After an April that just wouldn’t quit, we got down to bidness last weekend. See who did what, and where, as we roll into spring.
Just a week after Whiskey 50, Alexey Vermeulen and Sean Kickbush made it west for the Belgian Waffle, and this time, they had back up. Staring down the barrel at 133 miles of mountains, gravel, and world-class riders, they needed all the help they could get. That same day, Mike Simonson was lining up with a sore butt, while Cody Sovis was spinning out 20 miles of singletrack. Basically, it was a really busy weekend.
Let’s start with Saturday. While Al, Sean, Alexey, and Danny were scouting out the final 33 miles of the Belgian Waffle Ride, Cody was scaring the trees back home at Mud, Sweat and Beers. MSB is a can’t miss event for two reasons. One, it’s fun as all get-out. Two, it’s only four miles from home and our agoraphobic rider really, really digs being able to ride to the start line. It’s also a fundraiser for the local non-profit ski hill and it’s now sponsored by Short’s Brewing Company, so it’s sort of a can’t-lose situation.
The Pro field was, as always, stacked. Cody’s Achilles heel is doing anything faster than hard tempo, which means his MSB experience is rather predictable. Dropped on the opening ‘Huma Hill’, a 15% gravel climb in the opening mile of the race, followed by about 19 miles of chasing, everything went rather neatly to script. This time, at least, he enjoyed some pleasant company with friends-of-the-squad Sunset Scott and Chad Wells tagging along.
At the same time, somewhere in Oxord, Michigan, Mike Simonson was doing a wheelie. The Simonster has, he maintains, wheelied ‘loads of times’ before. However, this spirited effort did not go to plan. In his mighty exuberance, he wheeled right onto his ass. More specifically, he wheeled onto his tailbone. Funny? Not until you realize Mike was less than 24 hours from toeing the line at a 100-mile gravel race.
Mike’s ride at the HellKaat Hundie was an experiment in pain endurance. Unable to sit normally on the saddle, and also unable to stand for long periods, and without access to a recumbent, he kicked off the day awkwardly shifting his weight and torturing any number of strange, small muscle groups to compensate for his injury. He did this for a number of hours until, inevitably, that telling sting of an oncoming cramp seemed into his muscles. Somehow, made it to the finish where a mere mortal would have just stayed home. (Editor’s Note: His butt still hurts. Wish him a speedy recovery.)
Over on the Left Coast on that fateful Saturday, just as Cody was hitting the finish line in Traverse City, our brave squad were brunching ahead of their final recon ride. For Sean and Danny, it was a chance to redeem their rubber after the flat-fest in 2018 where Sean begged, borrowed and… well, we don’t know how he paid for them, CO2 for 7hrs, while Danny was forced to hit the syrup early.
The traditional BWR mass start was replaced by waves to help with the 1,800 riders funneling into single track issue. This just meant that the 11-mile “neutral” start for the Pro wave averaged 47kph. If you’re not in the top 20 into the single track, you’re gonna ride twice as hard and still finish 20 minutes off the pace.
Sean and Danny made the cut but Alexey’s day hit a snag with his first flat at 12 miles in. Meanwhile, Al was chilling in the back with Pretty-D, who totally dabbed. For everyone, it’s a day of racing until it turns into a day of surviving. At Mile 90, Danny came off the gas; for Sean, that mark came around 115 miles in. The jagged rocks of BWR got the best of Alexey a few more times as he motored past groups, flatted, came by again, flatted, came by… over, and over, and over. “Oh hey, that kid again.” Still, he was all smiles when he passed Al who was having his traditional final-climb beer (PRO TIP: order off-menu at the Oasis feed zone, they have cold beer).
“oops, that was our team leader.” Al said, having no idea that Alexey had flatted and was behind him the whole time. Domestique Fail he thought, as he took another swig of Corona Light.
Sean showed up for the grey-beards and destroyed the brutal course in 7 hours and 10 minutes, keeping the winner, Peter something, within an hour.
Despite the bad luck, Alexey already said he’s going back, having seen the pure fun of BWR. Al is in. Danny wouldn’t miss it. Sean is, of course, a waffle maniac who, it should be pointed out, was relieved to have earned his waffles at race’s end. The entire weekend, starting on Friday and running through the race with rides, industry meet-ups, and tons of group rides, is one everyone should put on their bucket list.