Random thoughts on the 2019 Belgian Waffle Ride.
Article by: Rick McKee of RedMonkey Racing Team
The Belgian Waffle Ride is a unique race modeled after the European classics. What makes it so unique is not the distance (130+ miles) or the climbing (10K+ elevation). It’s the fact that 40 miles of it are on dirt. And not just a smooth dirt road. Many of the sectors travers local mountain bike trails.
It was a fun race for the first 90 miles, then I hit the wall. Hard. The last 40 (mostly dirt) was a mixture of smiles, tears, delirium, tears, and self-doubt.
The start was electric with 1200 riders on the line. I was wave 3 so I started 10 minutes behind the leaders with the last 300 or so riders.
The lead out to Del Dios highway was cool, with full road closure and CHP escort at 22+ miles an hour.
The first dirt section was a mess. Not only were we all bunched up, but there were hundreds of bottles already ejected from the earlier waves, and lots of people with flats. Seriously, its 2019, how are you not on Tubeless at this point? Even with road tires.
Once back on the highway, I set a solid pace up the climb and before I knew it we had a group of 20 working together and heading in to the second dirt section. I dropped the hammer in this section and we quickly caught the second wave.
I am seriously shocked I did not crash in that section..... I was way over my head and taking some unique lines to get around people.
My bike was set up was 42 in front and an 11/46 in the back. Not awesome on the road, but man was it nice on the climbs. I motored up the first paved climb (Highland) and the Black Canyon dirt climb passing packs of riders.
I was flying through the soft and fast Black canyon downhill passing people like crazy when a female rider FLEW by me. Like seriously FLEW. I caught her on the next climb and we rode together for a while... Until she finally dropped me on the road around mile 80.
Sag stops were first class and fully stocked. The first few even had bottle hand ups so you didn't even have to stop.
CHP was running traffic control at all of the major intersections, so you didn't have to stop in Ramona, crossing highways, etc (which was awesome).
Mile 121 was the "Oasis" stop (last one). I was there and in a bad spot mentally. I had been struggling and going very quickly back and forth between feeling awesome and wanting to quit. I'm standing there trying to take in food, and some dude rolls up, wobbles, takes a drink, and immediately throws up. I decided to leave.
At mile 122 (top of dirt climb), I was still not good and decided to take a legit break to get myself to calm down and get back in the game mentally. I had a ton of doubt about Double Peak coming up as well as the 3 climbs that were all 15%+ leading into it. I don't get self doubt very often so the fact I had self doubt made me second guess myself more like some sort of strange circular logic. I talked myself down, hyped it up, and then went back at it. Turns out.... IT WORKED!
Double Peak is pretty hard, but does not live up to the hype. It would not be too bad at all if you didn't climb for 2 miles before it. Personally the climb to Ridge Park from Newport Coast is harder.
Following Double Peak, its mostly downhill, along a bitchen MTB trail before dumping back on the road where we hit 45+ mph!! Then a few turns and one small climb to the finish.
Overall this event was a blast. And a total challenge. But it is world class and they make you a part of it, whether you are a top pro or some dude on a MTB just trying to have fun (there were a few of those).
I must have enjoyed it..... I'm already thinking about next year, which I never do this close to a tough event!