revelations and maybe they will inspire others to make the pledge next year.



Choose ride apparel right before a ride.  The weather forecast from the night before may have changed since, so I would always find out what the live temperature and conditions were before selecting what I was going to wear.  This saved me from wearing something too warm or not warm enough.


Google Maps with Biking Directions helps when planning a ride.  When there was an area I wanted to ride but was unfamiliar with the bike infrastructure there I would visit Google Maps and on the menu tab I would select "Bicycling" and it would highlight trails, bicycle-friendly roads, dedicated lanes and dirt/unpaved trails.  This made planning a route much easier.


Wet lube lasts longer and works great in rainy weather.  As you may know, April can be a very wet month here in Minnesota so I always use a wet chain lube as opposed to a dry one.  With wet lube I don't have to reapply as often even if riding in the pouring rain for several rides.


I relied on my Garmin Edge 1000 in map mode when traveling unfamiliar areas.  To avoid dead ends or stay on an impromptu route this came in very handy.  I could glance down at my Garmin and determine quickly if I should continue forward or take that turn ahead.


I learned the real battery life of my electronic devices.  When using my Garmin and lights everyday I could gauge whether I had enough battery for another ride or two or I should recharge before heading out.  It didn't take long to figure this out.


If everything is ready the night before it makes it much easier to go for a ride and have more time to do it.  I would set out my electronics, helmet, shoes/boots and have my bike ready to go the night before so all I had to do is get dressed for the weather.  I then had no excuse to not ride.


I could arrive to work early and ride the bike infrastructure nearby to save time.  With plenty of trails, roads and even singletrack within a 5 mile radius of my work I would budget my time, leave the parking lot and ride.  This allowed me to get back to work, get in a shower and change before I had to start my shift.  Having a shower at work was nice for those rides I got a bit sweaty on.


I had to clean and maintain my bike more frequently when riding every day.  Mostly it was just a matter of keeping the drivetrain clean since I was riding a little bit of everything (gravel, singletrack, wet pavement, etc.).  Using wet lube attracts dirt and grime which required wiping down the chain and cleaning up the cassette/chainring.  Since I had the bike in the stand I might as well clean the wheels and the frame too.


Wearing glasses makes it easier to see when riding in the rain.  I did ride quite a bit in the rain during April and my glasses helped out a lot.  I wasn't getting pelted in the eyes with raindrops while I was moving at a pretty good pace allowing me to see the road, other traffic and avoid hazards.


Riding everyday made it easier to climb hills and ride longer distances.  I found this especially to be true on the last day of 30 Days of Biking when I rode 56 miles of gravel and hills at the Miesville 56.  I even beat my time from last year and I was was rolling with 4.5" fat tires as opposed to 2.8" tires a year ago with the same bike.


My cyclocross boots got much more use than previously.  I rode a lot in the morning and that was the coldest time of the day so instead of wearing my shoes with shoe covers, I opted for my waterproof cyclocross boots.  They were made with neoprene and really held in the warmth.  With all the rain we had in April they were my go-to footwear for keeping my feet dry also.


I paid more attention to my friend's activities on Strava.  Not only did they gave me ideas for future rides to keep things fresh but it was fun to follow their progress and improvements during 30 Days of Biking.


Riding in the morning is my favorite time of day to ride.  I rode in the afternoon and evening also, but riding in the morning for me was a great way to start the day.  Afterward I would shower and feel great going into the rest of the day.  The angle of the sun, the birds chirping and being out in nature made it a pretty great experience.


Commuting to work is a great way to get in two rides during a day.  Taking different routes each time made the ride more interesting also.  I could get in a ride during my favorite period of the day, the morning and roll with the sunset on the way home in the evening.


I watched the weather forecasts much more closely than normal, especially the hourly forecasts which seem to be the most accurate.  With temperatures and possibilities of precipitation all over the place during April it helped me plan accordingly for the apparel and gear I would need for the ride.

Image Credit: 30 Days of Biking

If you've never made the pledge for 30 Days of Biking before, I highly recommend it.  I'm positive that it will teach you 30 things about yourself, your bike(s) and gear that will make you a better cyclist.

5/04/2017

30 Things I Learned During 30 Days of Biking-Part 1


In previous years I have passed up on making the pledge for 30 Days of Biking because I didn't think I could commit with my busy schedule.  This year was different and even though my schedule was still hectic, I decided to make the pledge anyway and commit to ride my bike every day in April.  I would learn a lot of things about myself, my bike and where I rode over those thirty days.  I would like to share these revelations and maybe they will inspire others to make the pledge next year.

I always felt great after a ride, even if I didn't feel like going out for one.  There were many mornings that I had no desire to get on my bike and would rather sleep a little longer, but I made the pledge so I had to ride.  I never had a day where I regretted hopping on my bike and logging some miles.


Every ride is a good ride no matter how long or short it is.  Depending on the day of the week in regards to my work schedule, I found that I had enough time to get in at least 4 or more miles and still fulfill my obligations.  A short ride is still a good ride and on many of these days where my time was limited I wished I had more of it to get in extra miles.

There is a lot more bike infrastructure near my home than I realized.  On the days I had limited time to get in a ride I would bike from home and explore my neighborhood and beyond.  I didn't know there were so many bike trails with great scenery within a 5 mile radius of where I live.


The weather dictated where I could ride.  I love mountain biking but on rainy days I had to stick to the pavement or gravel instead of hitting the local singletrack.  This just gave me many options to choose from on where to ride.


I rode places I hadn't been before.  I tried to keep each ride a fresh one by not repeating a ride from earlier in the month which helped me get creative and go to the areas I had always wanted to bike but never seemed to get around to it.


I learned my favorite biking discipline by trying them all during 30 Days of Biking.  I rode singletrack, paved trails, gravel and roads depending on the weather and my mood.  I found mountain biking is still my favorite with gravel as a close second.


Don't put away the winter cycling gear just because it's Spring.  The weather in April can be all over the board from warm and sunny to cold and windy with either rain or snow.  During the 30 days I used clothing and gear to cover all four seasons.


It's ok for my bike to get a little dirty for a few days, I'll get around to cleaning it soon or the next time it rains while I ride, it will get a quick rinse off.


Fenders work pretty good in the pouring rain, especially on a fatbike.  I'm going to get wet, but at least I won't get a continuous spray thrown at me from my tires.


Discovering new places to ride and revisit is thrilling.  In search of some singletrack I hadn't ridden before I decided to give Sechler Park in Northfield a try.  It was awesome, CROCT really did a nice job and there is even a skills park to practice my technique.  I'll definitely be heading back here frequently.


When you ride everyday you run into your bike friends more often.  I found this to be especially true at the local singletrack, however I did end up rolling with some friends for a bit on one of the local gravel routes I do.


Check tire pressure before every ride, especially with a fatbike.  With the variety of surfaces that I rode during those thirty days, I had to adjust my pressure to accommodate.  Singletrack required less pressure than pavement or gravel.


Riding with front and rear lights gets you seen by motorists during the daytime, especially on cloudy days.  Sometimes motorists don't expect to see cyclists on the road during inclement weather and lights will get me seen more often than without them.


I really got to see the change of seasons.  Slowly over the month of April I watched as everything began to turn from a drab gray to a bright green as the buds on the trees began to pop and vegetation started to sprout up.


Wool socks aren't just for Winter.  A ride can start out cold in the morning and warm up quickly, but at least with wool socks my feet stayed warm and they wicked moisture when things heated up.  Even if my feet got a little wet on one of the rainy day rides my wool socks continued to insulate.

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