Early in the Almanzo 100 race, bicyclists are bunched up as they make their way through the rolling countryside of Fillmore County. Scenes such as this one are featured in a film on the race that premiered last month.
Early in the Almanzo 100 race, bicyclists are bunched up as they make their way through the rolling countryside of Fillmore County. Scenes such as this one are featured in a film on the race that premiered last month.
The renown of the Almanzo 100 bicycle race, and in turn the recognition it brings Spring Valley, continues to grow as a short film documenting the race premiered Aug. 23 at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis.

The film was one of four bicycle-oriented shorts shown as part of the Reels X Wheels film festival, which drew many bicycle enthusiasts from around the Twin Cities.

"The film that got the most recognition via applause and cheering was the film documenting the Almanzo 100 and its creator, Chris Skogen," noted Dustin Harford, who organized the Wilder Foot Races in conjunction with the bicycle races last spring.

The Almanzo 100 film was done by Royal Antler, a creative film agency based in Minneapolis. The agency, which notes that it got its start through a few people tenaciously following their passions, contacted Chris Skogen, founder/director of the Almanzo 100 to ask if it could come to the race and film it.

"I agreed and the rest is history," said Skogen. "I think the film is great - very well done and accurately reflects the feel of the whole thing."

Kathy Simpson, a member of the Spring Valley Tourism Committee and local business owner, attended the show along with her daughter, Mia. She, too, was pleased with the production, which featured many sights of Spring Valley.

"I thought Royal Antler did an excellent job of depicting the race, of small town living, and of our beautiful Fillmore County. Chris and his vision for Almanzo was well done, too," said Simpson. "I was pleased when a roar from the crowd and much applause sounded when the city of Spring Valley was first mentioned, showing their appreciation for the city and surrounding area."

More than bikes

The film features the rigors of riding 100 miles on crushed gravel, but also includes many local sights, from an early shot of Sunnyside Farm to the VFW hall in Spring Valley where the spaghetti feed was held to the rural scenery throughout the area.

Although bicycling and beautiful southeastern Minnesota scenery are prominent in the film, it is also about the philosophy behind the free race, which began in 2007 and was moved to Spring Valley in 2010.

"In my mind, the bicycle is the ultimate unifier," said Skogen early in the film. "I'm passionate about community and bringing people together."

As the Royal Antler promotion for the film states: "How does a man move and shape a culture? Our love of storytelling compelled us to find out, so we dug into the story of the Almanzo 100 gravel road race - the granddaddy of them all. We found that a single man's passion for community has manifested itself in a bike race...Call it a movement if you like, but please don't call it a fad. Gravel racing is here to stay."

Gear Junkie, which recognized Skogen with an award last spring, noted that Skogen's founding of this race helped launch a movement of gravel road races around the Midwest, inspiring other race directors to create free or low-cost gravel bike events.

In the film, Skogen explains that racers come from all walks of life for this challenge, which includes "a different kind of riding than what most people are used to" as well as climbs of almost 8,000 feet in 100 miles along with the wind and heat, and "whatever else Mother Nature can throw at you."

Riders are on their own, as there is no outside support, and they are often alone out on the gravel roads, but they often find the support of other bicyclists as they make their way through the grueling course. The film shows some of the rigors and mental challenges the bicyclists experience as they make their way on crushed rock roads of southeastern Minnesota.

The film features the music of Doomtree, a Minneapolis based hip-hop collective. It also has a bit of humor - and shows the passion of an individual rider - in focusing in on Scott Sherman, a Winona resident with a bushy beard who is part of the 29nSNGL crew.

"All in all I was pleased with the production," said Simpson. "Royal Antler did this for free, the movie was free, the race is free - you get my drift. It's a testimonial on what can be done with much volunteer work. Chris and crew have given us a gift, in my opinion - a nationally recognized gravel bike race and a film depicting the race. They do all this with much passion for the sport and respect for the environment. I say 'bravo' and 'thank you.'"

The film, through its showing and posting online, is generating even more interest for the race, along with the associated events that include foot races and a Royal 162, which will be back in Spring Valley May 17 to 19, 2013.

The film is available for viewing online at www.royalantler.com/projects/almanzo-100.