Almanzo 100 Photo Dump

Keri and I finally arrived home from Minnesota. It was quite the weekend and we’re glad to be home. Since the hotels booked up pretty quickly in Spring Valley, where the Almanzo race series is held, we decided to stay in Rochester.

Unfortunately, Keri’s car decided to have some issues the day before we were supposed to leave, but I was able to get the Saris company vehicle and off we went! The drive to Rochester vs. to the Twin Cities is much more beautiful. It’s always amazing crossing over the Mississippi in La Crosse, and seeing a vast expanse of rolling farmland and trees.

Once we arrived in Rochester, we dropped our stuff in the hotel and grabbed some coffee. The Midwestern outside sales rep for Saris was meeting us there and we later got dinner. At dinner we went over our game plan for the next day. We had to be in Spring Valley and setup by 6AM because that’s when the Royal 162 riders were leaving.

The Almanzo actually has 3 bike races. The Alexander (which used to be the Nellie) is 385 miles over 3 days. The Royal which is 162 miles in one day (I suppose you could take 2 days if needed) and the Almanzo 100, which is the most popular, 100 mile option.

Setup by 6AM meant having to getup by 4:30 so we could get ready, pack up, and drive down. Setup was fairly quick and there were a handful of other sponsor tents in the expo area. Things didn’t really pick up until about 7/7:30 when the Almanzo lineup was about to take place. For having 1,000+ riders, we only had a handful of people who actually came to chat with us. Most of them were from Madison and were glad to see us there.

Eventually riders rolled up to the start on Main St. The event’s organizer, Chris Skogen, got up and said some words. It was pretty emotional because the dude has worked his butt off the past few years to make the Almanzo a successful event. To see 1,000 people show up to your hometown to do a gravel bike race is really something.

Eventually all the riders rolled out. There was a wide range of riders and different bike setups. It’s always fun for a bike nerd to attend such an event!

The rest of the day was filled with frisbee tossing, mingling with company reps, eating food, getting sunburned, riding bikes, drinking beer, and trying to escape the heat. Uneventful, but still a good time. We had all hoped that more locals and supporters of the riders would hangout and talk to us, but that wasn’t the case. Some of the Spring Valley folks didn’t seem to take too kindly to having a bunch of strange cycling folks in their city. I’m sure as the event evolves and changes, people will start to support it more and see what it does for the local economy. It really made us appreciate what we have here in Wisconsin. Not all towns are cycling friendly, but we’re pretty spoiled by the amount of cycling enthusiasts outside of our big cities.

Riders started returning around 3pm. It was a hot day and the route supposedly had 2 river crossings. One was somewhat unintentional as a bridge was out, but it was too late to change the route. A lot of folks looked like they had taken quite the beating and ended up in the shade with a cold Coke in hand. Once 4pm rolled around, we decided to call it a day. We had to drive back to Rochester and our outside rep had to head back to Wisconsin to setup some shop visits.

The drive back to Rochester was pretty as we took County Hwy. 1 or County Rd. 1. Nice rolling hills and gravel roads EVERYWHERE! Keri and I decided we definitely want to do the ride next year. We had both signed up to do it this year, but lack of time for training and other commitments sort of got in the way. The challenge seems great though and we love doing new events.

Once we got back in Rochester, we found a crappy pizza place that was grossly overpriced for what we got, but we were so tired we didn’t care. We got back to our hotel at about 6:30pm and I ended up falling asleep at 7. We were totally beat by waking up early and being out in the hot sun all day.

Overall we both had a lot of fun, even though there wasn’t much happening as far as the “race expo” goes. We definitely have some ideas on how sponsors can get better exposure and involvement next year and we look forward to making the trip again! Check out some of our photos below 🙂

Gravel Crushin’

The Almanzo 100 (aka super crazy, famous gravel race in Minnesota) is a mere 20 days away. Neither me or Keri have had the time to truly put in a good amount of miles in the saddle. In all honesty, we’ll be glad if we finish half of it, but have made a pact to ride until it stops being fun. Whether that’s 40 miles or the whole 100, we shall see.

If we’re taking vacation days and spending money on a hotel room, we need to make sure both of us have fun doing whatever it is we are doing, otherwise the trip isn’t worth while. Fortunately neither of us are really wanting to participate in the race because of it’s “epic-ness”, but rather because it involves riding in a scenic setting with a bunch of other bike lovers. We’ll also be there along with the Midwestern Saris/CycleOps rep to promote the company. Saris graciously donated a heap of product for those who podium in various divisions of the race.

Today we decided to go ride one of our local rail trails to get in some gravel like riding in before the event. Most of our local trails are crushed limestone, but Glacial Drumlin has a section that deviates from the regular trail and has more loose chunky gravel. Having a few variations makes for more interesting riding. I personally haven’t ridden on the country roads of Southern Minnesota, but I’m guessing it’s not all nicely groomed and packed down dirt.

