So you want to know a little bit more about us? The bottom line is that we are just a bunch of regular guys and gals. We have regular day jobs and responsibilities that keep us busy for the majority of our time. We all ride bikes and we enjoy the occasional adventure.
- From the Almanzo website
Being proper Midwesterners, the crew behind Almanzo is humble to a fault. They’re best known for the adventure that is The Almanzo 100: A 100-mile gravel road race that rolls through the rural countryside of southeastern Minnesota, testing the bodies, minds and souls of riders in extreme weather conditions, or what we call “spring” in Minnesota.
Racers endured rain and temperatures in the high 30s in 2011, and driving wind and mid 90s temps last year. Even seasoned racers who start with dreams of winning find themselves pushed to the limit and occasionally beyond it, driven simply to cross the finish line upright.
The list of things that make the Almanzo 100 remarkable is a lengthy one, starting with the entry fee. Specifically, the lack thereof. If you want to race, you’re required to submit your name, age and email address via snail mail, and that’s it. Oh, and you can also send a picture of the bike you’re going to ride, but that’s optional. As the site says, “We don’t really need to know, we’re just curious to see the variety.”
From day one, the driving goal of the Almanzo has been to bring people together from a range of backgrounds and levels of cycling experience. In order to accomplish this, Almanzo founder and race director Chris Skogen has been steadfast in his conviction that the race should remain free to all who enter.
“It’s more than just money. The word ‘free’ means rediscovering the freedom of youth — The freedom of just riding to ride,” said Skogen. “I never feel so free as I do when I’m on my bike. It may sound crazy to some, but I know that there are many out there that know exactly what I mean. To me, bikes equal freedom, and freedom equals happiness. Free is absolutely critical…on every level.”
For the past six years, Skogen has somehow managed not only to keep the race free, but also maintain an unparalleled race experience for participants, even as the field has multiplied in size. Even more remarkable is that this has all been done with no significant outside cash sponsorship.
“It’s obvious that Chris pours his heart and soul into this event and wants every single rider to have an amazing day on the bike,” said Tom “Hurl” Everson of Cars R Coffins fame. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a hammerhead at the front, or just out for the personal goal of riding 100 miles. From the race packet design, to the cue sheets, and not least of all, the great staff of volunteers Chris has, it’s truly a beautiful day, regardless of weather conditions. And as a rider, that is not lost on me, nor I think, any others.”
In order to maintain the high standards he’s established for the race while keeping entry free, Skogen is teaming up with a spread of Minneapolis cycling companies, including including Twin Six, Salsa Cycles, Banjo Brothers, Cars R Coffins, Calhoun Cycle and O2 Rainwear to throw a January 5 Fundraising Party. The event will help defray the considerable costs of staging the 2013 edition of the storied gravel race, and for all involved, the top priority is supporting the event without impacting the experience.
“This race is free, and as long as Chris is involved with it, it’ll stay that way,” said Mark Fischer of Twin Six. “We’re just trying to make it sustainable without impacting the experience.”
The Almanzo party + fundraiser is going down from 6:00-10:00 p.m. on Saturday night at Intermedia Arts at 2822 Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis. The shindig will feature live music, film screenings courtesy of Royal Antler and Salsa Cycles, the unveiling of the new Twin Six-designed Almanzo kits, beer and waffles. $10 Tickets are available at the door, with all proceeds going to the 2013 running of the Almanzo. We’ll see you there.
By the way, registration for Almanzo 2013 is now open and runs through January.
Additional information about the Almanzo fundraiser can be found here: