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Gravel

Belgian Waffle Ride still hasn’t published official results. Here’s why:

A week after BWR, results aren't published, riders are upset, and complaints are piling up. We spoke to promoter Michael Marckx about what went wrong.

It’s been a week since the Belgian Waffle Ride San Diego, and promoter Michael Marckx’s inbox is still overflowing with emails.

Messages from participants — as well as sponsors, partners, Porta-pottie companies — aren’t abnormal in the aftermath of an event, but the tone of the pile-up of emails in Marckx’s inbox last week was particularly angry.

As of Monday, July 26, eight days after the event took place in California, riders still do not have their official race results.

Update, results were published Monday, July 26 at 1:42 p.m. MST! 

At 4,000 riders in 2021, BWR San Diego is a huge undertaking. Photo: BWR

“It’s funny, on Sunday and Monday after the race I got tons of happy emails from people,” Marckx told VeloNews. “But the whole week has been filled with hate mail. It’s amazing how important seeing a result is. Your name and a number and a place. I can’t discount that desire. I do have a hard time with the rudeness, the hate mail. They’re emailing me, a person, some really nasty comments.”

Read also: Monuments of Gravel: Belgian Waffle Ride

For 2021, Marckx used OmniGo out of Boise, Idaho. OmniGo uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to time events; at BWR, riders were given a disposable RFID timing chip to affix to their helmets.

BWR
BWR two-time champ Pete Stetina picks up his number plate and timing chip. Photo: BWR

As has become de rigeuer in most gravel events, the use of the transponder should have provided live and up-to-date results as riders crossed the line. The expectation of immediate results, only to be a week-and-running without, has also fueled riders’ ire.

And so far, OmniGo hasn’t given Marckx an explanation for the failure that he can explain to the 4,000 participants who were at last weeks event.

“Someone tried to say it was the rainstorm at the beginning,” he said. “I think there was a technical glitch between the data that went into system in terms of number assignments and what actually happened with the transponders. I haven’t been given an adequate explanation. I was told I’d be given them by Friday, then it was Saturday, then Sunday. Now it’s Monday.”

As Marckx understands it, the timing company is using video footage and individual registration forms to confirm the results, going each individually. As frustrated as he is with the lack of transparency about the failure, he said that he realized channeling his anger at OmniGo wouldn’t get the 4,000 results processed any quicker.

“To get caught up in the forensics of it would delay the ability to send out the results and reduce the hate mail,” he said.

What cuts even deeper for Marckx, however, is the way fellow event promoters and industry colleagues have spoken out against the snafu, especially in light of how he and the BWR has been an industry leader in drafting — and freely sharing — protocols in how to successfully run events in the post-COVID period over the past year and a half.

Read also: The Grind: Belgian Waffle Ride’s COVID-19 precautions and how racers reacted to them

“It’s funny, there’s a race director or two that we compete with that did the race that love to go on social media and point out the flaws that we don’t have results,” he said. “That kind of stuff is probably more irksome than answering the emails. These are same people that I’ve provided the most robust COVID protocols with.”

 

BWR
BWR finish line vibes, results notwithstanding. Photo: BWR

Marckx expects to get results from OmniGo on Monday, July 26, and he’s waiting at his keyboard — where he spends countless hours on a good day, replying to emails from past and present participants — to draft the email to riders that will include a link to their long-awaited results.

Despite the glimpse into the uglier side of people that Marckx witnessed last week, he still holds firm that what he loves most about putting on events isn’t necessarily the races themselves but the people who attend them.

“A lot of people send me really nice emails,” he said. “And I take as much time as I can to meet people in person and chat with them. Every email I get I try and respond to. Every day is filled with responding to emails. Then, I’m at the event, and someone says ‘hey Michael, it’s Joe from Denver, you emailed me!’ And it’s that times several hundred. The joy of it all is the people of it. But when you get enough people there’s a bad apple in there every now and again.”