Dust and Waffles: the Belgian Waffle Ride
Michael Marckx stood still, surrounded by tall grass at Modest Mule, one of areas he named over a massive expanse of North County San Diego. A flat, open field 200 yards long and wide, Modest Mule offered a clear shot of the hills, Typically open with dirt on either side and frequented by mule deer, coyotes and rattlesnakes, the singletrack was beset by the tall grasses that recalled open wheat fields of Europe.
“This is exciting,” he said. It was the understatement of the day as he peered forward down the straight shot of singletrack that split the field.
“Here they come!” someone shouted.
Like a herd of buffalo, a distant splash of color—helmets weaving along the path—drew closer, a light plume of dust rising behind, the sound of wheels touching dirt and gears clicking, popping in the distance. Less than a minute later, the group— some 20 men—were upon us, and thundered past. The lead group of the Belgian Waffle Ride was 20 miles into a huge day, and charging. For the next few hours, hundreds and hundreds of riders would trundle through, their own days being formed with a healthy coating of dust and sweat.
Marckx, the event’s founder, smiled, then during a break in the riders, dashed back down the singletrack to leapfrog along the course and watch his creation—a moving, breathing entity—take form.
And oh, there was plenty of grit, sweat and dust… and maybe just a bit of blood. But waffles and post-ride beers makes things all right. That synopsis was more the rule than the exception for riders that took on the Canyon Belgian Waffle Ride, which just wrapped this Sunday.
The event, conceptualized in 2014 as a North American counterpart to the brutal (but beautiful) Spring Classics of Northern Belgian and France, continued to grow, with over 1,700 riders lined up to take on either the event, which varies in length and course from year to year, with the course publicly announced just two days before the event. This year’s event was befitting the ride’s “Hell of the North (County) moniker: 135 miles (with over 10,000 ft of climbing), with the Wafer Ride (its 74-mile counterpart) netting “only” 6,000 ft of vertical ascent.
Canyon was again proud to support one of America’s most unique gravel events, on that on its face is less a race and more of a personal war of attrition, exposing weakness, testing gear, and of course testing will. The finisher’s reward? A bottle of specially-bottled Lost Abbey ale that holds greater weight in value than many finishers medals…something to be savored some special day after the event.
After a Friday VIP dinner where the course was announced, riders were blessed by cool, overcast skies… but that was a far as “gifts” go for one of the most notoriously unforgiving rides out there. There was enough broken pavement, sandy sections and straight-up rocky singletrack to bend—but not break—the will of about 1700 riders that lined up at the start in San Marcos, Calif.
Canyon ambassador Meredith Miller arrived in San Diego from her home in Boulder, Colo. for her BWR debut. Miller canvassed the treacherous 133-mile Waffle course in eight hours, 34 minutes… and came back wide-eyed and caked in dust—but smiling.
“Yesterday after the race I didn’t think I’d ever want to come back for this one,” she said. “But today, I’m like ‘yep, I’ll be back!”
In conjunction with the event, the Belgian Waffle Ride and Canyon partnered to donate a Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 SL to the Five for the Trail auction, with one lucky donor claiming the new ride. The initiative raised over $16,000 for San Diego Mountain Bike Association, helping offset costs towards improving trail access for mountain bikers in San Diego County as the group works with the City of San Diego and San Diego County. In building trails in new locations, SDMBA uses the funds toward equipment rental, equipment purchase like rakes, shovels and trowels, and food and drink for the team of volunteers doing the work on the trails.
Our congrats to all finishers, and enjoy the spoils of an epic ride not to forget!