frontrangegravel
Chris Skogen, the creator of The Almanzo 100, sounded off again on Facebook.
What do you think he should do?

Here is his post:

"By my estimate there is a lot of money to be made in the circles that are gravel road cycling. Having had a front row seat to the changes that have unfolded, I'd like to believe I'm somewhat of an expert on the situation. Expert or not, money is being made and I've found that it really isn't my bag. I didn't start Almanzo because I'm a capitalist. I didn't start it to gain fame and notoriety. I started it because I thought the world needed something different. When this all got going (as I've mentioned a few times before) I thought there were enough pay-to-play events so I added one that didn't cost anything. I added one that I thought would feel just like a pay event without all the bullshit.

As the numbers went up a lot of folks around me, including myself, began thinking that there was really something special unfolding. As things became clearer and the gravel idea started to spread, a lot of folks got friendly and made every attempt to get on the bus. Some came because they wanted to cash in and others because they believed in what I was trying to do. At first, I thought all of the attention was incredible. For so long I wanted nothing more than to be on the inside of the circle and finally it was happening. As I look back though, I never really got invited into the cycling industry. I think I kind of crept in through the back door and never really fit. I mention this because when I made the declaration to forego any partnerships and/or sponsorships for 2014, I kind of walked myself right out of the industry I so wanted to be a part of. With nothing to offer those folks by eliminating their guaranteed exposure, the phone has pretty much stopped ringing. Combine that with a few failed attempts at landing a job inside its circles and I'm convinced the hallowed industry isn't for me. Besides, after all these years and all this sweat I have to believe that if I can't get hired as an event manager for a cycling related company, it's probably time to take a good look at things and figure out where I really want to be.

That said, I am happy and honored to be a part of a community that believes in and exercises free cycling. Nestled in amongst the friends I've made over the years is right where I want to be and right where I need to be. See, for me it isn't about gravel or pavement or snow or dirt. It isn't about double track or single track or downhill or cross country. It isn't about cyclocross or criteriums or track racing either. It's about people. It's about connecting with other humans and connecting with the land around us. It's about sharing an experience and taking it home and telling someone that wasn't there. Better yet, it's about being alive and being able to live.

I don't have anything to sell you. With Almanzo I have an experience to give you. I have an opportunity for you to live your life. I have a chance for you to choose your choices. I have a blank sheet of paper for you to start writing your stories. The roads that run through Fillmore County have been there long before I walked this earth and will be there long after I'm gone. The only thing I've done is string them together in such a way that makes it possible to see some of the areas most scenic spaces. I don't hold your hand and I don't feed you your lunch. I give you a place to meet, a time to begin and a handshake at the end. As I have said before, I've ridden these roads and I know firsthand the struggles they can bring. I'm happy if you decide to undertake this event and I'm proud to offer you my congratulations through a good old fashioned handshake.

If you're thinking about coming out in 2014, I hope you do. If you're expecting fanfare and a horse and pony show, you best keep looking. I'm pairing things back this year to just the basics. I'll still give you a time and place to start and access to directions to get you safely from point A to point A, but that'll be about it. There won't be a jersey or a new t-shirt. There won't be fancy packets with fancy sponsor logos. There will, however, be a start line and a finish line and a warm handshake waiting for you when you get there."
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no_roads
That's all I need from him, and more than I should ask for!
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WFRTony
Sounds like fun!!!  Where do I sign up?
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Mahoba
Chris has got it right.
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IowaGravel
I like it, I like it a lot. Thanks Chris!

If it were my race or if I were to put on a race I would however accept donations to pay for food that I would cook myself and provide. I would also figure out some sort of art made from bicycle parts, made by me or a friend willing to donate to be awarded to the first place male and female but thats about it.
What is easy to do, is just as easy not to do. -Jim Rohn
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frontrangegravel
It's a very admirable thing that Chris has been doing. He created an event, was a key person in the growth of this type of racing/riding, and will always be linked to it.

It seems to me though, by his current and past comments, as well as comments by people in response. that the attitude is that if you are selling things that you aren't in it for the "right" reason. Why is it that you can't be a brand and be in something for the right reason?
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IowaGravel
@frontrangegravel, I totally understand your point as well as Chris'. Chris is saying that cycling is and should be a free sport, I get that. At the same time there are others trying to get rich off of bike races, which, from what I gather, Chris doesn't feel that is right. Me on the other hand, I guess if that is how others want to make a living and create a business, fine. I, like I somewhat stated previously, would either accept donations or charge a minimal entry fee to pay for necessary things (GOOD beer and food/drinks at the end). That being said, others may not feel those are necessary things, I however like the social gathering and get together at the end accompanied with food and drinks! And don't get me wrong, I love to donate, I am a very giving person but some things I just can't afford.

Since I am considering heading up a race this summer, I think this discussion could be a big help to me.
What is easy to do, is just as easy not to do. -Jim Rohn
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frontrangegravel
@IowaGravel First, only do the race if you are ok with a busy part time job and have money to lose/give away for at least the first year.

It is free like 99% of the time unless you voluntarily sign up for those pay events. Just because those people charging money are making (or losing) money doesn't make them not pure for the sport or bad. Actually, quite the opposite. While Chris does have a lot at stake and a lot on his mind, he does not have 100's or 1000's of people's hard earned dollars with the expectation to make the event perfect for everyone. For him, if there is a hiccup, people just slough it off and say, well, it's free.

