Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Gravel Grinder News: Changes At The Almanzo

Changes with the Almanzo may result in a new name.
Since 2007 there has been a gravel road event called "Almanzo", but that seems set to change in 2020. The Almanzo has had a turbulent past year-plus where it has seen a change in venue and a change in its leadership.

A brief recap of events to bring you up to speed here:

The chain of events started with the original founder of the Almanzo 100, Chris Skogen, announcing in August of 2018, that he was taking over the reins as the organizer of the Almanzo events. This after three years of being "retired" from organizing the events which traditionally have been held the weekend after Mother's Day in Spring Valley. Then, in a bombshell announcement in November of 2018, Skogen announced that the event was leaving Spring Valley due to some communications and requirements from officials in Spring Valley that seemed to be untenable to Mr. Skogen. The Almanzo events (100, 165, and 380 mile events) were moved from Spring Valley, Minnesota to Northfield, Minnesota, requiring all new courses for the three traditional event distances plus the addition of a 50 mile event which was added as well. 

 Shortly before the 2019 events, Skogen announced that all the Almanzo events were not going to be timed and scored, and that there would be no number plates issued to riders. This announcement produced a flurry of both supportive and negative reactions. Skogen then, according to my contacts that saw it, posted a Facebook video claiming that the negative comments were inflicting too much stress and that 2019 would be the last year for the Alamnzo. That video was pulled down within an hour of its posting. Then the following day, Skogen posted on Facebook saying that he stood by his decision to eliminate timing and scoring and to not issue bib numbers since it was "a barrier to participation". Skogen then went on to cite the failing of bicycle businesses and falling participation in events as a reason for this decision to stand.

Finally, at the start line of the Almanzo, Skogen introduced the new RD of the event, Marty Larson, and said he was bowing out of the Almanzo altogether after 2019. This was all that happened then and the events went off as planned. 

Mr. Skogen's post to the thread mentioned below confirming his exit from Almanzo


Due to the sudden pulling of the event from Spring Valley, Minnesota, an event was proposed and run there, on the "original" (Spring Valley) Almanzo course and was facilitated by Drew Wilson, a man from Southeast Minnesota that had been putting on some events previous to this on his own. Spring Valley embraced this event and it went off well, according to reports I have seen. It is not known whether this event is set to happen again in 2020. UPDATED 12/4/19: I've heard from Mr. Wilson and he indicated that the event is named "The Spring Valley 100" and it will occur on May 30th, 2020 with City involvement and a "great after-party".


Okay, that's "the history", now for the "news'....... 

From a Facebook post on a Minnesota gravel page seen over Labor Day weekend.
 It does appear that the Northfield events are going to happen again, on the traditional Almanzo dates, but the name of those events are in question. In fact, whether there are multiple distances is a detail we do not know yet. Judging from a Facebook post on a Minnesota gravel specific page, Marty Larson, the event's director, posted as if this were going to be a singular "event", and not multiple events, as Mr. Skogen promoted it. Of course, that does not preclude having multiple distances under one event. 

And more importantly, Mr. Larson posted that the event would "maintain the ethos of Almanzo, but under a new name". So, based upon that statement, it would appear that the "Almanzo" is over, and that a new event, with a new name, using the same "ethos" as Almanzo's did, will occur based out of Northfield. Minnesota on May 16th-17th, 2020. 

Furthermore, speculation that this was "going corporate", was quelled when Mr. Larson posted that it was "just two guys with a passion for getting folks on bikes" that would be putting this on. This is an interesting point because at one time in the Almanzo's history, it was told to me by a person intimate with the details, that the Almanzo was offered to become a part of the Life Time Fitness group of events. That never happened, obviously, and it appears nothing of the sort will in the near future. 

Details and a new site for information are promised on the, as yet, unnamed Northfield event. If, in fact, it is not named Almanzo, it will mark the end of the run of events under that name. A name which had been synonymous with "grassroots gravel" and the name of the event which was touted as the "Granddaddy of all Gravel Events" by several publications which feted the event in their pages and on their sites.  

Comments & Opinions: Okay, my take is that the tumultuous twists and turns regarding the Almanzo look to have brought this particular incarnation of a gravel event to an inglorious end. That the name looks to be "retired", I feel, is a good thing at this point. Disregarding the actions of Mr. Skogen, a change in leadership of the events is, perhaps, a good time to switch names, and especially so since the classic "Almanzo" course did not emanate from Northfield. That Spring Valley based course is, for good or bad, cemented into many people's minds as "the Almanzo", and no substitutes will be the same.

Keeping elements of the ideals from the Almanzo is in the Northfield event's best interest, as the ideals which were promoted by the Almanzo event's former director, Chris Skogen, were what made the spirit of the Almanzo 100 what it was. And in fact, that "spirit" took on a life all its own without Mr. Skogen at the helm while the Almanzo was run for a few years by the Spring Valley Tourism Board.  So, I think having those ideals as the backbone of whatever they come up with in Northfield is a good idea.

So, it would appear that, if the Spring Valley based event happens again in 2020, gravel enthusiasts can partake in what once was the "Almanzo" and in a new event in Northfield based upon ideals set forth by Mr. Skogen. If, in fact, these two events can accomplish this, it is, in a way, an evolution. An evolution of what was once the "Grandaddy of all Gravel Events" into two, new options, which hopefully will carry forward an important part of grassroots gravel events into the future. 

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