Almanzo 100 founder Chris Skogen, left, congratulates David Toews at the finish of the 100-mile race. SUBMITTED PHOTO <br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
Almanzo 100 founder Chris Skogen, left, congratulates David Toews at the finish of the 100-mile race. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Like most of the participants in Saturday's Almanzo 100, David Toews had a wide range of feelings about the 100-mile bicycle journey on gravel roads through Fillmore County.

"I was exhausted and sore after I crossed the finish, but I feel really fantastic about the whole experience," said Toews.

Unlike the other 1,400 riders, who came from across the United States and even the world to ride the Almanzo, Toews, a 1998 Kingsland High School graduate, got his start in bicycling on the streets of Spring Valley.

His father, Rick Toews, taught him when he was 5 or 6 and living in Spring Valley. His distances were more modest then, although to a child, his rides down one side of the valley and back up the other to visit his friend, Michael Kirwin, who lived on the other side of town, seemed like long ones.

The two would buy bikes and fix them up during the summer. Kirwin's father helped them build a tall bike that upper classmen borrowed one year for the Homecoming parade.

Crashes have also been a part of his bicycling experience, starting with his first one involving a small engine repair shop that used to be next to the library. He had another one in college, so he stopped riding for a while.

However, he couldn't stay away from bicycling for long. Toews, who now lives in Minneapolis and works as a database administrator for a law firm, got back into it six or seven years ago.

Three years ago he first heard about the Almanzo. The timing never seemed right, though, as he has two daughters with birthdays in May, Mother's Day is the weekend before and the family has a big backyard garden that needs to get planted around the same time.

This year, his wife finally gave him the OK and he started serious training in February. Another crash almost derailed his plans, though.

"I almost didn't make it after I got anxious and took my bike on a ride in late March, slipped on a patch of ice and separated my shoulder, which took me out of riding for a month," he said. "The last few weeks I crammed in as much riding as I could to try to get myself back in shape."

This was Toews' first 100-mile ride and his first big ride on gravel.

"It was tough and really got harry on the down hills," he said.

The weekend was also a reunion of sorts for Toews, who drove down with his father, staying at Jon and Deb Dahl's home. He went out for pizza Friday night and saw a lot of people he knew.

"One of my favorite things about the ride was saying hi to everyone I remembered from growing up," he said. "I hope to do the ride again, depending on how the timing works out."