Belgian Waffle Ride, or simply BWR, is one of the most popular gravel series in the US, and this weekend it set for the penultimate race of the year. Let's dive into my experience from the Midwestern prairie.
– It’s too early to let the race be decided, I think to myself and push up the hill to close the gap. 6 of the favorites are already up the road, but my 12-man group is joining them.
READ FIRST: Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas 2022
It’s a chilly morning in Lawrence, Kansas. It didn’t take many minutes to warm up. The race is already aggressive, and we have just started. It's going to be a long day in the Kansas hills. And a windy one: it’s a steady 16 mph (7 m/s) wind from the north, and right now, we are facing it. We are 10 km into the 197 km/122 miles Waffle course, a hilly course with constantly rolling hills.
One of the main protagonists will be my fellow Norwegian Torbjørn Røed, who studies at the Colorado Mesa University—a strong rider. Last year's winner, Adam Roberge, is here too. Ex. World Tour-pro Nicholas Roche is setting the pace with Brennan Johnston on his wheel. We are now a group of about 25 riders. Soon, Luke Hall is breaking away with six riders—an aggressive start to the race.
The break keeps growing their lead. My group, the chasing 20-men group, are attacking each other, and we are just partly cooperating in the chase to catch the riders up front. I’m riding conservative and try not to do more than I need to. My legs feel alright, but my breath is still not 100% after my recent cold. My lung capacity is not at its highest, but I am determined to get the most out of my day either way.
We have done 82k/51 miles of the race and head into some narrow trails into the woods.
– May I pass, please? I ask.
I am in the Perry Lake Trail, a 7k technical section. I lost the wheel of the first riders of the group right before the trail and try now to make up ground, passing one rider and chasing the next. I struggle to find a good flow, and soon, I am all by myself in the woods. There are some sections where I need to dismount and carry the bike. In other parts, the biggest challenge is to avoid the sharp rocks.
Finally, I am closing in on a rider, then:
– Screeeetchgrrr… A strange sound is coming from my front wheel as the wheel suddenly stops rolling. I stop quickly and see the problem. A stick of wood is jammed between the fork and the wheel. I pull it out and start riding, but the rider in front is gone. I am alone with 110k/68 miles to go.
– I must hang on; I’m not fighting this wind alone! I think to myself.
My motivation right now is not to get a result but to get to the finish. I’m riding with three other riders. We are keeping a good pace. In the hardest climbs, I don’t want to keep suffering, but I know the road home gets so much longer if you find yourself alone out here on the prairie. The elevation is starting to take its toll, but the other riders are also tired. We have done nearly 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) of elevation on gravel roads.
We are about 30k to the finish now. After Griffin Easter managed to catch us, we have been on a good speed but have not caught many riders. Perhaps there are about ten riders ahead. I don’t know.
Then, we see Ian Lopez De San Roman ahead. Finally, we are catching someone.
– Shall we try to pass with speed so maybe he can’t catch on? I ask Griffin.
– Let’s do it, he answers.
As we are catching Ian, I go on a full sprint. He is caught by surprise but accelerates. We keep pushing. We're playing cat-and-mouse for a bit, but ultimately, he manages to get on our wheels.
The last final of the course is pretty unique for gravel. When we arrive at the finishing arena, we are led onto a 10-mile (16 km) single track instead of passing the finish line. It’s a flowy and smooth trail, but it's hard to pass other riders. Therefore, I set the pace into the last corner. Kyle Trudeau sprints past me and makes the corner first. I enter the trail second of us. Now, it’s all about finding the rhythm on these trails. But I make an early mistake and go too hot in a corner. I need to dismount with one foot, and Ian passes me.
I try to catch up with Ian. He’s not far ahead, but the gap keeps growing. Five seconds, then ten, then 20 seconds. Eventually, I cannot see him. I have been riding well on the trails, but I’m about to lose the flow. Luckily, there are no riders to see behind either. It seems like I will stay in this position to the finish.
– Where is the finish? I get a little frustrated. The trail is never-ending. It’s 2 km to go. It takes forever.
There, I see the turn, and I am on the last grass spiral to the finish line. It’s like cyclocross, though no hurdles, luckily. There is the line. Finally! Another BWR accomplished!
– Jonas Orset, 10th place!, the speaker announces.
– Jonas will be glad to hear his countryman won the race, the speaker continues. Wow, that’s great. Torbjørn won the race! A good Norwegian day in Kansas.
I’m happy with 10th in this company. Belgian Waffle Ride is always highly challenging and demanding, and this is my best result in this race series. The best thing about this race would, nevertheless, be the waffles at the finish, and I’m not getting one, but two waffles and a Belgian finisher beer.
Thanks for another great Belgian Waffle Ride. I look forward to next year!
Also, I thank Cadence Cyclery for preparing my bike and supporting me in the US. A shout-out to my teammate, Corey Ray, for making it to the finish despite an early crash. A true Viking spirit by my Texan friend.
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