Another reason for the ride was to test our personal setups for the event. Keri is riding her steel Fuji touring bike with a rack and one pannier. I’ll be riding my Raleigh RX 1.0 with a Banjo Brothers Waterpoof Saddle Trunk, Jaand Frame Pack, and a Banjo Brothers Top Tube bag.

Each of our packing lists will include the following:
-2 waterbottles (may bring a third for good measure)
-1 camelbak
-1 pump
-tire levers
-tube
-patch kit
-chain tool
-park hex tool wrenches
-FixIt sticks (w/flat head)
-cycling computer
-iPhone
-pocket knife
-rechargeable headlight
-taillight
-back up small headlight (battery op)
-rain jacket
-hi vis packable vest
-arm warmers
-tube of NUUN hydration tablets & probably some Skratch labs mix
-a few packs Clif Bloks w/caffeine in various flavors
-Kind Bars for snacking
-Almond butter packets for snacking
-Road ID bracelet
-Joule GPS cycling computer (as back up, doesn’t give turn by turn directions, but has a little bit of a breadcrumbs feature in case we take a wrong turn- traditional GPS is not allowed, maps and cuesheets only!)
-cue clip
-aaa batteries & 2032 batteries
-small first aid kit w/ibuprofen & antacids
-Hoo Ha ride glide (best chamois cream EVER)
-Go Girl (so we can pee standing up with bibs on…a really awesome invention)
-tissue
-trowel (we’ll be in the woods)
-sunscreen
-lip balm
-sunglasses
-helmet
-cycling clothes & shoes

The list is long and short at the same time. The Almonzo is an unsupported race, so there are no aid stations with food or water on the route. As far as we know there are only 2 possible locations for stopping for food and to refill water. Hopefully it’s not blazing hot or cold and rainy. We’ll have to call for back up if we need to bail from the route.

Overall, I think we’re both excited to be a part of something fun and unique like the Almanzo. There’s about 1300 folks signed up for the race. I’m guessing about 1100 will actually show up, but maybe less. We’ll most likely start at the back of the pack since we’re not looking for glory and the caboose of a ride/race is always more fun over a long distance 🙂

Check the photos below of our adventures!

Twin Six Raising the Bar

There are cycling companies who really get women and there are some who clearly don’t. Gladly our neighbors to the north, Twin Six, have a pretty good idea of what women want.

We’ll be the first to admit, we have an addiction to Twin Six and they’re only making it worse. This morning they sent out an e-mail announcing they have released their 2013 Standard series of jerseys. The Standard series is made out of a what they call Prime fabric that improves moisture wicking and offers a +28 UPF protection (aka sunscreen for your clothes). The jerseys are full zip (so much easier to use with bibs on!) and have nice  silicone waist grippers. Best part, the jerseys are made in the USA! (All of their clothing is, but just a bonus to have high quality good being churned out here.)

Twin Six is offering up 3 versions of the jersey for men including plain black, white, and grey. For women they have two offerings, black and white. The size ranges for the Standard is regular for the men’s, xs-xxl. For the women’s they stuck with s-l, which is kind of a let down as women tend to come in more shapes and sizes than men. I for example am more top heavy and need an XL women’s jersey or a men’s Large jersey to accommodate that.  Some women are smaller on top and have wide hips with a more pear shape. Personally I’ve always worn smaller bibs than I have a jersey. Hopefully if the Standard does well sales wise, they’ll consider doing a wider run of sizing. I may order one up in a large regardless, as full zip jerseys have become a welcome addition to my cycling wardrobe.

The Standard retails for $110 vs. the regular $80 cost for the rest of Twin Six’s line of jerseys. Considering the added features including a full length zipper, the UPF rating, and the high quality of the fabric…it’s worth the extra cash. A lot of folks tend to get sticker shock when they first start getting into cycling, but if you treat your gear right a jersey will last you YEARS. I tend to remind myself of how many rides that jersey will go on with me and divide it up that way. It ends up usually coming to less than a buck a ride (within a year of riding) in the break down.

We should note that Twin Six has mentioned they have some other pieces they plan to include in the Standard series. Here’s what they had to say in their most recent press release:

“For the past year we’ve been designing, prototyping and testing a new line of products called the Standard Collection. Crafting this line from the ground up and putting a practical stake in the higher-end cycling apparel market will open to the door to designing and developing additional pieces under the Standard umbrella. This past fall we debuted the Standard Thermal Hoodies and Shell. The addition of five summer-weight jerseys (three for men, two for women) to this collection is only the next step. Bib shorts for men, team shorts for women, caps, socks, long sleeve jerseys, bottles, and much much more are also in the works for 2013.”

Exciting stuff coming from a brand we love! Check out Twin Six at their website www.twinsix.com

-Cassandra

Cyclo-cross Nationals Day 4

As stated in my previous post I had to miss out on Day 3 of the cross nationals action, but today made up for it. Most of my day was spent at the Saris shanty eating brats, drinking beer, and taking pictures.

It was a lot of fun! We encouraged friends and strangers alike to stop by and enjoy some traditional Wisconsin treats. People couldn’t believe we were offering up food and beer for free, but hey…we wanted to have some northern hospitality!

