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Monuments of Gravel

Riders to battle heat, dust at Belgian Waffle Ride Utah

Peter Stetina, Whitney Allison, Eddie Anderson headline the 2021 edition of the Utah race.

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California’s Belgian Waffle Ride returns to Cedar City, Utah this weekend for the second running of its Utah-based event, which in 2020 was one of the only mass-participant bike races in the United States to take place.

Belgian Waffle Ride Utah kicks off Saturday, September 25 at 7 a.m. in downtown Cedar City, sending riders out on a dry and dusty course that was only recently abridged by a handful of miles due to loose sand on a treacherous descent.

“As you may know, the Cedar City area received massive rainfall last month; so much so that many trails have either been rendered unrideable, made more dangerous or simply disappeared,” the race recently announced on its website. “As a result, we had the delight of altering the routes, and the changes are quite fun.”

The new route with the climb and descent removed. Image: Belgian Waffle Ride

Organizers removed a climb and dusty and technical descent from the midpoint of the 127-mile Waffle course; the alteration knocks approximately two miles from the distance of the long route, and actually adds four miles to the 82-mile ‘Wafer’ route.

Indeed, the trails and dirt roads around Cedar City are dusty as ever this September, about a month after the area got a months-worth of rainfall in one week. Cedar City received flooding, and clips showed massive floods pounding through nearby Zion National Park.

Hot conditions in September dried out the washes, leaving them filled with a talcum-like dust that shoots skyward when passed over by truck or bicycle tires. Saturday’s race is likely to be hot and dusty.

This year the race overlaps with Colorado’s Pike’s Peak Apex mountain-bike stage race, and the overlapping dates can be felt in the elite categories. Defending champion Keegan Swenson is racing the Apex; so are EF Pro Cycling riders Alex Howes and Lachlan Morton; as well as Russel Finsterwald and Sofia Gomez-Villafañe (Clif Bar), among others.

The pointy end of the women’s race will also look different this year, as last year’s podium finishers Rose Grant, Kathy Pruitt, and Casey Armstrong are also set to miss the event. Pruitt is in attendance, but an injury has prevented her from starting.

There’s still plenty of horsepower at the front of both races, however. Peter Stetina comes in as the heavy favorite, having finished second here last year and won the BWR opener in California. Another rider to watch is mountain biker Sandy Floren, who nearly upended Stetina in California after attacking early. And Eddie Anderson of Alpecin-Fenix is also on the start line and looking for his first victory at a BWR event.

The women’s race could see a new name added to the growing ranks of BWR winners. Whitney Allison is racing less than a month after her top-five finish at SBT GRVL. Team Twenty24 has Melissa Rollins and Charlotte Backus at the event.