Alright, we're just over a month away from the registration window and I'd like to go over a couple of things. You see, it has been brought to my attention that there are some out there that think the festival atmospheres that have been built up around the Almanzo and the Gentlemen's Ride are going to change the sport of gravel road racing that we've all come to love. Those in line with that belief also seem to think that adding a Cup Series will lead to the gravel cycling downfall.
Let it be known that I stand here before you not only as the host of the Almanzo 100, the Gentlemen's Ride & the AGRS: Race for the Cup, but as a humble man who wants nothing more than to bring persons of a common thread together per their own attempts to conquer something that most cyclists will never do. I know the difficulties in riding 100 miles on a bicycle. I know how hard it is to do it on pavement let alone on gravel. I also know that the task becomes significantly easier when done in the company of good friends.
You see, I came to cycling alone. I arrived at my first race not knowing what to expect and terrified by the other racers around me. I felt like a fraud and in some respects I was. I had never done anything like it before. I didn't know what to expect, but I loved every minute of it. I knew nothing of drafting or nutrition. I was the quintessential novice. I had no shop background and couldn't really talk the talk, let alone walk the walk, but I knew I wanted in. I wanted to be a cyclist. What I didn't know that day was that I already was a cyclist. I was taking the start. I was racing, peloton or not I was racing.
I came away from that day wanting to experience it again...as soon as possible. I set out to find another event. I looked and I looked and what I ended up with was my own. In fact, I made my own and I set out to try and make sure that anyone who came to my event was allowed every opportunity to skip those pre-race feelings of insecurity and isolation. For me, I thought if I invited people into my home and let them sleep in my yard it might remove some of the tension between the comfort of "one's own bed" and that of the unknown. I thought if I made breakfast for anybody who wanted it, it might break down the wall between those in the "in" and anyone that might feel as though they were in the "out".
I have come to find out that these ideas were in fact correct and by inviting people (racers/riders) into my personal life it has allowed some the opportunity to skip over the novice feelings. My hope is that by continuing to host these events and by welcoming any and all to the start line, a larger network of bike riders will grow up and connect what are already wonderful cycling communities throughout the Upper Midwest. We have something truly special here in these gravel road rides and I cannot wait to see what comes out of them in the future.
Some might call the events surrounding the Almanzo and the Gentlemen's ride a festival, but I like to think of them as an opportunity for strangers to become friends and cyclists to become racers. I have personally seen a community grow up around the races in the AGRS that is unbelievable. People from all walks of life have set time aside in their busy lives to take the start at a gravel road race in a city that they do not call home...this is a great thing. The idea that a series would detract from any of it is just plain ridiculous. If anything, a series will tighten the bonds that these riders have made and increase the potential for new ridership.
To the doubters: Keep doing what you're doing and enjoy getting the same results.
For the rest of us: Postcard entries for the Almanzo 100 will be accepted for the entire month of January. The "party" starts Friday, May 14th and runs through Sunday, May 16th.