Some call it the "Granddaddy of 'Em All", some call it their personal salvation, some call it the most fun they've ever had on two wheels. We're talking of course about the Almanzo 100, the world's largest FREE gravel adenture race on the planet.
One week ago we hosted an unoffical water stop at mile 78 in the Township of Cherry Grove, Minnesota. Almanzo weekend consists of three totally self-supported events: The Almanzo 100, The Royal 162 and the nearly 400 Mile Alexander. The Almanzo got started back in 2007 and was founded by Chris Skogen. The 100 mile route rolls though Southern Minnesota's Filmore county. The gravel course features nearly 8000 feet of vertical climbing in some of the most picturesque scenery Minnesota has to offer.
Since inception, Mr. Skogen has charged zero entry fees despite rider growth from 12 to over 1400 in 2014. Banjo has been involved in some capacity since 2008, donating prizes and later the proceeds from the sales of our popular Cue Sheet Holders to help defray the costs of the event.
There are many worthy cycling-related causes but Almanzo has a special place in our hearts. Each year Skogen and his loyal army of volunteers put on a high caliber event comparable to any big time ride or race we've ever been a part of. It's a beautiful thing because Skogen provides the canvas and the riders paint the picture of the year's event. Each rider's post-race story, not matter if their day ends at the finish line or some dusty road 50 miles in where they were forced to pack it in, adds another layer of richness to the event.
Eliminating the entry fee has diversified the field of riders exponentially. The race attracts elite riders, high-test weekend warriors, and an eclectic combination of other riders almost too broad to describe. You are likely to see it all on the course - a dude in cuttoff jeans and a tank top bombing down hills on his fixed gear bike, to a baugette toting, mesh-glove wearing wool-clad septuagenarian.
So, as a way to give back to the community of people who do so much to support Banjo Brothers, this is one way we felt we could return the favor. At mile 78 many people, even seasoned riders, are starting to feel weary in the saddle. Punishing winds, dust and loose class five gravel have a way of sucking the juice out of even the strongest riders. We figured a table of free snacks, cold water and suprise or two might just provide a little extra gas.
Not long after my departure, I realized my error, but resolved to keep going and hope that a second unofficial checkpoint from 2013 would still be in existence, or else beg some water from a local farmer. Then, about 20 miles later, I rolled into a small town and saw bikers massing around some small tents. It was perfect, and like a mirage out of a fever dream.
There was water(I'm saved!), Coke (nectar of the gods), Oreos(!), beer(later), whisky(nope) and a man dressed up like Elvis singing Devo. I'm not kidding.
We hope to see you out there next year.