Thursday, April 30, 2015

Belgium Waffle Ride

Belgium waffle ride 2015

With northern Europe wrapping up it's spring classics season on Sunday, southern California decided to join the party with a little classic event of there own. The Belgium Waffle ride has quickly become a mythical event among the socal cycling scene thanks to it's unique course thats designed to challenge a road cyclists ability to handle all types of terrain imaginable. My decision to ride the event was not really my decision but instead my buddy robbie who told me I was racing! I couldn't come up with a decent excuse as why not to do it so figured why not? I was in socal and I'd heard so many awesome stories from people whom had tackled it over the years. Also personally it was a good way for me to test my ability in a group ride situation on challenging terrain. The mix of ashfelt, dirt, sand, mud, up, down, around, twist and turn, and wind that comes from every single direction, was a great opportunity to see how I handle my bike in all these conditions. So many of the surprises out on the course were ones that you wouldn't choose to ride on in training so I was excited to see what my bike would do underneath me. Someone asked me a few weeks before what specific training I would do? I simply replied nothing! I've been fortunate enough to ride my bike a lot over the last 7 years at all levels and on all terrain so figured I'd leave what to expect on the day for the day and have it be a big surprise! Anyways with that being said he's how my whole belgium waffle experience played out.


Preparation
In the couple of weeks leading in the questions kept coming "how are you preparing for the ride??". Eventually I cracked and did a little more research into what to expect. Firstly found out it was a long way and had alot of climbing and sections of gravel roads. None of that worried me, I'd done loads of 7+hrs over the years and climbed plenty of hills in the process. I'd raced strada bianchi in the rain and in the sun and roubaix aswell so figured I'd be able to handle whatever the course had to through at me. The other element however was equipment which was something I was completely under prepared for. I'd heard that anything between a road bike and cyclocross bike was used so figured I'd call the the experts at cannon dale to send me out the ideal weapon for the waffle ride. As always Jonathan Gerran had all the answers for me and within a few days a new synapse disc was shipped out to to get comfortable on. I've found that simply by having my bike built by Win Allen at Wins wheels gives me a good Oman. He had put my tri bike together which remains undefeated so he was the logical choice to get the synapse all dialed in. I have to admit it was love at first sight when I laid my eyes on my waffle machine for the first time! She was simply beautiful! Gun metal grey in color with snazzy dazzy blue and purple stripes, I simply couldn't wait to through my leg over her and take her for a spin. Once aboard I headed straight for the dirt section of the famed mullholland hwy. I figured I needed to know how it felt on the dirt so that was as gooda place as any for the maiden voyage. Sure enough she felt as good as she looked and I was instantly addicted to gravel grinding. You know when you get a new bike that's just that little bit special and you never want that first ride to end, yeah well my first ride on the synapse disc was just like that. 3hrs later chasing any gravel trial I could track down between Beverly hills and Malibu and it was only the loss of daylight that brought my ride to end, I was having a blast and couldn't wait for the waffle ride, luckily it was only 7 days away so I wouldn't have to wait long. This first ride however was a great sign as it was the same when I rode the slice 2 for the first time in preparation for Oceanside, instantly loved the bike, makes it more enjoyable getting up each day to go training when you love the machine your using! 

Over the last 18 months or so I've really enjoyed training down in the socal Encinitas area. With the ride being held in the area I thought it was an excellent opportunity to spend the week down there leading up and turn it into my belgium waffle week and not just a ride. Also conveniently my great mate Todd skippy skipworth was in town training whom has turned into my most regular training partner over the past few years across all continents! Our training and racing schedule seem to conveniently align across all continents all over the world, even Tasmania!! So I was chirpy as could be as I rolled down the 5 fwy toward San Diego on tuesday night to get my waffle week underway. As always when I head south I call in to see my American parents iin Scott and kimba tedro. It's impossible not to spend time with these guys and not leave feeling a few feet taller and capable of running though brick walls, they always put you in a great mood, just awesome people! So all was set to get my teeth stuck into the week ahead and it all kicked off with the Wednesday worlds group ride at 8am from Oceanside on Wednesday morning. I'd recently blasted around camp Pendleton during the Oceanside triathlon so was nice to be able to sit in a bunch and wheel suck along the same roads for a change!! Was a fast and frantic ride as usual and for the first time in my Wednesday worlds career I won the sprint to the traffic lights at the famed trestles surf beach at the end of the base! Perfect way to kick off my waffle week, form was on track!! The next appointment was to go and have the ritual piece of carrot cake at the panicken cafe which ways around 500gramms! It would prove to be my carb loading fuel for the waffle ride as I had a piece everyday leading up to the event. Oh I love those gigantic pieces of carrot cake! I planned on doing some recon of the course in my days down there leading up but decided that would be taking things a little to seriously so decided against that. I did however check out what was surpassed to be the first section of dirt for the ride with local John abate but that section was taken out so that was a good lesson for trying to be at all tricky. No my training days filled up with training with all my mates and numerous hours at the lofty coffee shop with Brandon and sunny discussing all things xterra so basically the reamining hours in the days were reserved for sleeping. Conveniently my buddy George hincapie and his brother rich were also in town for a couple of days. It's always awesome catching up with George and especially with the classic I was facing on the weekend gave me the chance to get a few last minute tips on getting down and dirty off road on a rd bike! His advice was pretty simple, hit all the off sections in front and ride as hard as you possible can across them!! Pretty simple hey!! The week expectably was flying by and before I knew it it was time for my final tune up before the big day on Sunday, the famous swammies bunch ride on Saturday morning at 8am from Encinitas. This was my last chance to cram in a little speed into my legs and also chance to test my condition ahead of sundays big ride. I decided to attack and attack and attack and tt away from the group and was firs the official STOP sign finish line near the church at the end of the elfin forest. So passed my final test and week's preparations were complete. Only thing left to do now was go and scoff down as much pizza and as many beers as possible with michael and Phil from spy who organized everything at dinner, get a good night sleep, and go and enjoy whatever the Belgium waffle ride had to through at me.


