The 6th Edition Of The BWR Course Is The Most Dynamic Yet
The BWR, as it’s become affectionately known, is a truly unique event here in the US replete with 17 off-road sectors, dozens of climbs, winds, waffles, frites, Lost Abbey ale, more waffles, and more Lost Abbey ale. It proffers a taste of European bike racing and is the only place you can get it in North America. And thus, it gets its moniker as the most unique cycling event in the country. As a reminder to everyone, just because the event has been rated the Number One Gravel Grinder west of Flanders, doesn’t mean it is a Gravel Grinder. It’s not. It’s a road race; a proper one that requires skill, endurance, the right equipment, a love of off-roading and more than a modicum of lunacy.
Not unlike the Spring Classics, the BWR course has changed over the years and 2017 is no different. The county decided it was going to wait until the last minute to approve our route—thus making this year’s course the 6th in as many years. Can’t we just settle on one great course and repeat it? This year’s course is very different in many ways from the previous editions, but it does take its cues from the best sectors of previous years, as prescribed by the riders (anyone who complained), and added in some new ones to create the best, most dynamic course yet.
First the bad news, after all the tears and cajoling emails (and the county mandates), the course is shorter this year. It’s not even 132-miles, 212-kilometers. I know, it’s hardly even worth contesting, but blame the county, and remember that leaves more time for the Lost Abbey if you make it back there.
Ok, now the good news, there is more dirt than ever before and more climbing too. More than 41-miles worth of off-road stuff and nearly 13,000 feet of climbing. And the dirt is really dirty and rocky, and sandy and impassable at times, which means you will be walking your bike, right where all the cameras are. Smile, you have more than 100 miles to go! And don’t get sand in your cleats…
This year we are excited to add a few sectors that we have done in the past, but we are doing them the opposite direction (omgekeerde). We have also added in the most glorious and longest sector of them all, the combined Zwartenberg and Zwartenberger, which will account for nearly 12-miles of washboards and misery on the way out to the Hinterlands.
There is a host of shorter sectors we will get to navigate, all new to the event, and we still get to attempt the lovely water crossing, rock garden, and cactus laden Hodgesmeergate, but only after the 100-mile mark for Wafflers. The Waferers will get to chew up more than half of the Waffle and the only dirt sectors they will be deprived of are out by Zwartenberg and Sutherland Dam. They will get to contend with more than 24-miles of the dirty stuff.
A Flyby Of The Entire Course
Here comes some more bad news, probably the worst for some of you. In the past, a lot of Freddy Freeloaders would get to sit in for the first 18- or 20-miles, letting others tow them through the neutral section without ever getting their nose in the wind. This year, we (read; THE COUNTY) wanted to change that. So, after just four short neutral miles, riders make a left and the flag is waved, no need to wait. The Freddy Freeloaders will still have three uphill miles to try to hang on, but at mile seven their freeloading will be done. This is perhaps the biggest change of all! The BWR officially hits a wall here, Mountain Meadows, that will decimate the field, create havoc and force many to change their game plans. This climb is truly cruel and unusual (for the BWR). It’s also the first KOM of the day.
Keep in mind, some of the little, tiny climber types will gain an advantage here, but they are always the last ones to be able to time trial well and deal with headwinds for very long. After getting dropped, you will have more than 120-miles to reel those simpering waifs back in so they can draft off you until Double Peak.
After the initial mayhem, the course offers its first bit of dirt, albeit on a downward stretch on Poema Passenberg and then heads south, continuing downhill into the density of Escondido (the county is making us ride through here). Hopefully, the CHP will have each intersection covered per the plan and we will quickly find ourselves at a point on the course that the real riding can happen, free from lights and stops signs and other impediments, other than dirt, hills, and headwinds.
Next up will be a lovely dirt sector, Ysabel Kreek, which we will have a special prize for any rider, waffle or wafer, who is able to ride its entirety without dismounting or dabbing. At the end of this sector, where the first aid station is, Waferers will go left and head toward the end of Bandy Canyon and the beginning of Sandy Bandy. Wafflers will go right and head toward the left hand turn onto the Highland Arendberg. Once Waferers climb the Bandyweg they will go right instead of the left and head west toward Modest Mule.
Ok, Wafflers now get to negotiate with the pitchy sisters of the Highland Arendberg, the second KOM of the day, on the way to Ramona and the Hinterlands beyond. In the past, this was the place that the leaders established themselves and the chasers committed to riding together in a group. This year, things will have already been blown apart, so the ascent up Highland Arendberg will just be another stretch for riders to gather together or for chasers to make their way toward the front.
