Three short weeks after TransIowa, I was rolling out of Spring Valley, MN at 5 AM on a Friday. This was the start of The Alexander, a 380 mile race across some seriously scenic and hilly areas in SW Minnesota, SE Wisconsin and NE Iowa. My goals for the event were to get serious miles on my bike loaded up with a representative Tour Divide level of equipment, finish, and finish on Saturday evening. The course encompasses almost all of the Almanzo 100 and Royal 162 courses, plus adds a third stacked loop for the additional 120 or so miles this goes beyond the Royal. A group of about 15 - 20 of us took the start, with a minimal amount of fanfare, with Chris Skogen telling us little more than to have fun, and enjoy the experience. We rode out of town in a fairly tight group and once we hit the gravel, things slowly started to string out. After a couple of hours, a decent sized group of us got together and things just kind of fell into place for the rest of the race. The group had plenty of big motors and long mile experience - Corey Godfrey, my teammate Mike Johnson, Ben Oney, Alex Oenes, and Derek Weider from the Slender Fungus Cycling Association. We covered the first 127 miles to Lansing, IA in just under 11.5 hours. After a well earned food and maintenance break, we crossed the Mississippi River into Wisconsin. After a short time, I started recognizing many of the areas we were in as being part of the first day of the 2010 TransWisconsin, including a spin through Mt Sterling, on through Seneca, and finally to Prairie Du Chien where we ended our day with a bunch of pizza, a beer, and 196 miles or so in our legs.
We left PDC a little later than I and some others would have liked, but we snagged breakfast, resupplied our food and were really back on it by about 6 AM. The paved climb out of the river valley was long, but steady. Afterwards we were treated to a about 50 miles of fast descents and beautiful valleys, followed by some long hard climbs. What was easily the best rode of the route came in this section - We crossed a closed intersection, descended down a steep dirt road to an isolated creek crossing, and then proceeded to climb put on what was nothing more than a worn path over bedrock through a gorgeous grove of trees, finally exiting onto regular gravel next to a small farmstead. As the day went on, the breaks became a bit longer and more frequent. Some time after we left Decorah, Mike figured out that unless we picked up the pace, our chances for a Saturday finish were going to disappear. At this point, the group broke apart a bit as Mike, Ben, Derek and I drove the pace into a flat headwind section. After a brief break for food at mile 335 in Graf (which straddles the IA/MN border) we regrouped and started the drive to the finish. After a post creek crossing break to wait for a flat tire change, pressed on towards the ominous Norse Rd/Oriole Road section. Corey and I were able to bomb and ascend on this section with relative ease since we were on mountain bike tires. After the climb out of Masonic Park, our pace picked up on the flats, especially since we were within striking distance of our midnight finish goal. I recall being on the front and driving at 20 - 22 MPH for what seemed like forever. Finally, we took the descent into downtown Spring Valley and finished on the corner of Washington and Main at about 11:59 AM, just under our goal time.
A big crew of people from Des Moines that were there for the Alexander and Royal met us at the corner with pizza and beer, thanks to a generous offer from my friend Kyle Sedore and a well timed phone call. After a bit of food, photos, and interactions with liberally lubricated locals, we loaded our bikes up and headed back to the hotel. Too hyped from the finish, and the liberal application of caffeine, I stayed up a while longer after a well earned shower talking to friends and trying to get more food and fluids into me. I didn't sleep very well that night as my legs were sore and I was just generally excited about the ride and the finish. I think I ended up waking for the final time around 5 AM or so, heading down to the breakfast nook and devouring whatever I could get my hands on. I was very happy that my friend Ali offered to drive home so I could rest. It was also nice to chat with her for a few hours, which is something that I don't get a chance to do very often.
My Salsa Ti Fargo was the perfect bike for this event, even with the gear load, it felt steady and sure, even on fast, loose, gravel descents. The stock gearing was low enough to allow me to finish the event, although I do plan on dropping it down a touch for Tour Divide, just so I'm not stressing myself so much on long climbs. I had no mechanicals during the event, other than my Garmin freezing up on the descent into Decorah.
Day 1 - 196 miles. 12,800 feet of climb. 17:20:41 total time
Day 2 - 189 miles. 13,000 feet of climb. 17:59:23 total time
I managed to take quite a few photos over the weekend. They are all here.