He isn't taking on the same risk because of the lack of cash going to him. Those with so much to risk, spend a lot of time and energy trying to provide the best experience, just as he does. People are real quick to jump on and say they are all for it, love the vibe, etc., but when it comes to paying for that, they start to grumble. Perhaps if we had 100% of the people giving, like you, there'd never be an issue.

The fact that no racer or group of racers came forward and made a donation to an org or set something up to make that happen without being prompted says more than any Facebook comments. Case in point....the Chequamegon 100 was getting complaints about the "entrance fee." A DONATION to CAMBA - the full amount...and people were complaining.

It'd be a simple solution to just mention that he was going to keep it low key this year and that was it. He gets the response he does because, based on his actions/comments, he asks for it. I would really like to see him have the support and job he wants, but he isn't helping himself.

If you have any questions about directing a race, whether paid or free, I can offer up some advice. In addition to the gravel rides you'll find here on Ridinggravel.com, I am a codirector of the Frozen40.com, AbominableEvents.com, and working on some other stuff. I do it all for the right reasons and am a mtn biker through and through. Feel free to contact me anytime and I'm happy to help out with any questions. I won't charge you even....well, not at first at least..ha [cool]

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BluesDawg
I guess the event grew in ways he didn't like and if he wants to change it back to what he envisioned, I'm cool with that. I'm also cool with others planning events with voluntary contributions to cover expenses or others charging an entry fee with profits going to charities and/or to make money for the organizers. Whatever gives people opportunities to ride in great places.
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ridemagnetic
First met Chris in 2008, and since the very beginning he's reiterated the fact that Almanzo was always about a bunch of friends, old and new, getting together once a year to experience those amazing roads in SE MN, never was about the sponsors or pimping them through the event.  I'm sure that's hard to avoid when you're surrounded by a bunch of brands who want nothing more than to ride his coattails to boost revenue for their new 'gravel grinder' specific bike or doohicky.  Almanzo was created purely out of love of getting out there on the route, and the shared experience of community. Nothing more, nothing less.  I'm glad he stuck to his guns and isn't losing perspective of why Almanzo began in the first place.
A great set of wheels will make an average frame ride better. It doesn't work the other way around.  ~ridemagnetic
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wirider3
"I'm sure that's hard to avoid when you're surrounded by a bunch of brands who want nothing more than to ride his coattails to boost revenue for their new 'gravel grinder' specific bike or doohicky.  Almanzo was created purely out of love of getting out there on the route, and the shared experience of community. Nothing more, nothing less."

To assume that these people selling their new "doohicky" don't do it out of love of getting out there is just false. Just because one does something for free and one for money doesn't mean there is somehow more love for that free thing.

Everyone who makes money must really hate their jobs. I can't imagine that you'd be happy if someone came in and volunteered to do your job for free. Your boss: "Sorry, he just loves the job more than you do." That'd be an awkward conversation.


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wirider3
@Bluesdawg Yes, agreed. But, what keeps him from getting hired like he apparently wants is ultimately biting the hand that was trying to feed him.

The free race thing is a weird thing, that, like anything, I'm not sure is exactly sustainable. The amount of work people put into events is mind-numbing and when people start talking to those that don't get paid, they'll quickly realize it's not for them.

The last few years has seen an explosion of them, but it'll catch up too.
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ridemagnetic
wirider3 wrote:
To assume that these people selling their new "doohicky" don't do it out of love of getting out there is just false. Just because one does something for free and one for money doesn't mean there is somehow more love for that free thing.

Everyone who makes money must really hate their jobs. I can't imagine that you'd be happy if someone came in and volunteered to do your job for free. Your boss: "Sorry, he just loves the job more than you do." That'd be an awkward conversation.


When did I ever say that the sponsors don't do it out of love? After all I was a sponsor of Almanzo for two years before moving at the end of 2010.  My aversion is about brands that are trying to capitalize off "gravel" this and "grinder" that by using Almanzo as their vehicle, which was explained multiple times now that this particular event was never about that.  Who ever gave you the impression that the promoters of free racing are in collusion and propagating a hostile take over of pay-to-play sanctioned races?  Wouldn't that be hypocritical for hundreds of USAC card carrying racers to line up at these free events every season?  You know what I think makes for awkward conversation, is when someone takes other people's ideas and misrepresents them for the sake of their own argument.
A great set of wheels will make an average frame ride better. It doesn't work the other way around.  ~ridemagnetic
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rideonpurpose

I believe in running free events and in having them be truly free.  I take no donations, have no sponsors, seems to work fine and people like it.  I have no idea if they appreciate my ideals.

I also believe in running sanctioned events where that is necessary and charging for them.  

Do not agree with promoters who pocket huge sums of money and give virtually nothing back (even if they are super chill dudes everyone wants to be like). 


What I really disagree with is big companies, or small, or 'small' companies that are part of multi-billion dollar companies that pretend they aren't, or whatever the case may be, all of the above sort of thing...  I don't agree with them coming in an tossing peanuts around and using something that is basically a gift from someone to the riding community in order to line their pockets.

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