This past month I’ve done the Tour of Flanders "Group" Ride (107 miles / 7.4k vert) plus a self-guided ride of Paris-Roubaix (11 of the 29 cobble sectors, 65 miles total / 0 vert (it’s dead flat), and yesterday the BWR Waffle (133 miles / 10+k vert). A contrast of the these three (3) rides is below, if interested. All done in past 30-days.
This was my 4th Waffle (I think), and did a Wafer 2 years ago, and helped Rick B last year man the aid station in Escondido, which was a blast BTW, and nice to "give back."
Yesterday, I suffered.
My prior Waffles have been a success from a physical standpoint, with a lead in of just 1 100-mile ride and some much shorter rides. It worked. Yesterday, was, the opposite. I peaked 1 week early, when I did a 45-mile dirt bike ride in Mission Viejo, and getting a PR on the following Sunday up the Three Witches, after no less than 80 rides of that beast. I had power both those days, as week before BWR. I guess after 2 months of riding hard, especially the past month, my body said enough! Heck I did a 8-mile spin on the flat on Saturday and could feel my legs were heavy, and dead. Still maybe Sunday would be better, but, by the end of the HVR climb yesterday, I knew I was in trouble. By the time I completed the first climb on Black Canyon Road, and starting the second climb on Black Canyon, my climbing climbing legs simply vanished. It wasn’t a bonk; it was different. I’ve heard riders, even pros, say there are "empty." That was me. I over trained, I guess. I quickly accessed this plight, knowing I have about 85-miles to go, and resolved to finish, which was sobering considering I still had both 85-miles to go, the length of a Wafer ride, but also another 5k of climbing. I focused on conserving enough energy to make it the Wall at the end of Questhaven. If I could make it up the Wall, at least I could get to Double Peak, and do my best to get up that beast. That was the focus the next several hours on the bike, those 2 climbs, both tough and at the end. Finishing was everything – I don’t want a DNF next to may name.
So I rode along and enjoyed the scenery, of which the second half the Black Canyon Road ride was breathtaking with beautiful Oak Trees, birds chirping, and water still flowing down the outrageous rocky canyon far below. The entire rolling hill section to the far eastern portion of the route was simply beautiful. To make it home, I developed a game of making speed on the dirt descents, on the dirt flats, and hooking up with faster moving groups on the open road, which really helped my plight. Heck I even dropped a group of riders on the nasty sandy dirt descent next to Lake Sutherland, way inland, and they didn’t pass me until miles later all the way in San Marcos. I played the tortoise and hare game to the hilt.
BWR & Tour of Flanders & Paris Roubaix
I’ve always loved Paris Roubaix. In fact, because I’m gullible to clever marketing, when I heard the BWR called the Hell of the North (county), I had to do it! So just a couple of weeks ago I packed my bike up to ride part of the Paris Roubaix route, and of course the Arenberg Forest cobble section. I then realized I could ride the Tour of Flanders "group ride" (We Ride Flanders) on the same trip (1 week apart, and literally only 40 or so miles apart). Well, after riding 107 miles and 7.4k vert at Flanders, which included all of the famous climbs and cobble sections the pros have been riding for 103 times now, I have a whole new appreciation of this ride. Flanders is simply fantastic, and for me a total blast. Even though there’s clearly a ton of climbing, I don’t think a single climb was more than a mile, and many shorter. Sure they’re steep, and often cobbled, but no long climbs. Also each is followed by typically a narrow, twisting, descending farm road that are a total blast to fly down. My heaven on a bike. Then there’s the many quaint residential streets, or idyllic village towns, included in the route. The most fun I’ve ever had on a bike, and yes I was physically crushed when done. Roubaix, by contrast, is a tempo of beat-down on the "cobbles," followed by a few short miles riding through farm land or also idyllic village towns and residential streets. At Roubaix, however, the "cobbles" are really boulders placed (years ago) and are simply evil to ride on. Impossible to describe. Most are long sections, from 1 to 2 miles, which take forever on the bike. No doubt riding the entire route, and all 29 sectors, is a complete beat-down, but it’s a pretty repetitive route. I feel for the pros riding it all the better now!
BWR, by contrast, is much tougher than either Flanders or Roubaix. To start many of the dirt sections are nasty, with crossing ruts that beat you up, or nasty rock out cropping, or lose gravel, or the worst, sand! Thanks the to BWR I’ve become almost comfortable riding on sand on a road bike, though it’s impossible (for me) to be totally at ease. A crash is just a moment away. So other than the nice smooth dirt road on the northern section of Black Canyon, it takes total concentration on on 40+ miles of dirt, never mind the physical beating, which is brutal by itself. Conversely, there is no worry to crashing on the cobbles at Flanders, which are certainly uncomfortable to ride on but easy, or even Roubaix, and I did the Arenberg wet, and wasn’t that worried about crashing. At the BWR the climbs are certainly longer, and many times just as steep. Even Peter Stetina said of his win at the BWR yesterday, which I still can’t believe a current World Tour Pro did the BWR, (see pic in link sent by Bill) “I’ve done a lot of classics, and I don’t think I ever suffered that bad in a decade of being a pro.”
So I’m glad I finished BWR, again, even in a physical funk. For me Flanders is more fun. BWR is a unique test, and tougher (I weighed 6 lbs. less this morning, even after a large dinner last night), which I enjoy on it’s own merits. A very tough and rewarding ride. We’re all lucky to live in such a wonderful county that allows for such a unique bike route, and kudos to the BWR team for putting on such a great event.
Way to go Hodges. You looked good passing me at mile 101, and finished strong. Got me good this year!
Congrats to the rest of the Descender participants.
2019 Belgian Waffle Ride