fifteen miles back to Spring Valley would be best with company instead of trying to go it alone. Although the gravel has been left behind, it’s still been a long day and we frequently find ourselves slowing up to catch our breath or ease our aches. We pass a few others bravely making their way back solo or with other small groups. Disappointment crosses the faces of a few, but only for a moment. Like throwing yourself headlong into any new endeavor, you might not make it but you can be proud of how far you did go. We three pull into town and head straight to the showers. I meet back up with two of my teammates who tell me that our last, Ben has found his second wind and is finishing. After a recovery meal of A&W, I take the Subaru and go to pick him up. His bike sits outside the high school gymnasium, the exact color of the roads he’s just spent the last nine hours on. We get him cleaned up and check out the Almanzo Market. Unfortunately, it’s long past the time most were through to have completed and so the vendors have almost all cleared out. Skogen and his army of volunteers, though, are still milling around waiting for riders to come in. Each and every one gets a handshake and a pat on the back from Skogen himself. He’ll end up waiting there for the last few riders till late into the evening. One of the classiest promoters I’ve ever met, and his actions back it up.
It’s the Tuesday after and I’ve finally gotten the time to clean out the bike. A bottom bracket has been sacrificed, as well as a few other small items. The gravel dust seeps into every crevice and takes time to evacuate properly. As I clean it off the only thought on my mind is the beauty of the route. It’s a side of my home I’ve never seen before—a side that was worth discovering. I look down at my phone and see I’ve received a text from one of my teammates replying to my insistence that we go down and ride those same roads to enjoy them with less epic conditions. He agrees wholeheartedly.
I take the fork off and find a good amount of gravel dust in the headtube. Another bearing shot.
them together in a way that would encourage more people to come out. I was seeing more and more riders coming out to the race who otherwise wouldn’t. None of these are novel ideas really, the gravel racing is something unique to this part of the country, but it’s been around forever. The people are coming out for a race that’s completely free from fees and licenses. The only thing that we ask is that you are self-supported and that you don’t take help from any outside source. Basically it’s, “Here are your directions, I’ll see you at the finish line.”
AS: What is spirit of the Almanzo? Not necessarily just the Almanzo, but all of the AGRS races—what makes them so special?
CS: I don’t know what it is, honestly. Having been to other [more formal] races I think when you can take away the expectations from anything in life it allows everyone to enter in the same place and find common ground.
AS: What do you think the impact of an event like the Almanzo is?
CS: Part of me likes to believe that we’re changing the way people race bicycles, but the other part realizes that people have been racing in the more traditional way for a long time and that’s not going anywhere. I tell you what—there’s a lot of money in promotion, and a lot of money is paid to people who promote events, but I don’t think you get with those events what you can get at Almanzo. I’d love to make money at it, but I will make my money any way I have to so that I can get more people on bikes and experiencing that thrill of being apart of something that’s, fucking, pretty amazing.