Race Day

I couldn't wait for the alarm to go off on Sunday morning, I'd been in town for an entire week and everybody was so excited about the big day. I refrained from a sensible breakfast of oatmeal and fruit and instead headed for the start location to tuck into what I assume was the compulsory waffles, eggs, and bacon! Oh and copious amounts of maple syrup. I'd never eaten such a breakfast before so had no idea how it would sit on my stomach but figured it had copious amounts of calories and I'd be burning plenty of them during the 7+hrs ahead on the bike! So with my stomach full it was time to head for the start line. Whilst en route I ran into British strongman chris spence who slipped me a couple of extra co2 canisters which would come in extremely handy later in the day!! So big thanks to spence, he's a champ. So finally we were all lined up and set to go and I was not surprisingly extremely relaxed, I had no idea what to expect so had nothing to be nervous about, it was just another long day on the bike. In patriotic american style a rendition of the national anthem was boarded out and the 2015 Belgium waffle was finally underway.

The race was extremely well organized and as such had a police escort. Later in the day that escort would only be with the leaders of the ride which was crucial in keeping things as safe as possible. It was all pretty mellow for the first 30km or so as everyone expectedly wanted to save there cookies for the remaining 200+km. At this point the first gravel section greeted us and true to george's advice I was first man onto the dirt. I realized that everyone was taking this ride pretty seriously so I just twisted the throttle a little to ensure there were no easy rides in the group. The gaps appeared quickly so I was a little more relaxed in knowing I would be able to turn the screws a little later on. The group seemed content to follow me around which didn't bother me at all, it just meant I figured if I'm going to ride on the front then I will just force a little selection so as I can spend the day up front and out of trouble. I didn't have to wait long for the opportunity with a nice little 1.5km climb cling after 40km. As we hit the lower slopes I stood up and went for it. I only a short climb to do something but was confident it would draw out some strong dudes for me to boogy with and at the top I had Phil Tinzman, john abate (my tour guide earlier in the week) oh have to also take the opportunity to mention the awesome energy bars john and his business partner jess cerra supplied me with for the ride, they were awesome. It was like have a bowl of oatmeal in a conveniently pocket sized easily digestible block which gave you the confidence you would have energy for hours on end. The choc chip peanut butter flavor was particularly awesome! So thanks guys and was great having John up the road. Also with us was local jellybelly rider Cody Stevenson. The great thing was all these guys knew where we were going so that was quite crucial as i had no idea!! There were already a few guys up the road which we quickly caught and a nice little group of 7 formed at the front of the race. We soon hit the second section of single track gravel and once we were on that I knew it would be the last we would see of the group for the rest of the day. The other exciting thing about hitting the gravel full gas was how comfy i felt on my new synapes disc, i could basically go full gas on the trusty steed bull dozed though everything in its path, i could slip and slide and drift it this way and that and it felt so stable, it was simply just plain fun!! all was going along nicely.