The Waffle Riders Continue On
Highland takes the ride to Ramona and a brief tour on Main Street before a left onto Magnolia, where the first KOS is waiting. After this, the road becomes the Zwartenberg and then the Zwartenberger; both climbs in the dirt that will surely be among the most memorable sectors of the event. Warning: Riders who have not made the cutoff time at the Ramona aid station, reaching mile 43.4 by 10:00 am (an average mph of 11 mph), will be turned around. At that pace, these riders will not make it back until after 8 pm. The Zwartenberg is the commencement of the longest dirt sector, which stretches for more than 11-miles. It’s a dastardly stretch punctuated by a dirt descent. WARNING: When heading down after the Zwartenberg, be sure to go very slow; use extreme caution.
The next part of this stretch is the Zwartenberger, an 11-kilometer climb that takes riders to Mesa Grande where they will reach the highest elevation of the BWR at over 3,200 feet of elevation. This is KOM #2. After that, and the aid station at the top of the climb, riders will get to enjoy somewhat benign riding conditions other than headwinds until a right onto Sutherland Dam. KOS #2 happens just after the right turn and finishes at the top of this slight climb. After which, riders will wend their way to the dam over varied pave and begin a gnarly descent after the dam. WARNING: When heading down Sutherland Damberg after the dam, be sure to go very slow; use extreme caution. Once at the bottom, the course heads up the backside of the Zwartenberg for KOD #2 then descends the dirt back down to the Ramona aid station before heading down the 78 toward Bandy Canyon.
At the bottom of the long descent, the BWR turns onto Bandy Canyon and makes a quick right onto the full Sandy Bandy sector, which in its entirety is a new addition. This year, Sandy Bandy is real – well you guessed it – sandy. This rather long sector is narrow and twisting and all of it into a headwind. Kind of the perfect place to make an attack off the front. Followed by the Bandyweg, which is a short punchy one-kilometer climb, the course takes riders toward the double whammy of the Modest Mule and Hodgesmeergate, both featuring headwinds that only grow stronger as the day wears on.
After a brief roll on asphalt post Hodgesmeergate, the route stays on a trail with whoops and jumps and ends up at another new gravel sector called Hodgendam, which is followed by Lemontwistenberg Omgekeerde. GO SLOW HERE!
Exiting Lemontwistenberg Omgekeerde, riders now get a reprieve along the bucolic Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood roads until a cruel series of dirt sectors that confront extremely tired riders, one after the next. First is the Cuervo Acervo, then the Gravelo Circulo, and then Mahogany Rush (GO SLOW HERE!), where there may be an Oasis, the likes of which will compel many riders to stop, get a photo taken, take a lavender spritzer, perhaps even sit down and gather themselves at the bottom of the final climb of the day.
After the Oasis, riders get to climb through the short sector called Albie’s, and then up the gravel San Elayhoberg, which is KOD #3 and takes riders to Questhaven. The course then heads up more to San Elijo and the fateful left hand turn onto the Muur Van Dubbelberg. It is here that the BWR CLIF OF FAME GAME challenge begins, where riders get to test themselves on this climb that grows ever steeper as they inch their way to the CLIF Arch at the top. There is a prize purse for both the top three men and women wafflers who climb the Muur Van Dubbelberg the fastest. For both genders, first, second and third place KOMers will receive $250, $150 and $100 from our friends at CLIF Bar.
The Last Stretch
Once at the top, riders can revel in the fact that it is mostly downhill from here; that most likely they will finish. However, there is still the Dubbelberg Twistenweg to contend with that needs to be handled with care, lest a slip of the tire impedes a hasty finish.
Once through the Twistenweg, everyone gets to enjoy a long downhill and flat route back to the glories of the Lost Abbey. It’s roughly 132-miles, 212-kilometers. Based on the difficulty of the sectors and climbing, we anticipate the winner to roll in at approximately 1:30 pm, while the last official finisher will roll across the line at 7:59:59 pm.
Once back at the Lost Abbey, there will be all sorts of culinary delights to indulge in from our friends at Gear Grinder Grill and kegs and more kegs of Lost Abbey Belgian ales for all to imbibe. Finishers will receive their bottles of Lost Abbey BAD ASS ALE and their ‘Finisher’ shirt. Make sure you have your Strava account and that you are able to either upload automatically or are able to plug your bike GPS computer into one of the computers we will provide. This is as much for determining whether riders completed the whole course (riders have cheated every year) as it is for determining the winners of the KOS, KOD and KOM categories.
Official finish time cutoff is 8 pm.
2017 CERVÉLO BELGIAN WAFFLE RIDE
Below please find the list of important sectors for this newest course.
Muur van Dubbelberg
2017 BWR CLIF OF FAME GAME: Clif Competition
Big thanks to Joe Yule for his tireless work on making the BWR look BAD ASS and for getting up out of the hospital bed after a terrible accident and broken pelvis to complete the map attached here and for being the genuine Hardman that he is. -MMX