GRAVEL ROAD RACING IN MINNESOTA
Words and Images by Aaron Thomas Smith
There’s something to be said for a gravel road. They are simple yet different, a departure from the safe confines of asphalt and concrete that most of us cut our teeth on. It’s a visceral experience. No longer will you simply glide along at speed—momentum and balance are in a constant battle between you, the bike and the scattered matter beneath. It awakens a part of you not felt since you first started to ride.
Riding on gravel is learning to ride the bike again. Over and over.
Chris Skogen, founder and operator of the Almanzo 100 has been taken by this experience. So much so, that he’s created what may be the gravel racing experience. Accessible to anyone with a bike and desire (there is no entry fee) you simply send in your post card come January to register. The event betrays it’s simple entry. The roads, climbs, views and twisted routes will leave you wondering what you’ve got yourself into more than once. You’ll never feel regret, it’s far too beautiful to allow for that.
Set in Spring Valley, MN it’s out of the way even for us Minneapolis locals. A small town whos most frequented business could be it’s A&W Rootbeer, it has taken the Almanzo in with open arms. The roads surrounding Spring Valley are a maze of mostly gravel. They wind their way through farmland and the surrounding small townships in meandering trails established more by the farmers who first settled here than a cubicle jockey at the Minnesotan Department of Transportation.