We rumbled along through the back streets of I have no idea what town! Was like racing in Belgium, left, right, left, left constantly changing direction that made me feel sea sick at times. Our little group were enjoying the ride as we all rolled turns, oh except one cyclocross rider Ryan trebon. I couldn't understand why he wouldn't just enjoy rolling along with the rest of us but I guess he was taking this thing seriously, It really annoyed me and later on I snapped. The next section of gravel came on a nice 4km climb and I decided to keep the pace on. I wanted a smaller group and by the top there was only 3 off us. Around halfway up we hit the first section of mud which proved to be a bit of a problem for me later in the day due to the amount I got stock in my cleats. I got my shoes clipped back in with a lot of force but I wasn't expecting the consequences later in the day when the mud of my shoes would turn to dry clay!! Anyways after this dirty section we were now 3, phil, trebon, and muself, and just 160km to go, perfect, would get a good workout! Trebon continued to not do a turn which again didn't bother me, I just let him sit there while I waited for the next opportunity to dislodge him but keep Phil with me, Phil is a great dude and organizer of the event so I really wanted to help him as much as I could have a great Belgium waffle ride. More rights and left through the back blocks of who knows where and before we knew it we were headed through the start finish signifying the halfway point of the ride. The situation was 3 of us up the road, really 2 as trebon was not assisting at all, and around 40guys chasing around 3minutes behind, perfect situation but was time to turn the screw.


2nd Half

Once out and into the second lap I lifted the intensity a little. With 120km in the legs of the group it was time to ensure that we didn't give them a sniff of being able to pull us back. 20km later phil's and my work was rewarded and we were now 6minutes ahead of a tired looking pack as we made the turn around at racho santa fei, we were well truly away now. Still trebon refused to enjoy the ride with us so we ignored him and waited patiently for the longest gravel section of the ride. As a cyclocross rider I knew trebon would have been fancying his chances to stick it to us there having stayed as fresh as he could all day while we dragged him along, that really annoyed me. So as soon as we hit the dirt I hit the gas and following a technical downhill section he was dropped and Phil and I were on our merry way without any passengers. Phil is perhaps one of the best bike handlers I have ever had the chance to follow. His background is as one of the pioneers of the downhill scene here in the USA and is a cult hero in California for that. You quickly identify a rider who really has that special ability to handle his bike and I quickly saw that in Phil. The result is you can trust there wheel and line 100% and you don't even bother looking where your going you simply follow the wheel in front of you. It was awesome ripping through the single track gravel with Phil, again slipping and sliding and hopping and bopping at full speed, the synapse disc was just so incredibly awesome to be aboard, I never ever felt in danger of coming off. Then we hit a rocky section and phil's line as usual was perfect as he literally thread the eye of a needle through the sharp stones and I know I was going to quick for my ability and wasn't able to read his line as well with all the sharp rocks around. Sure enough I hit one to many and that pssssss sound was there, I had gotten myself a front flat. I yelled out to Phil that I'd flatted but he decided to charge on, oh well, was now in for a lonely day but that was the least of my worries. By now the mud had turned to dry clay and my shoes were glued to my pedals! I couldn't unclip. Embarrassingly for me there were randomly people standing at that exact spot where I wanted to stop and I had no choice but to topple over right in front of the to bring myself to a standstill!!

On the ground and strapped to my bike it must have been an hilarious sight. I pleaded for help and eventually my shoes were loosened triathlon style and was up on my feet to change the front tyre. I certainly didn't change the wheel at any F1 pit crew speed but I wasn't in much of a hurry either, I figured I had time to take a chill pill and ensure I changed the tyre correctly the first time. This is where I said a thank you to my mate spence who had provided me with those co2 canisters to ensure rapid inflation!! I through the front wheel in and just as I did trebon came rolling past and I thought excellent, I'll get to pass him again! I got back on my bike, shoes still attached to it, and took off triathlon style, still on the dirt I got myself up to speed and slid my feet in, was excellent training for my next triathlon!! Once my feet were in I decided to leave my shoes completely loose as if I needed to get off again the only way out was to do it try style again. It was a slight inconvenience but on the bright side I wouldn't have to worry about my shoes being to tight for the next 100km!! Besides things like this are all what make the ride so challenging, you have to be prepared for anything and I simply had to deal with one of these unexpected obstacles, can certainly say I've never ever had such a situation occur before!! Anyways I was now back on the bike with feet in the shoes and gunning again for trebon. As I reached him I hit the gas pedal to ensure he wouldn't be able to wheel suck me again and hammered for the final few km's of the dirt section around lake hodges. Once back on the road I no longer had the police escort as it was up the road with Phil and I was instantly uneasy with that as I had no idea where I was going. The signs were few and far between to add to the challenge of it all soi rode very carefully to ensure I didn't get lost. 

Sure enough I cracked with around 50km to go and was convinced i'd gone the wrong way which was always my biggest fear for the event to be honest.  I have to admit at that point i thought bugger this and just type the lost abby brewery into my gps and head straight back to the start finish and call it a day. Fortunately my fear of quitting hit me just as quickly so i decided to turn around and head back in the direction I'd come from in the hope of running into another rider. As I rode backwards I was pretty agitated but also figured it's not over till the fat lady sings and so long as I could get back on course soonish there was still a good chance of riding Phil down. It turned out I was going the right was and it was only 2km back down the road that I ran into the 3rd place dude. It was no longer trebon, I assume he had quit, but I was simply relieved to see another rider! Fortunately whoever the dude was in the blue skin suit knew where he was going so I stayed with him until I could be certain I knew where I was going. It was great going fast but the problem was then you also went fast in the wrong way!! We had a time check that Phil was only 8minutes up the road and with around 45km to go so I knew I could ride that back once I knew where I was. I roughly knew the last 40km where we faced the final long and technical section of dirt and gravel road and the final run into double peak climb and then it was a simple decent down the gravel to the finish line. 