The weather started out 32 and windy. Course conditions were pretty sloppy and got really tough for riders to navigate as the day went on. The temperature continued to drop and the warm up zone (I did spend a good chunk of time there as well) was pretty much packed, up until they ended the last race.

The expo was super packed. I got a chance to see the Knog guy again as he moved his tent next to the shanty, course side. The guys from Gore were also partying it up with him and the Great Dane/Team Magnus folks.

At the Skratch Labs truck I finally got to meet Allen Lim. He’s a super nice guy and has worked with Cycle Ops for a long time on the development side and with training education. The whole Skratch crew is pretty great.

Glacier Glove have a rep at the races. I’m sure they were selling gloves like hot cakes! I myself had burned Keri’s gloves I borrowed from putting them too close to the fire pit outside the shanty (Oops. I’ll get you some new ones!)

I wandered over to the food tent where I grabbed a free brew from Sierra Nevada. I invited them over to the shanty, so hopefully they will get a chance to check it out. They were all really friendly. After that I grabbed some veggie chili at the Underground Food Collective booth. I needed SOMETHING with veggies in it to make up for the brats and beer I had been scarfing earlier. The chili was really good. It hit the spot for sure!

Overall it was a really fun day. Even when I got home it was tough shaking the chill from my bones. I guess that comes with bike racing in January, outside in Wisconsin.

Check out the photo gallery below to check out the races and the atmosphere!

-Cass

Cyclo-cross Nationals- Days 1 & 2

One of the many reasons I love working in the bike industry is that I get paid to hangout at events like Cyclo-cross Nationals. This is Madison’s second year hosting the USA Cycling/UCI event and it’s much colder and snowier than it was last year!

Day 1 included non championship races for men and women as well as my personal favorite, the single speed races. While most of my day included watching over the Cycle Ops sponsored warm up tent, I did have time to escape and shoot some photos.

The men’s 30-39 race was a must see as one of my co-workers was competing. He didn’t quite podium, but still had a good place in the standings.

Day 2 was the masters series. These are the folks who have been racing for a LOOONG time. Well, most of them at least. It’s always inspiring to see someone 60+ get out there and rage. Especially on an icy death trap of a cross course!

Today I spent a little more time visiting some of the other exhibitors. I chatted with the guys over at Trek. They have some swag they are giving away like cycling hats and cowbells, so be sure to stop by and say hi to them! Trek also has a sweet corn-hole game set up (aka beanbag toss). Oh, you can also enter to win a Cross Rip. It’s their entry level cross bike.

Later in the day I wandered over to the Skratch Labs food truck. They are dishing up some tasty, yet healthy meals for everyone. If you get a chance, stop by and try a sample of their hydration mix. It’s made with all natural ingredients and tastes AMAZING! I trained with it all summer long and LOVE the stuff. It also doubles as a great hangover remedy 😉

Shortly after, I stopped by the Knog tent. I can’t remember the gentleman’s name who was working it, but he’s pretty much their only US employee. Knog is based in Australia and has done so well that the company doesn’t need a giant team of reps to travel around, so it’s just one guy and a tent. He gets to travel all over to cool events and showcase the latest Knog gear. If you see him, stop and chat with him. He’s a very friendly dude.

Some other spots I checked out were the Felt tent and the Stan’s No Tubes tent. Felt didn’t have much going on except for a few cross bikes. I was hoping they would have showcased a little more product, but they were probably more focused on supporting their riders. Stan’s had a sweet set up with repair stands, bike parking, a nice product display, some trainers. Pretty legit stuff.

Inside of the main food tent was Twin Six. They have some limited edition swag for sale and some product catalogs showcasing their 2013 line up. I had wondered by there two days in a row, but unfortunately they were a little standoffish so I just ended up walking away. Bummer as I really like their gear. I seem to think that if someone is showing interest in what you have going on, you should drum up conversation. It’s just good business practice, rather than being standoffish or complaining loudly about how you dislike your most recent job performance review. Sorry, but it’s true.

The overall selection of food is pretty decent. There’s the Fine Italian Beef stand (Chicago dogs, Italian dips, etc.) , the Wisconsin food stand (cheese curds, brats, etc.), a (must have) Southwestern/Mexican food stand, a coffee stand (great chai latte), and the Skratch Labs truck. Nearby is also Pasqual’s and the Draft House. All are great options for the hungry spectator!

I have to say that this year’s set up is much better than last year’s for the event as a whole. The flow of everything makes more sense and the expo is more visible. I’ll be sad to see Cross Nationals leave Madison. Hopefully we can bring it back again in a few years.

Check out  photos below of Day 1 & Day 2. I sadly won’t be able to make it out tomorrow, which really sucks because I want to watch the women’s races. I have a lot of in office work to catch up on though, but I’ll be back out on Saturday!

One last thing to note is that the Saris/Cycle Ops shanty is now in the expo. It got dropped off this afternoon and it looks KICK ASS! Go find a photo of it on the Cycle Ops Facebook page. It has a beer pong table and everything!

Enjoy!

-Cass