This past Saturday, i joined with three stout compatriots Jim, Josh, and Ken to revisit the course of this spring’s Almanzo 100 race in the Gentleman’s Ride. It’s the same 100-mile gravel course as before, but completely unsupported and more casual. Rather than an individual race format as with the Almanzo, the Gentleman’s Ride is a team event, and though standings are recorded, not necessarily a race. It’s also a chance for organizer extraordinaire Chris Skogen to join in on the fun and ride the course. Our team, named while on an earlier century ride through Wisconsin, was 4-Foot Meat Rope.
We watched the weather carefully in the days leading up to the event. Southern Minnesota had three days of torrential rains causing record flooding in many areas. Fortunately, the host town of Spring Valley was not among the washed out, and fears of slogging through 100 miles of toothpaste-like gravel were unfounded. The blustery winds on Friday did a great job drying out the course, and the roads were in fine shape.
Because he can, Jim decided to ride the 120 miles down to the race on Friday, while the rest of us fools woke up for the early drive down, though catching a fantastic sunrise on the way. We departed from the high school parking lot into a uniformly gray day, never above the mid-50s with sporadic drizzle for the first couple of hours. It was a great day to be on a bike. There are pictures here that i took, but they really don’t do the scenery justice, it’s a beautiful place to ride.
40 miles in we made a lunch stop at the grocery store in Preston, which featured some surprisingly delicious egg rolls. Two other teams were also there, and the townsfolk made only polite conversation with the 12 of us that we were sprawled out on the store sidewalk next to a pile of bikes, eating deli food.
Another 24 miles on brought us to the checkpoint at historic Forestville. Unlike the Almanzo there was no drop bag service this time around, so we were surprised to see not only a table staffed with friendly helpful bike folks, they also had lots of friendly bananas and helpful beer to share. So we spent a few extra minutes
finishing a beer lingering before getting back on the road.
There’s one water crossing on the Almanzo route, and with the week of all-time flood-causing rain, we knew it would be a bit wetter than the below-the-knee creek i rode through this spring. Indeed, Chris had told the riders at the pre-ride meeting about an optional detour that would be marked and available for those preferring to stay dry. Our team had no issues with such obstacles, so naturally we assessed the situation and forged ahead.
The water was cold and moving at approximately the speed of sound, and the rocky bottom was covered with piranhas, but we all managed to make it across with at least half of our bodies dry. Once past the water, it was just 20 miles to go – hardly enough time to dry a pair of soaked cotton cargo pants, but just the right amount of time to catch a beautiful sunset just as we arrived back in town.
We weren’t the fastest team on the course, but also not the slowest, and we all finished together. It had been a long day, but we made just one last stop to refuel at the A&W before heading back north and home.