As we hit the final long dirt section at 40km to go Phil was 6minutes up the road, it was time to boogy. Once on the gravel single tracks I went for the gas, i had 100% confidence in my synapes on the gravel and I knew this was where Phil would be strong and I had to hold my own over the next 8km section of strada biachi! By the end of the section I was how I wanted to be, alone, and I was now only 4 minutes back. Once on the road I really hit the gas peddle as I knew that Phil would be really starting to suffer from spending 60+km up the road alone. The next little obstacle was quest haven which had a gate to climb when you entered and a gate to climb when you came out. Fortunately I was prepared for this with my triathlon set up and completely loosened shoes and I made a couple of swift transitions both on and off the bike much to the amusement of the the motorbike photographers now following me as I closed in on Phil. Here I have to admit I had a couple of bad moments energy wise as I'd basically been going full gas for over 6hrs now. After climbing 4000m over the first 220km I'd averaged 34kmph was wasn't mucking about and when I made this calculation I wasn't surprised I felt so light headed! I slammed down some gels and cold cokes from supporters on the side of the road and brought me back to life, I was ready for the final haul up the fearsome double peak climb!

Just as we swung onto the lower slopes of double peak I was on Phil. As I drew along side him I let him know I was disappointed he hadn't waited for me when I flatted before continuing on my merry way. Really he did nothing wrong and had every right to pedal on but I would have stop for him and at least offered to help but guess that's all part of the waffle ride, you have to take care of yourself so I just did the same and carried. Double peak certainly stopped me dead in my tracks and I quickly praised the cannondale mechanics for fitting a compact 34/32 granny ring to my bike as I now desperately needed it!! I rolled up the climb with all the force I could knowing I only had a decent down to the finish. It was amazing how many people were out there cheering on the climb especially fellow Aussie and star triathlete Luke mckenzie and his family. It was awesome to see that the whole cycling community got behind the event by either participating or competing themselves, was really a great atmosphere up there. I crested the summit and it was time to plummet down to the finish at the lost Abby brewery in San Marcos. This was a periodic the ride where you could finally enjoy and reflect a little on the craziness of the previous 6hrs 30minutes you had had on your bicycle.

With full police escort I entered the final few km's of the 2015 Belgium waffle ride. At this point I started to think of my victory salute as I wanted to have a little fun with it. I decided that a nice tribute to the event would be to create a W with my fingers to symbolize Waffle. I swung into the car park and the crowd there was awesome. Inhale no idea how many people there were but they were making enough noise to really fire me up and enjoy the final few hundred meters of the ride. As I approached the line I stuck up my hands in the shape of a W in celebration of the waffle ride. Once across the line I had to pedal on a little as I needed to pull out my feet tri style again to actually detach myself from the bike much to the amusement of everybody. I have to admit It was an extremely satisfying ride especially with the hiccups and hurdles I'd overcome out there on the road as I knew I'd rant my spot as a waffle ride finisher. To be honest that ride was so challenging there was no such thing as winners, everybody who finished the ride was a winner. It was so brutal that no body had any choice but to go the pace they knew they could survive at. It really was a ride of survival which even almost brought me to standstill a couple of times out there, to me that was the coolest part of the event, the comradary each and everyone who finished that event felt. A truly  Great ride.

With all the formalities done after the ride it was time to go and meet my buddies at the brewery. My training gang of robbie, Ryan, Dave z and e boz where all in there enjoying some liquid re carb loading and soon I was doing the same. One by one our other training gang in Paul, oliand my mate Brandon from xterra all trickled in and there was soon a room full of guys and girls in sweaty cycling gear slamming down some fantastic beers. It's was a bit like being in a golf club house after an Ambrose event where everybody has a great story to tell about how their round went. Soon my bike arrived still with the shoes attached and was being photographed here there and everywhere including up on the bar. The shoe thing was so hilarious and I never got tired of telling everyone who asked why on earth are your shoes attached to you bike?? My simple answer was try and get them off!! By days end my shoes were totally destroyed from people trying to dislodge them as beer after beer took it's toll on the party. Post race party games!! Yep was an absolutely awesome day and fantastic to be apart of such a great community event, i had no idea what to expect and I'm pleased about that as nothing could have prepared you for that ride. Was a fantastic individual challenge no matter what level of ability you are and if you have the chance to one day partake I highly recommend you make it happen, I'll be an amazing experience that's for sure!!

Cjw