While weather dampened overall numbers, the Almanzo Cycling Event took place in Northfield for the first time Saturday.
The race, which features distances of 360, 160, 100 and 50 miles, started in 2007 in Rochester, proceeded to be held in Spring Valley starting in 2010 and shifted to Northfield for the first time this year.
“One of the big goals we had this year was to showcase Northfield,” said Marty Larson, who helped organize the event along with Chris Skogen and Benn Witt.
While around 1,800 riders were registered to ride this year, Skogen estimates only 500 or so made it to the various starting times Saturday morning because of the rain, and since there was no entry fee to the event, there was nothing lost with staying home.
The 360-mile race started at 12:01 a.m. and winded throughout southeastern Minnesota, with the first finisher arriving a few minutes before 11 a.m. That race accounted for only 15 or so of the riders, though, with the others distributed in the 160-mile race that kicked off at 7 a.m. and the 100 and 50-mile distances that started at 9 a.m. Each race started at Bridge Square and ended at Central Park.
In ideal conditions, Skogen and Larson said entrants would bike into town Friday, camp at Sechler Park overnight, race Saturday and enjoy a combination of food trucks and local businesses, and then bike back to wherever home might be.
“The idea of the whole thing is centered around the idea of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility with the bicycle as a tool to get people closer to that,” Skogen said.
The possibility wasn’t entirely washed away, though.
Given the receptiveness of the Northfield community and infrastructure, Larson, a Northfield resident, said the groundwork is there to keep Almanzo in town each year, with a greater emphasis being placed on the post-race gathering at Central Park with riders’ families.
“I live here for a reason,” Larson said. “It’s a fantastic place. I’ve got fantastic support from the city, from the Police Department, from the City Works Department, from city administration. Everybody’s excited to have it here, and they see the benefit of having more people in town.”