Photo Credit - BWR Photo Pool: Jake Orness, Craig Huffman, Danny Munson, Luca Cometti, Russel Spencer ,Simon Nicholls, Wil Matthews.
Red Vines! Just give me more Red Vines! As the miles, flats, and mental fatigue hit their crucial point, the lady in the Penguin suit handing out those spindly twirled ropes of sugary goodness I scarfed down as a kid saved my life. If you’re looking for a race report, stop reading, but if you’re interested in how I enjoyed, savored, and survived the Belgian Waffle Ride, this post is for you.
I left the East Coast and joined friend Matt McCloone to take part in the race nicknamed the Hell of the North (county), a riff on Paris Roubaix’s moniker, with a one of a kind Nova Pro jersey to enjoy all BWR has to offer.
In creating the jersey for the Belgian Waffle Ride, we wanted to mix the iconic colorways of Belgium--red, yellow, and the baby blue that is often used in Belgian national team jerseys--and pair that with something that had a festive Cinco de Mayo feel. So, in combining these two distinctive and very different styles and color palettes, I came up with a modern Belgian themed design with a subtle underlying Cinco de Mayo inspired pattern: these two design elements work together very well in how they are composed of sharp, linear angles and straight lines.
The weekend starts with a huge expo, plenty of “Hey how are you’s," and discussion of the course. Winding through San Diego’s North County on a mix of pavement, single track, sandy gravel, and neighborhood paths, the course has something for everyone to enjoy. Its overall arc includes a stunningly beautiful climb up Black Canyon followed by a generally long downhill cruise back to Sandy Bandy, dirt sectors, and a brutal climb up Double Peak, the crux of the event where dreams are often crushed, only to be revived by a cold beer at the finish.
A huge breakfast of waffles, bacon, and coffee greet the riders before the early morning roll out. When the huge field rolls out you can feel the excitement, especially this year as we bolted for the first dirt “sector” Lemontwist. The initial singletrack thins the field and the fun is on!
Before the lead group hits Black Canyon, I hear the familiar voice of Shelby Reynolds and see Phil Tinsman’s huge smile as the elite support truck rolls up beside us. These two offer food and drink to the elite group throughout the race. Their fun, laughter, and jokes make the miles go by and ease any tension. The only thing I ask is that next year they provide some donut handouts to the group!
Over a small climb at mile 100, the group splinters and I just make the lead group of 4 entering the second to last dirt sector. Then I feel my rear tire go flat. CO2 blast. Fixed. A mile later a loud pop as the tire blows off my rim. Tube it, keep ripping the dirt, flat again. Okay, time for a reset! I start walking and get a tube from a wafer rider, we have a quick chat to lament and cherish the toughness of the event, and then see a course marshal, who has a floor pump, tire irons, and everything I need. Classy.
With my flat fixed and now way behind the leaders, it’s time to enjoy all BWR has to offer. Before I leave the parking lot I almost ride past a gal with boxes of donuts in her truck. “Ummmm, excuse me, are those for us?!?!” “YES!?!” Day. Made. With a donut in my mouth I soldiered on.
As the fatigue built, I got to the “Oasis," the on-course party epicenter. Chalk dust butt slaps, bacon, tequila (it was Cinco de Mayo after all), and all the “fancy” nutrition you could want. The only problem with the Oasis? It’s a long way uphill from there to Double Peak, the final BWR feature.
I make it to Double Peak on the struggle bus. Finally able to lift my eyes up I see, not the top, but a Penguin Suit. Handing out Red Vines. Now, we’re talking! The sugar rush gives me just enough energy to get to the finish line. Survival. Now, where exactly are those ice cream topped Belgian waffles?!