Belgian Waffle Ride began in 2011 in San Diego, when Michael Marckx brought to life his vision of a Euro-style spring classic that tackled multiple dirt sectors in place of cobbled sections. He never meant it to be a gravel race. But fast forward to today, and BWR has helped define gravel racing worldwide, and has blossomed into four events, with North Carolina (Aug. 21), Utah (Sept. 25) and Kansas (Oct. 31) joining the original California race.
Some 200 men lined up for the full Waffle ride. BWR also offers a shorter ‘Wafer’ distance. And, unlike many gravel races, the elite men and women start separately at BWR.
Official race vehicles look a little different at BWR than at a road race.
After leaving town, BWR tackles a series of false flats and rollers before a climb really breaks up the field.
The early front group was a mix of top gravel names like Stetina, Adam Roberge (Pinarello), John Borstelmann (Abus), Eddie Anderson (Alpecin-Fenix) and Brennan Wertz (Mike’s Bikes), plus regional riders whose names might not be as well known.
Stetina was second in 2020 at BWR Utah to Keegan Swenson, who raced more than 120 miles without a front brake.
Soon, the front group was down to six: Griffin Easter (OptiCure), Alexis Cartier (Velo 2000 Rhino Rack), Roberge, Borstelmann, Paul Voss (Aut’Said), and Stetina.
Stetina puts in an effort with Wertz on his wheel.
Race organizer BWR Michael Marckx isn’t one to sit behind a desk during his event.
Stetina and Easer test each other on the final climb.
Stetina couldn’t shake Easter on the climb.
Stetina took the front on the rough final sector, where Easter flatted.
Stetina has racked up a number of wins this gravel, including Shasta Gravel, Gorge Gravel Grinder, Wild Horse gravel, Oregon Trail Stage Race, Crusher in the Tushar, BWR San Diego, The Rift, LeadBoat, Rebecca’s Private Idaho, and now BWR Utah.
Clarice Sayle (Jakroo) and Heidi Franz (Rally) chat before the start of the women’s Waffle.
20 elite women finished the Waffle.
Anne Donley (Hylands Wingman) drives the group in the morning.
Sayle was enjoying the day on the early morning rollers.
An early start beat the desert heat (for a while) and made for soft light.
Whitney Allison (Bike Sports) is an event promoter of FoCo Fondo, a retired road racer, and an accomplished gravel racer.
Dust. It’s most certainly a thing racing gravel in the desert.
Like many gravel races, BWR Utah mixed in paved stretches with the gravel and singletrack.
Melissa Rollins (Twenty24) doing it right. Backus placed seventh in the Wafer race.
Allison was clearly the strongest in the race, simply riding away from the other women.
Nikki Peterson (Competitive Metals) rolls past a group of men.
Some rough double track added complexity to the race.
Hope you like deep sand.
Franz chased Lindsay Goldman (Factor-Eliel-Honey Stinger) to place third.
Marckx isn’t one too shy away from splashy signs.
Lindsey Stevenson (Abus), Holly Breck (Rally) and Donley round a corner at the bottom of the course, getting ready to tackle the big final climb of the day before the singletrack.
Allison recovers after her seven-hour, race-winning effort.