Signature Cycles ambassador Nick Leeper recently took on the Belgian Waffle Ride California (BWR CA), a technical and challenging 126 mile, 10,500 feet of climbing race with 85 miles of road and 41 miles of dirt, much of it being single track. The race took place in San Diego.

He raced on an ENVE Melee built and provided by our team here and plans to also undertake Unbound, formerly known as Dirty Kanza next month in June. For that race he will using the brand new ENVE Mog and we can’t wait to see how he goes on it.

Below you can read his recap of the race!

The Race

This was my first time attending BWR CA and it has always been touted as a road race with some dirt sectors. After finishing Pete Stetina changed his view of the course and said this year it was a gravel race with road sectors, and I agree! Southern California received a lot of rain this year which rutted out the dirt and made it pretty rough.

The Bike

I chose to ride the Enve Melee with 48/35 chainrings, 10-36 cassette, and 35c Pirelli Cinturato Gravel H tires mounted on Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels at 44 PSI. I thought my setup would be quick on the pavement and have enough tire volume to be comfortable on dirt.


The Race Report

The race kicked off at 7am and hits a 1.7-mile road climb at mile 4 to break the field up before descending into the first dirt sector. My goal was to make it over the climb in the 2nd group and I was right where I wanted to be after an 8-minute effort at 440 watts. Things went south quickly on the dirt though as I came around a corner and a rider was standing in the line fixing a dropped chain. My only option to avoid him lead me to crash into a wood post fence. Fortunately, the bike and I were ok, but I dropped 30 seconds to my group and then was in group 3 with the lead women.

The group rotated well on the road, and I collected myself post-crash before we hit the next sectors of dirt around mile 23. Everything was going fine as we tackled the technical single track until I hit a square edged rock and felt my rear tire go soft. There was a puncture on the tread and near the tire bead. The sealant eventually worked but I had to air up multiple times and hold my bike sideways to get the sealant to pool at the puncture before sealing properly. I still had 15 miles of dirt to go until I saw pavement again. I nursed the tire the best I could but was haemorrhaging time to where I wanted to be. I had to air up one more time, took another spill on a rain rutted downhill, and was ecstatic when I was back to some smooth tarmac.

Once on the tarmac, I grouped up with 10-15 guys and we went into endurance mode. The punchy pace of the first few hours subsided and we worked together the best we could. We broke up a bit on the 5-mile road climb but then I grouped up with the Vegan Cyclist and others on the Black Canyon dirt climb. After that it was flat until mile 116 when the 5-mile climb to Double Peak begins. But before Double Peak we raced 12 miles of technical single track with a lot more sharp-edged rock. My tire was still low, and I felt the rim many times, so I had to take it easy.

Once I hit the Double Peak climb, I couldn’t push my target power of 300 watts. I was pushing 270 and getting passed more than I should have. I thought I was out of the top 100 but I descended the final 5 miles and crossed the finish line in 7:23, in 91st place.

What would I change?

I would run a mullet setup with a 48T chainring and a 10-52 cassette. This would allow me to run the 38c Specialized Pathfinder Pro tires and have a lower gear for some of the +20% gradient climbs near the end of the ride. I didn’t have a lot of cornering and braking confidence with the 35c tires on the loose over hard single track we spent a lot of time on. The wider tire would let me run lower pressure and have some better grip in those sectors. I also should have stopped to air up my tire one more time so I could have attacked the dirt sections a bit harder.

What went well?

The Enve Melee was a great choice for this race as it took a wide tire for the dirt and has a lot of aero benefits for the road. The Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels are very light, have a 25mm internal width, and are 40mm deep which is a perfect all-around wheel. My fuelling was on point, targeting 90-100 grams of carbs per hour in my bottles and 4 bottles of Delta G ketones spread over the day.

We talk a lot about bike setup, nutrition, race results etc. but the best thing about these races is the people. Two friends invited me to stay in an Airbnb with two others I didn’t know. I met the Opicure Foundation team on a pre-ride, we ended up having dinner together, and I rode with three of them at different points on race day. I spent hours riding and talking with Remko Rinkema. At the end of the weekend, I have seven more friends that I’m sure I’ll see again at future events. I caught up with numerous others at the expo and post-race that I met in previous years. The community grows and strengthens with every event and it’s amazing.

I would highly recommend any of the BWR events. They put on a good show, provide a lot of support, and the two courses I have done (Utah and California) have been challenging and unique.

A massive thank you to our ambassador Nick for sharing his write up! Next up for him is Unbound on June 3, a gruelling 200 gravel mile race in the Flint Hills region of the Great Plains around Emporia, Kansas. We can't wait to work together to prepare the ENVE Mog that he will be riding for that one.


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