This weekend, in Lawrence, Kansas, it was set for the last race of the Belgian Waffle Ride Season and the last chance to get points for the Quadruple Crown. In the middle of America you could also find The Nordic Trailblazer lining up with many of the best riders in the continent, such as Peter Stetina, Griffin Easter, Adam Roberge, Innokenty Zavyalov and Brennan Wertz and more.
It was my first Belgian Waffle Ride ever, and what a day it became!
READ FIRST: World Championship in Veneto
What: Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas
Where: Lawrence, Kansas.
Date: October 16th 2022
Start time: 07.30 AM
Distance: 123 miles - 198 km
Route link: Komoot link
Route description: Rolling hills, some longer stretch, 4 single track sections of 15 miles total
Weather: Chilly morning, partly sun, wind. Temperatures 50-70˚F (10-20˚C)
Team: Team Cadence Cyclery
Support: Kent Erik Harridsleff
Bike: Specialized Diverge (Team bike)
Head unit: Stages Dash M200
Power meter: Stages Power meter
Tires: Vittoria Terrano Dry 38mm
Helmet: Met Manta
Shoes: Fizik Terra X3
Chain lube: Muc Off
Nutrition: Squeezy Sports Nutrition
Pre race bike fix: Nick at Cadence Cyclery
Coaching: 101percent Coaching
Just a few days after the World Championship in Veneto, I was once again lining up with many of gravel’s best riders. To be honest, my preparations haven’t been ideal, as I had a few very nice days in Venice with my girlfriend, and we had been walking a lot. Then I arrived in Norway at 1 AM Wednesday and after 6 hours of sleep I had to wake up and go to the airport again. 20 hours later I was in Dallas, staying the night at Corey Ray’s.
My friend, photographer and web creator Kent Erik Harridsleff joined me. It was really fun to show him my “American life”.
After a night of sleep we went to the bike shop, got my bike set up, and I managed to get in a couple hours of training in between the bike fix. Then, at 7 PM we borrowed the team car and headed north. Kenny and I.
It was a 7.5 hour drive. So we drove for a few hours before checking into a roadside hotel for the night. It was pretty low quality, especially the breakfast was terrible. Just some sugary cereals, cold coffee, a few pastries. At least they had 1-minute oats, so I got some food in.
We arrived at 3 PM Friday at a super nice AirBnB in Lawrence. Cool place. In the afternoon I got on the bike to check the course. Met up with Chase, who is racing with the Mazda Lauf team. I rode with him in Iceland too. Great guy.
Saturday morning it was a recon shake out ride for Pablove who support kids fighting cancer. I had a great talk with Nicolas Roche and another great guy. Super inspiring and fun to talk with him - he had such an impressive career. Last year he stopped racing professional, but missed it. Now he’s into gravel!
It is an early start, 7.30 AM, at sunrise. It is chilly, actually freezing. The neutralised start is terribly cold, but as we got started the speed went up and I got the heat.
Race really starts at mile 7 when Adam Roberge attacks. I managed to follow with some riders and we get a minor gap, but it all comes together. When we hit the first 4 mile single track a selection is made. It is not very difficult, kind of like a cyclocross parkour, but the front is stretched out, and gaps are appearing. I find myself in group three after the section, and have to chase back. After a few miles I get back in contention.
A little later, Roche sneaks away, followed by the favourite Peter Stetina. I make his wheel and suddenly we are four riders ahead. It doesn’t take long before the rest of the remaining peloton are reacting and close the gap.
One of the riders, Stefano, looks strong. A little later he attacks. Nobody follows. I decide to go after him. I accelerate up to him. The two of us are away. The gap increases to more than a minute.
We have been up the road I guess for about 6-7 miles. Then Roche comes from behind. He has bridged up to us. Perfect I think. Now we are three. But just after Stefano has some mechanical problems and has to stop. Okey, Nic and I left.
After a few more miles some of the favorites come from behind. They are going fast! I am struggling, but manage to stay with them. We were five riders. A little later Adam Roberge also makes it. Six riders.
But the riders in the 20-men peloton aren’t give up. In a longer hill, they put the hammer down and make it up to us. I barely manage to hang on the back of the group. Again we are all together.
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At mile 55 we hit the longest and most difficult section of single tracks. I am out of gas. I just have nothing in my legs, it is like they are just totally destroyed. It’s strange, Kind of like in the World’s. Not sure what it is, some underlying virus or just a big drop in my fitness?
The single track is really fun with lot’s of turns, some sections you need to dismount and run. There are some rocks to avoid, but the tracks are very ridable with a gravel bike. Anyway, I ride my own speed and fall a bit behind.
The next 20 miles I am riding solo. It is a bit borring.
At the same time I start having problems with some stomach pains, and don’t feel very comfortable on the bike. Now its just about making the miles and getting to the finish.
Finally, another rider catch me. We do turns all the 20 miles to the next single track section. This one is another longer cyclocross course, of about 7 miles.
It feels never-ending. Twisty, up and down. If I had legs I guess I’d enjoy it, but I don’t. Still impressed by the organiser who made this long cyclocross section. Impressive work.
Then with just another 10 miles to go I arrive the final single track. I am now together with two other riders who had caught me from behind. The one rider says they are not far behind. The other are looking back, but ends up hitting my rear wheel and goes down to the ground. I yell back: “Are you okey?” He says “yes” and is soon on the bike again. The two of us who did not crash keep riding into the trails.
It’s called the river trails, as it follows the rider. It’s very smooth and super fun. We ride fast, but stay together.
After the section there are only 2 miles to go. We look back and there are three riders chasing. We do pulls and put some power to the pedals to stay away. He is from Alaska, it says so on his jersey. Riders are coming from all over to this race!
The finish is in the main street on Lawrence. We come together, side by side. With about 250 meters to go I hit and get a small gap which I manage to keep to the finish. Final result 17th.
The race was won by Adam Roberge in front of Peter Stetina, who takes the overall, and Griffin in third.
READ ALSO: Unbound Gravel
I meet Kenny at the finish. He’d done a great job also handing me bottles during the race. And taking photos. A little of everything.
I feel toasted. Nauseous. Tired. We make it to the car, drive to the AirBnB, I get a shower, some food and feel totally refreshed. What a day!
We pack our stuff and head back to the arena.
It’s an amazing atmosphere at the event. People are smiling, they have lot’s to talk about. I get a beer, which I give to Kenny, Belgian Waffle, a burger, and meet up with lot’s of my gravel friends. Racing these races you get to know so many riders. It’s something I really like about gravel, especially in the US. It’s the camaraderie after the race. It’s laid back and people are hanging out talking with each other.
Man, this was a great day and I feel a bit bummed when Kenny and I gotta hit the road driving back to Dallas, or at least the first part of it. I would have loved to stay longer listening to stories making more friends.
This is gravel. I love it!
Thank you Belgian Waffle Ride. Thank you Cadence Cyclery.
ALL PHOTOS BY KENT ERIK HARRIDSLEFF: Check out the album here.
DID YOU READ: World Championship in Veneto