The Belgian Waffle Ride pedalled into Cowichan Valley for it’s first ever Canadian event from May 26 to 28. Affectionately known as Canada’s ‘warm land’, Cowichan was the first Canadian hot spot where cyclists turned up the heat to compete in one of three categories dependent on riders’ ability, and commitment.
Experience Cycling and Cycle Therapy were two of the bike shops that sponsored local riders for this annual event which brought out not only several islanders, but those from the Mainland and parts of the U.S. to Duncan’s Cowichan Exhibition Park.
BWR was born in 2011 when Monuments of Cycling founder Michael Marckx put drive behind his desire to build a Belgian-style classic in North San Diego County, in which 136 riders showed up for the first ever all day race of more than 210 kilometres (136 miles).
“Our desire was for the three-day BWR Unroad Expo to surprise and delight riders and families with bike-minded activities, plus music, food and entertainment throughout the festival like atmosphere,” said Marckx. “The event featured three different race lengths, from the beginner Wanna Ride, to the hard but not overly epic Wafer Ride to the full-on Unroad experience of the full 219 km Waffle that will test the best riders among us in new and untold ways with 2,600 m of climbing. We wanted to create buzz amongst Canadians about our fun and fulfilling races and get them to come join us next year.”
All three courses had traffic control, and stocked aid stations. Finishing riders walked away with a trophy, other schwag, and the rights to brag. Riders who geared up to complete the Wanna this year will have the chance to advance to the Wafer in 2024. The Waffle offered a prize purse to the top three male and female contenders.
While several seasoned riders took on the challenge of the full waffle, many opted to take on shorter distances of the Wanna and the Wafer which was more achievable for novice riders. Barb Floden competed in the Wanna and finished fourth in her age group with a time of 3:13:23.67. Local men who took on the Wanna were Cycle Therapy’s Patrick Jadan, Glenn Morris, and Dale Marat. In order, they finished 32nd, 33rd and in 50th place.
Nicole Boucher took on the longer distanced Wafer and finished 43rd, and 16th in her age group with a time of 6:44:16.68. When it came to local men in the Wafer, Alex Mann of Cowichan Valley Cycling finished 14th, while Cycle Therapy riders included Douglas Merrick who finished 19th, Mike Law (51st), North Cowichan councillor Chris Istace (108th), and Marcel Aubin (158th).
Embracing the challenge of the full Waffle in the mens category were locals David Huntley who was a top finisher in 65th place with a time of 8:49:22.20, Darren Meiner (135th) with a time of 9:51:11.57, and Experience Cycling’s Trevor M Jones (155th) completing it in 10:08:8.42. Cycle Therapy riders included owner Matt Grossnickle (160th), Ander Monro (190th), and Jordan Colw of Cowichan Cycles came in at 241st place.
“It was the longest, hardest ride of my life,” said Meiner. “I was good for the first seven hours then had nothing left for the final three, going up and over Mount Prevost after 200 km was brutal.”
One of the organizers was Cowichan Valley’s own cycling enthusiast Alison Keple, whose diligent efforts to bring this event to Canada finally came to fruition.
“I first did the Belgian Waffle Ride in 2017 in California, and was instantly hooked and have been back each year since,” said Keple. “I have also done the BWR in Utah, and this year will be headed to the event in North Carolina in June. To have BWR come here is extremely fulfilling as I have been working to make this happen for several years! I was excited to show the Cowichan Valley off to riders from all over the world; the great diversity of riding we have here, as well as our community as a whole — the sights, the people, the food, the drinks! BWR brought riders from the U.S. and beyond, and I think we have done a great job in showcasing the valley in the course.”
Keple said that out of 797 registered racers, 55 were residents of the Cowichan Valley. To a see the full list of results visit the BWR website.