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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

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.

The start this year was on the main street and by the time we rolled up, there were more riders than I was expecting to see.  There were over 1300 riders registered for this years 100-mile event alone, and there were close to 1000 at the start.  Wow.

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Chris Skogen, the godfather of gravel racing, about to make the usual pre-race announcements.  His son Jack, who we sing 'happy birthday' to each pre-race, is anxiously waiting his moment at the back of the truck. Photo by Craig Linder.
I had a bunch of words laid down, but they were accidentally deleted, so let's let Craig Linder tell the story for a bit with his amazing photographs:
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Early on in the 100-mile race.  Kevin up front of this grouping in the l'orange helmet. 
Photo by Craig Linder.
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Early on, the rolling hills are truly breathtaking.  I enjoy the day more and more as the racers are more spaced apart.  Photo by Craig Linder.
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Hurl Everstone, the winner of the first Almanzo and the only one to have raced in each of the now seven events.  This is truly a great shot by Craig Linder.
Preston came up at mile 40-something, where we decided to stop; I had left a good amount of food in the vehicle still in Spring Valley, and Kelly was jonesing for a sammich of some kind.  Preston had their main street closed down and there were all sorts of events for the spectators.  We hit up the market, where I grabbed a jar of pickles, bottles of mountain dew and frappuchino, and some potato wedges from the deli counter.  Outside the market was bit of a reunion with friends I haven't seen in weeks or months - always a good time.

We rode off, this time with Eric Richter from Giro, and headed to the closed bridge outside of town.  I crossed in a knee-deep section, with most of the people standing in line for a crossing just a tad bit more shallow.  Many people here were taking their shoes and socks off, which is something I don't understand, but no judging.  Heck, dry feet are dry feet.

The bridge on the way out of Preston is in the middle of replacement, resulting in a water crossing for the entire field of riders this year.   Source @Almanzo100
Not having any long rides in for several months, what with my partner scoring gallstones during pregnancy, a resulting surgery to remove the gallbladder, a bit of preeclampsia followed by 36-days in the NICU, not to mention caring for a newborn daughter has meant my legs were fresh this year.  Mentally though, I was prepared for the agony the day would bring.

The hills Skogen selects for these races are nothing less than sadistic; Jay, Oriole, Maple (both of them), and the ten or so more are simply grueling, though now that I've ridden them for four years means at least there's no surprise when they appear.  I silently curse Skogen's name for parts of the ride, Oriole especially, but I truly respect and admire the man, even more so after this year's race, which somehow keeps getting better each year.

The usual water crossing was re-routed after the first fifty or so riders went across, for obvious reasons, shown below by the race leader and eventual winner, Eric Thompson.  The detour meant there would be no climb out of the river valley, which is a rough minimal maintenance road with a few boulders and frequent deep ruts to avoid.  Getting out of the hill climb felt like a bit of a cheat, but there were a few extra miles in the detour that made up for it.

The finish this year was a bit different. Seeing the water tower on the near horizon used to mean the finish was about a mile out, but this year meant another three or four, with a turn away from town, before coming back and around and through a park, where I was thoroughly confused.

I can say I rode the entire course this year, sans the water crossing outside of Preston, which I couldn't have ridden on any bike.  That's two years now I pedaled the entire distance, having pushed up a few hills on the two-years prior.
A few from the MPLS crew, post-race. #PCL
Jeff, Nick, Trevor, Paul, Hurl, Boonen, Marco, Ben, Peter, John, Kelly, Kevin, Drew.
Thank you Irina for the photo.
After the race, it's the best I've felt in all the Almanzo's, right after and the next day included.  I could have done another fifty or so miles this year, which I truly cannot have admitted last year, but we didn't have the wind this year like we did in 2012.  Now that I have 100-miles in me, I'd love to go back and do this again solo in the next few weeks.

By the way, if you rode the race, enjoyed it, and want it to happen again, please shoot Skogen a donation.  It matters.

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Great shots here by Corrigan, by the way.  Did I mention the river crossing was re-routed?

Great read on the race and Skogen at the Spring Valley Tribune.

Story with audio on MPR along with accompanying photo collection, published a few days prior to the 2013 race.

Even on the WCCO television.  Dang.

Oh, and also, every year at least a few people that hit the A&W on the way out of town drive their bicycle laden roof racks under the awning, crushing either bicycle frame and/or fork.  This year was no exception, based on the social media I've seen.  Post race, I visit the Pizza Place on main street, and also I choose a hitch-mount rack, to eliminate this risk entirely.

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