We three [#GENTS] of [gravel] are;
Bearing [matching outfits] we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following [the Almanzo] star.
WE DID IT! We may not have been flying under the Bicycle Theory flag this time around, but Adam Turman and I (as MPLS Bike Love) put another Almanzo 100 in the books. And this time we introduced Charles Youel (of ARTCRANK fame) to the finish line and a firm handshake from Chris Skogen (of “you think you know pain?” fame).
Saturday (May 17, 2014) provided another beautiful day for 6,666.6 feet of climbing (and even more descending, it turns out) across 100 miles of southeast Minnesota gravel. Granted, the headwinds (and massive dust) we encountered didn’t help, but the [A] temperature was perfect, [B] our friends at Banjo Brothers once again provided spirit-raising libations at at mile 76 (along with Elvis), and [C] a lucky few even got to ride with some excited horses that wanted to join the fun!
So how did the #GENTS fare?
Charles In Charge
I’ll let you read Charles’ personal account for yourself. He’s much better with words than I. And frankly, I’d rather let our champion of the day speak for himself. I just say that I introduced him to the following 3 rules – taken from Velominati’s THE RULES – that got me through Almanzo last year.
- Rule #5: Harden The [Fudge] Up.
- Rule #6: Free your mind and your legs will follow.
- Rule #9: If you are out riding in bad weather, it means your are a badass. Period.
Now, in the context of Almanzo: Rule 5 is assumed. This “race” is hard for everyone, so cries of hardship (or being unprepared) simply fall on deaf ears. You either crush gravel or the gravel will crush you. Rule 9 is just part of being a Minnesota cyclist. It’s going to be crappy out for spring training. Period. And as past years have shown, it might be super crappy on race day. But even on a good day, Rule 6 is what you really need to embrace – as Charles’ personal “cue sheet” reveals.
But just like Frodo – whom he referenced in a previous account – he made the long journey to and through Mordor with thanks, in part, to his friends.
Adam’s Secret Garden
In keeping with our ‘bike religion’ metaphors, Adam was a beast – even though Hurl owns that number (and is THE beast)! Not only did he give Charles some sage advice at the outset AND do more than his share of pulling for him, nothing was more impressive than watching Adam kill the river crossing. While the rest of us paused to consider our options, he charged in, rolled the bedrock like a boss, threw some high fives on the other side, and kept on going.
Benny and The GENTS
Personally, riding Almanzo for the second time was an absolute joy – especially as a climber. And the pictures I’ve inserted throughout this post should put an exclamation point on that. Chris Skogen has given us something truly amazing. And for that, we should all be thankful.
Yes, Almanzo is hard as hello (especially when your legs feel like Jell-O), but the feeling of conquering Oriole at mile 90 – after feeling like I was going to throw up (or pass out) half way up – was immensely gratifying! And climbing ever single hill without walking was a personal goal achieved!
Thank you to everybody that made this year’s Almanzo so amazing – including ALL the #GENTS (big ups to Tess Hohman!), all of the friends we encountered (and made) along the way, and most especially to Chris Skogen and his volunteer army.
LONG LIVE ALMANZO!!!
Photo Credits: ‘The GENTS’ by ARTCRANK. ’6666.6′ by MPLS Bike Love, ‘Southeast Minnesota Gravel’ by Alex Anderson, ‘Massive Dust’ by Craig Linder, ‘Elvis’ by Banjo Brothers, ‘Excited Horsis’ by Sveta Kovalchuk, ‘Charles in Charge’ by Craig Linder, ‘Cue Sheet’ by ARTCRANK, ‘River Crossing’ by Alex Anderson, ‘The Beast’ by Craig Linder, and ‘Benny’ by Kierstin Kloeckner.
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