BWR- Belgian Waffle Ride
I went into the BWR challenge with high hopes and great expectations. I figured this would be my type of race; a pure tough guy war of attrition, not a climbers ride or sprinters game. Unfortunately, I was unable to train the way I wanted to. Work demands, etc., etc. Welcome to the real world. Anyway, I felt like I’d utilized my limited time to the best of my abilities and gained quite a bit of fitness, along with having a purpose behind my training. And that’s the real purpose of a goal - who you become in the pursuit of that goal, and making the goal a bit more than you think you can do.
Overall the event was fantastic. Easy registration and pickup of numbers. Great breakfast and coffee ready to go. Huge crowd of riders, and great to see some familiar faces. In an international field like this I like to target a few key riders. It just helps me know where to be.
The start was kind of fast, with a couple of teams going off the front right from the gun, and I kept near the front. Most of the start was down hill which allowed for a decent warm up, but I could feel my nervous energy flowing kind of high. There were some rollers coming up soon, and I could feel the tempo picking up as I fought to stay in the lead 5-10 riders and really push to crest the first hill. So far, so good. I stayed where I needed to be, and my 1st key rider was doing quite a bit of work; he must be having a good day. I know him to be a great national/international caliber rider, so no surprise that he’s doing well. Stay smooth, breathe. Now would be a great time to gave a gel, but shit!, I forgot them in the car, and didn’t want to lose my great starting position.
Next hill I again positioned myself nicely and went with the flow, but it was getting fast, and I found myself having to dig deep to keep up. Luckily I know these roads from having driven them, and decided it was a little too early to be digging that deep, and it was going to be a long day. I backed off just a bit, knowing there was room to drift back and still keep in contact with the group. And what goes down must come back up. Let the pack have this one.
I maintained contact, but found myself at the back of the pack, and I had to push it in order to not lose contact. So much so that I began to lose form, and start pedaling squares with all I had. Stick to the math, do what you know how to do, don’t lose focus, stay within your self, and keep pushing ‘til you regain contact. The pack may have the intensity, but they won’t have the endurance that I have. Stick to your system, they will come back.
Once over the hill, I was able to easily rejoin the group and hadn’t expended red line energy in the process. Fan-fucking-tastick! Get comfortable, get into position, and do so in the most effective manner possible. So I took my place near the front in the top 10-15 riders, and got ready for what the road had in store for us next. And that turned out to be another long, medium grade hill. I sat nicely for quite a bit, and then the first dirt section must have been in sight, because the tempo got going really fast and things began to string out. I found myself going in reverse and had to put my head down and work. Shit this is going fast! Stay effective. Redlining the engine this early is not a smart move, Just stay effective.
Now we enter the first dirt section, and I see one of my key guys off to the side; he’s good. I see my buddy Brian, and he’s good. Boom, get there; the bike’s doing well, this is ok. Get going, start dropping watts and show this pack what’s up.
So, it’s all lined up. I see the shot, go in for the swoop and manage to pass 10 rides or so. Excellent. Fuck, this is chaotic. Shit, stick to your program. I make it past a few more riders. Good, stay on it. As we went a little deeper into the dirt sections things thinned out a little, and made riding a lot more manageable. I felt tentative on the dirt, my bike was good, but I definitely played things on the safe side, making sure not to fall.
Across the longest dirt section I did a pretty good job of passing others and not getting passed all that much; things were going well. We hit a little stream crossing and that’s where it went south in the form of a flat tire. I think I was still in the top 50 before the flat, and I must have gotten passed by 30 or more riders in the time it took to pull over into the shade, take a quick breather, change the tube, take a piss. I got myself situated and went on the attack, picking off the riders in front of me one by one. Some were easier than others, but I made good work of the upcoming dirt miles, all the while nursing my rear tire. It felt a little under inflated and I could sometimes feel the tire bottoming out on the rim.
A good quick transition was what I was all about at the support station, not really looking to stick around. I just filled my water bottles, slammed a coke and a gel, and was able to get the rear tire inflated just a little more than my Co2 had allowed. It was good to see some riders I know in the transition, but I didn’t feel like letting more time slip by. Fuck it, I see a group of guys going; I’m gonna catch them. I started a solid campaign to pick off the riders in front of me and one by one they all started to come back, nice and steady. A pack of riders is very hard to bring back, but I was in the groove, and started working with a couple of guys who wanted to motor. These shallow grades suit me well and I can descend with the best of them, especially the nice sweepers,
I felt fantastic and in my element until the next dirt section, when all I could do was hold on to the next group of riders. Passing was not an option and the pace they had set was fast, so I took my seat as a passenger and tried to stay as efficient as possible. As soon as we hit the pavement much of the pack blew up. I feel in my element on the road and I went back into attack mode, picking off riders.
The course split as we neared Del Dios Lake; waffle riders go one way, and I go the other. Things have certainly thinned out, and I can’t see anymore riders in front of me. Just follow the signs and go as well as you can. My senses say I’m going the wrong way, but just keep riding. Eventually I catch a few more riders, and mention it to them (because God forbid I ever bother to check a course map!) and they say we’re going the right way. OK, let’s work together and get this over with. We’re moving well together for a bit, ‘til we hit the next set of rollers, and then the attacks start to come from within the group. I say shit, if you guys want to play rough, I can, too. So I let them have the first crest, and it seemed like they wanted to get rid of me. Silly move. I stayed within my limits, but just stretched out the duration of the effort a little longer. I could see the effects of their effort taking its toll on them, and their speed dropped off. I waited until the next roller to use their draft, sling shot past them, and never saw them again.
