The Best Gravel Setup for Belgian Waffle Ride: California from Eddie Anderson
Wondering what to ride at this year’s Belgian Waffle Ride: California? Hear directly from Alpecin-Fenix's Eddie Anderson on his recommended rig for the big race.
The Belgian Waffle Ride has a special place in my heart. In many ways, this is the race that launched my career. I lined up at the 2019 BWR San Diego without big expectations, but I finished the day in second place closely behind Pete Stetina.
In 2020, with the growing popularity of gravel racing, Team Alpecin-Fenix decided to create a gravel program and brought me on board the team for 2021, and my result at the Belgian Waffle Ride is largely what secured my spot on Alpecin-Fenix.
At the start, you will notice a wide array of bikes ranging from lightweight road racing machines to robust gravel bike setups. That diversity is part of what makes gravel racing so special, and even crazier is that any of those bikes could cross the finish line first. Through my own experience at BWR, however, I have found my ideal setup to be the Canyon Endurace as it strikes an amazing balance between comfort and speed.
Compared to a road bike, the bike's frame compliance provides the necessary forgiveness over bumpy terrain and its geometry puts riders in a comfortable position for the long day in the saddle, while still being lightning fast on the paved sections.
Riders who seek the utmost comfort, however, should look no further than the Canyon Grail. Boasting aggressive, gravel-specific geometry the Grail is a great choice for any gravel race, and will provide more comfort, control, and confidence than the Endurace. Although either bike might be victorious on race day, outfitting the bike with proper equipment is just as important as the bike itself.
With so many road sections, a fast-rolling tire is key for success, but one must strike a balance between lightweight/fast-rolling and durable. A flat tire is the slowest tire, and there are plenty of opportunities to puncture on even the first single track sector. Additionally, too narrow a tire and you risk breaking traction or getting bogged down in sandy sections.
I have found that 35cc slick tires strike this balance nicely. With so many road sections, I start with my tires at 50-55psi, knowing that they'll probably be 65psi when I finish, given the large temperature swing.
Finally, being such a long day in the saddle, comfort is key. This year, I plan to outfit my race bike with the Canyon S25 VCLS 2.0 Seatpost. Pete Stetina did this last year, and boy was I envious. I ride this post on my Grail and the added comfort is a game-changer. The post smooths out the ride when seated over bumpy terrain, and I don't notice any loss in efficiency when cranking on the pedals.
Finally, a solid nutrition strategy is paramount to success at BWR. "Eat early, eat often" I tell myself; if you're hungry, it is almost always too late. I try to smooth out my consumption by taking in 80-90grams of carbohydrates per hour in the form of solids and liquids.
If your stomach can handle a high carb/calorie drink mix, that is a great option as it is easy to neglect eating in the stressful first hour. Besides drink mix, my main fuel sources are 4Gold bars and gels. I try to avoid gels until the final 1.5-2 hours of the race to avoid any possible stomach issues.