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Gravel

Mo Wilson blasts the field to win Belgian Waffle Ride by 25 minutes over second place

Flavia Oliveira and Tiffany Cromwell round out the podium in 137-mile gravel race.

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SAN MARCOS, California (VN) – Moriah Wilson (Specialized) took the start at Belgian Waffle Ride California as the clear favorite, and her solo win by 25 minutes will make her again a strong favorite the next time she lines up for an American off-road race.

Unlike the prior two editions of Belgian Waffle Ride where genders raced separately, everyone took the same 7:30 a.m. start in San Marcos, California for the 137-mile race that featured 23 gravel sectors.

Wilson and Flavia Oliveira (Excel Sports) rode together as the two leading women for much of the event, but Wilson distanced Oliveira at the halfway point and never looked back.

Oliveira finished second and Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) outsprinted Sarah Max (Argonaut) to take third.

For Wilson, the BWR title is but the latest in a quickly growing list of 2022 wins that also includes the Life Time Grand Prix opener at Sea Otter, multiple Grasshopper Adventure Series races, the Rock Cobbler, and the Shasta Gravel Hugger.

How it played out

In an effort to string out the massive field, Belgian Waffle Ride race organizer Michael Marckx added a 2km climb that averaged 8 percent in the opening miles. The idea was to prevent a chaotic fight for position heading into the first singletrack section, which is what happened in the past two editions.

At the start, Wilson said that the separate women’s field didn’t have that issue last year. “We rode into the race more gradually, and just ramped it up as the day went on,” she said.

This year, with more than 1,600 riders barreling out together, the hill did stretch out the field but not eliminate the early morning aggression altogether.

“The start was the hardest part for me,” Wilson said. “It was really spicy and fast. It was kind of chaotic, but by the end of the [first] single track it had thinned out and the descent after that was no problem at all.”

Tiffany Cromwell in pursuit.

Indeed, after the mostly uphill singletrack that followed the long paved climb, Wilson found herself with Oliveira and no other women. 

The pair rode together, sometimes with groups of men, until the race’s halfway point that featured a rough climb and tricky descent. The ‘Wildeman Wildernis’ sector also played a decisive role in the men’s race. Coming into that section Wilson punched ahead.

I wasn’t really trying to go alone,” she said. “Going up the climb I dropped Flavia. She was holding her own on the [dirt] descents quite well. She was on her [Specialized gravel] Crux; I’m on my [Specialized road] Aethos. I figured I would get a head start on the climb and figured she’d catch me, but it ended up working out.”

 Oliveira, as is often the case at gravel races, was all laughter and jokes at the finish.

“Washboards are not Flavia friendly,” she said of the Wildernis sector. “We were together for quite some time. She dropped me on the washboard climb. But also, I’m not as savvy as a descender like Mo. So I knew I was going to struggle there anyway. But I’m pretty happy overall.”

For Wilson, the next races on her calendar are Cedar Hollow, a Utah cross-country race next weekend, and Gravel Locos in Texas in mid-May.

Belgian Waffle Ride California

  1. Moriah Wilson (Specialized-Meteor), 7:31:23
  2. Flavia Oliveira (Excel Sports), 7:56:52
  3. Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM), 8:05:16
  4. Sarah Max (Argonaut), 8:05:19
  5. Caroline Dezendorf (Easton Overland-Cervélo), 8:06:17
  6. Isabel King (Canyon), 8:10:37
  7. Lindsey Stevenson (Ventum), 8:18:53
  8. Amben Neben (BaseCamp Cycling), 8:19: 46
  9. Raylyn Nuss (Steve Tilford Foundation), 8:22:02
  10. Maeghan Easler (United Cycling), 8:26: 57

You can see complete results here.