Now, I had started my computer a little late and kept getting different mileage totals for the event, so trying to calculate how many miles I had left was fuzzy. I was nearing the end of my most effective riding, and didn’t expect some of the hardest riding to be near the end. It got extremely tough after the last real aid station - a very technical decent backed up with some really steep hills. By this time I just wanted this punishment to end so I put my head down and rode. Same formula, find a target and pass. But by this time the targets are few and far between, a bit of crowd support helped ease the pain, yet another dirt section followed by some super steep road, all while trying to nurse the cramps going in both quads.
Finally, the last dirt section which felt mostly like downhill rollers, very much like going down Rincon out in Monrovia/Hwy 39. By this time I’m totally spent, my guts are hurting, and I feel miserable. My fueling strategy was a bit off, and I had not quite come correctly prepared for this one. On paper I thought I would be ok, but it was so much harder than the spec would suggest. The dirt sections added another redline element, taking me out of normal torque range, and the Achilles of both legs were totally worked. Up to this point gearing hadn’t been an issue, but going down this section I found myself looking for the lowest gear I could find. Thinking I was still in the big ring, but nope, I’m in the granny. Shit. Oh well, drive on.
The finishing run was all downhill which came as a great relief, because I didn’t have anything left. Shit, even the decent hurt. It was fast, and crazy windy. I got severely blown around, and the deep areo wheels I have on my bike were not an advantage at this point. It was so bad that I had speed wobbles and had to pull some of the old tricks out of the hat, putting my knee into the top tube to try and stabilize the bike. It almost became a knee slapper, and putting the bike down did cross my mind. The rest of the ride was uneventful, but I did see and Empire Bikes water bottle on the side of the road. Oh hey, I know those guys!, and the run in to the well-organized finish was nice and easy.
Overall equipment impressions:
Bike - I would have to say my bike performed flawlessly, flat tire aside. The frame provided an impressive platform for a fast, comfortable, confidence-inspiring ride.
Wheels - The Giant wheels with their DT Swiss internals are bomb proof, and their performance is outstanding, strong and secure under braking and acceleration, and aside from the one super windy section, the durability was impressive.
Shifting - The Dura Ace Di2 system performed flawlessly. If you don’t have the climber shifter you’re missing out on half of your shifting capability. I just added the sprinter shifters as well and they are working out quite nicely, I just need to get used to them a little more.
Tires - I love the Continental 4000s as well as Victoria Tubulars, and the Corsa CX has been the gold standard for a long time when it comes to comfort, so I decided to give the Challenge open tubulars a try. When they were on they felt great, but I didn’t finish my first ride before I had a blow out. Well, flats happen, so let’s look at the system and identify where we’d failed. We upgraded rim tape, tried this, that and the other and gave it another run. To cut a long story short, the new tires wouldn’t hold the rim and I got a total of 5-6 flats over the course of a week, a frustrating exercise that has tested my tenacity and determination to the point I cannot recommend it to most anyone. Once I had given up on the Challenge tires, I went back to the Continental 4000 IIs, 25mm, both front and rear. At the shop we’ve been testing a 23mm up front, and the feedback has been pretty good for cornering at high speeds. It might be the flickability is improved, much like a 27.5 vs 29er, but I think I’m going to stick with the 25 up front, since I’m much more of a fast and flow type of rider.
Saddle - Fizik is still the only brand of saddle that I think justifies the price tag, but it’s also a very personal choice. I thought going to a more padded Airone saddle would be a benefit, seeing how there was almost 15 miles of off-road riding being done on a road bike. I liked the modification of my bike fit, it felt faster, but in the end I found myself liking my original Fizik Volta Saddle. But then I raised my seat 1.5 mm. This proved to be a solid improvement with no down side. Sometimes you gotta check yourself.
Kit - We got our new Monstrow kits just in time for this event, and I have to say the gear goes beyond cycling clothing. This is technical equipment developed to help you ride better and I was highly impressed. The jersey felt more like a skin suit, a second skin, fast, cool, and other than looking great, something I never had to think about. Comfort, quality and feel, all outstanding, likewise for the bibs. Get yours at Empire Bikes! Know that there is a huge difference between casually riding and club riding and racing. I have put myself in all of these situations, tested and only recommend what I believe will give you the intended outcome you are looking for.
I’m happy to say that this race challenged me in a lot of different ways. First of all, it has given added purpose to my riding, knowing it was going to take a lot to get this done, and I’ve mentally committed to doing it again. I’d put this event down as something like a half Ironman, without those pesky swimming and running bits getting in the way. It allowed me to focus on doing what I like to do: being on my bike, with friends, going through some of the best riding in the world. I don’t know of a better activity or hobby.
INSPIRE AND BE INSPIRED. That’s the whole point, rather than being just another dull story. If your life were written as a book, how do you want it to read? I’m choosing to help you write a better story, one that goes more places, with more fun, fitness, and friends. All you have to do is say yes.