What a day. 7:00am brought sunshine, registration slips, unknowing smiles and a light breeze from the southwest. With bib numbers handed out and final announcements made from the steps of one of Rochester's most historic homes, the invisible starting gun was fired over a crowd of 13 valiant riders.
As 12 of theses courageous brothers pedaled their way into unfamiliar territory, one man stood tall as he quietly unpacked his helmet and shuffled through his ipod for the longest playlist. As this man found himself a fair share of pedal strokes behind the pack, the entire group was now on the road and headed into no-man's land. With these noble souls now leaving the fine city of Rochester some found themselves riding independently while others rode in small groups as they all approached what would soon become their arch nemesis, miles and miles of fresh gravel.
Whether they were packed in with others or trudging along solo, each rider was about to encounter what was to plague them for the rest of the day. The long straight stretches of gravel and the dust that accompanies it was only made worse by strong headwinds, passing cars and the occasional farm dog(s). Not much past the second climb a group of four riders were accosted by two small yippidy dogs and a St. Bernard that seemed to be interested most in assisting his smaller brethren in their quest to antagonize. Unfortunately for these now troubled riders, this current dog trouble would be the least of their worries.
A little further down the route, where the gravel faded into pavement and the winds pick up to nearing gusts, the minutes began to pass like hours as the eastern horizon was scanned for the faint silhouette that would be the lead rider. As this man in black approached, he grew from a tiny speck on the horizon to a figure now recognized from the mornings starting ceremonies. With the Evil logo peering out from underneath his lovely pink helmet, this mysterious Merckx rider passed the oldest church in Rice county only to hand the onlooking photographer a hand full of empty gel packets and Clif Shot wrappers. With the 50 mile mark only a few miles away, this coffin covered madman was well ahead of the group he watched leave only a couple of hours earlier.
Having now arrived at this 50 mile haven for weary and ragged riders, this leading man collected himself beside the side of the rode before venturing into the final 50 of this day long dose of gravel punishment.
With the two lead riders now pedaling their fixed drivetrains west to the land of the drunken underclassmen, the rest of the field found it's way onto the weed infested baseball diamond that had become the resting ground for dusty travelers.
With nine bikes now on their way to Mankato a call came in for support from the days oldest rider. Just a couple of miles east of Medford, the number ten rider was met and transported to Faribault where he continued his trek along the Sakatah trail into the finish line at University Cycle in Mankato. One and one half mile behind this rider were riders number 11 and 12. Found walking along a short stretch of pavement it was learned that rider number 12 had already busted two chain links and was on his third tube, which coincidently, was not the tube that blew out the bead on his front Bontrager.
One rider suffering a TKO, another pulling the plug on any further gravel endeavors and one man not able to make the 2pm cut-off left the field of ten riders pushing onward into changing skies and more painful gravel roads. With Waseca serving as the halfway point between Medford and Mankato it also made itself to be the last likely place to see civilization. This attractive feature drew a few more riders into it's grips as the field was narrowed yet again to six. The roads between Waseca and University Cycles would take their toll on two more riders before the 12 hour window of completion would expire, but not before rain, hail and three funnel clouds made appearances. It would be the fixed gear rider in the black kit who would reign victorious over the field today, only to be followed by two gentlemen riding single speed 29er's and the only geared finisher for this years fabulous Almanzo 100.
With first riders in there was only one thing left to do, have a couple of beers and show of some newly acquired bling. That sure is a nice grill you got there son, how 'bout you smile big fer the camera?
All in all it was a mighty fine day, no injuries, no lost cyclists, no tears, lots of beers and some interesting travel arrangements. Below are the official notes from this event with bicycle choices to follow with more pictures in a few days. Just a note about some things down the road. This event will take place next year on the 17th of May, tell your friends. Also there is something in the works for this fall which looks to be a team event following the same gravel route from this race only backwards and then a return road course back into Mankato. Let's call it the "Forth and Back 200", but I'll get to that a little later. Anyway, thanks to everybody who made this happen and especially to Charlie at University Cycles. Here are the facts:
1st place - Mr. Hurl Everstone - Age 39 - 7 hours 45 minutes
2nd place - Mr. Jaqueb Huot - Age 21 - 9 hours 18 minutes
3rd place - Mr. Isaac Giesen - Age 29 - 9 hours 28 minutes
DNF - Mr. John Franke - Age 29
DNF - Mr. John Krolak - Age 22
DNF - Mr. Tim Nelesen - Age 30
DNF - Mr. Chris Larson - Age 22
1st place - Mr. John Dotseth - Age 35 - 11 hours 20 minutes
DNF - Mr. Tom Adams - Age 69
DNF - Mr. Bjorn Christianson - Age 32
DNF - Mr. Nathan Hall - Age 28
DNF - Mr. Pouya Eimen - Age 19
DNF - Mr. Troy Horseman - 33
There is also more information about this ride at:
Minneapolis Bike Love