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Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas concluded the American gravel season yesterday in Lawrence, and the top finishers ranged from Olympians to riders you probably have never heard of.
Here is what some of the top riders said afterward.
Tiffany Cromwell, 1st
Cromwell has had a busy year, starting at Strade Bianche through the classics like Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on through the Giro d’Italia, the Olympics, the world championships, and the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes. She wasn’t too fond of the cyclocross section, although she rode it well. Cromwell also had to navigate riders from the two other, shorter races that were held at the same time, which was a particular challenge in the final wooded singeletrack section.
“The cyclocross section was pretty tough in parts. The final singletrack was awesome. I enjoyed that much more. I had to get through a lot of people from other races, and they were all super supportive so that was great.
“It was definitely a good year. Now I just take some time off. To be completely honest, after Roubaix my head had switched over to holiday mode already. I have only been doing one-hour rides. So I think this road season helped me get through this race, being so long. I am going to go support my boyfriend [Valtteri Bottas] now through his races. He still has five [Formula 1] races to go. So I will enjoy not touching my bike.”
Flavia Oleivera, second
After Cromwell and Oleivera dropped Shell, Oleivera went it alone at about 22 miles into the 111-mile race. It was too early. She lost time to Cromwell in the cyclocross section.
“Oh my god, what a rookie mistake by going too early. Also, I need to work on some mountain bike skills. This gravel bike is my first off-road toy. It’s rough to be a rookie. I feel like I’m a Cat 6. My remounts – what a disgrace.”
Danielle Larson, third
Larson crossed the line believing she was fourth. Sarah Flamm had been in third, but missed a turn and finished behind Larson. Larson was happy with the race regardless of her finish position.
“That course was everything I have ever wanted in a course. There was a full cyclocross race at like mile 60. I jumped over barriers and someone offered me a beer hand-up. And then there was a part that was like a crit. That was amazing. All the singletrack was so fun. Even on the cyclocross course, there were gnarly, really technical parts with rocks.”
Hannah Shell, fifth
The Cervélo-Kask-Shimano rider was chasing in third when she missed the turn that others — including her husband Jake Magee — did, too. The course had been changed last-minute, and organizers told racers to follow the course arrows, not the GPS file that all racers had been provided.
“Where the course went right, I went straight. I followed my GPS. I got to the bottom, saw the mud, and realized I had missed my turn. It was heartbreaking, but I’m happy to finish. Obviously, it’s a shame that they had to change the course at the last minute. What I was focusing on was making the selection with Tiffany and Flavia was amazing, and I was really thrilled with that. And I know what I’m capable of, it’s just a matter of getting there.
Tanner Ward, 1st
Ward, the Arkansas state road, time trial, and criterium champion, was in a four-man move with Christopher Prendergast (Jamison Capital-Cannondale), Ethan Overson (Cinch), and Alex Hoehn (Wildlife Generation). He attacked them at the start of the 6.5-mile cyclocross section. He was nursing a low rear tire.
“It was pretty muddy early, and I was a bit bigger than some of the other guys. I’ve never raced cyclocross before, I just know that in the mud, it’s everyone doing the same thing [without anyone getting a draft]. So I put the pressure on early, and got a gap.
“I was running really low pressure at the back, so I was trying to be really careful in those rocks. I had two deals early on — probably 50 miles in — where I had to stop and reload with air. I don’t know if I burped it or what.”
Gian Paolo Mondini, 5th in the Wafer
A 1999 Tour de France stage-winner, Mondini now works as an athlete liaison for Specialized Racing, and he was at BWR to shephard Remco Evenepoel and Mattia Cattaneo. He was surprised by the difficulty of the event.
“It’s hard, really. But I think the guys had some fun. It was good. It’s a good event. It’s good to have these kinds of champions around, and all the people can stay pretty close to them. We should try to do more and more in the future.”
Christopher Prendergast (Jamison Capital-Cannondale), second
Ward dropped Prendergast in the cyclocross section, but Prendergast didn’t give up. He clawed back time in the singletrack section and in the final kilometer sprinted to almost get to Ward before he crossed the line.
“Tanner had probably had two minutes going on me into the forest. I pulled back a bunch of time. I could see him, he had maybe 20 seconds when I got out of the forest. I was cramping when I was in the saddle, so I had to stand. Oh, that was hard! I wish I had another 100 meters, but kudos to him for being able to hold it off.”
Ethan Overson, third
The Cinch rider was in the decisive four-man move that came apart in the cyclocross section. He was racing on low-profile tires and road pedals. After he and Alex Hoehn chased Ward and Christopher Prendergast, Overson dropped Hoehn heading into the final singletrack section.
“Super cool course, but definitely brutal. It’s kind of hard to pick and choose. Do you compensate for the road, or the cyclocross part. I clearly went for more of the road part, and definitely suffered more in the cyclocross section. But happy with how it came out. I pre-rode the singletrack the day before and had it in my mind, so I just pinned it out of every corner, and it worked out well.”
Adam Roberge, seventh
Adam Roberge, a pre-race favorite to win, followed the GPS route provided by the race organization. As with Shell, Roberge and three other riders missed a turn that had been changed the night before. The course markings were correct, but the GPS route conflicted with the markings.
“I should have won. I followed the course exactly. I know I won. I know I am way stronger than all the other guys.”