2 of our very own Frontier Team riders (Quoc Vo and John Lee) drove from SoCal to the high desert of Arizona to tackle the BWR AZ Wafer ride. The Wafer ride is a shorter version of the Waffle length ride, but keeps all of the fun stuff while dispensing with some of the more boring parts of the longer distance race. This is definitely a bucket list race, so if you have been thinking about attending this one, read on for a really good race recap and book your travel for next year.

The BWR AZ was back at Cave Creek again this year with a slightly modified course. There were three distances, Wanna (33 miles), Wafer (68 miles) and Waffle (103 miles). I chose to do the Wafer as it contained all of the fun stuff…besides I don’t think I can handle the Waffle distance anymore. We got into town on Thursday and coincidentally met Pete Stetina on our recon ride. He said that the course was very slippery with loose sand. In his word, kitty litter.

The weather was perfect as Arizona usually is this time of the year. Temperatures started out in the mid 50s and quickly went up to the 70s. There were no clouds…just a breeze that turned into gusty winds by late afternoon.

The race started early at 7:30 with the Waffle riders starting…there were all the usual gravel pros like Pete Stetina, Sofia Gomez Villafane, Keegan Swanson so this race is pretty popular. After the Waffle folks took off…it was time for us Wafer folks. This year the race started with a road climb that like the BWR CA helped to spread everyone out so that the first dirt section was not so congested. Well this hill was like 6 miles long at about ~4% average. It was not really hard but it did split folks up into groups. I sat toward the end of the pack as I had decided that after the recon ride that I did not have the skills to ride the gravel sections with any kind of speed. I did not want to be that guy at the front of the conga line.

After what seemed like an eternity as this hill was pretty long we get to the first gravel/unroad section. BWR AZ had three kind of gravel sections. The first and most challenging are these rolling speed bumps that were similar to BMX pump tracks except they the bumps were not evenly spaced out. My friends called these moto whoopisies. This took some skills (which I didn’t have) to ride fast as you have to be able to move your weight around as the bike went down and then up over the bumps while navigating the loose sand that was the bottom of the dips. Then there were some puddles in the dips that you couldn’t see until you came over the top of the bumps. All of this was happening as you were descending as these bumps were on a downhill. I was far enough back not to see it but up front, there were a lot of crashes as a lot of folks where not able to handle these undulations and would lock up their brakes causing crashes.

After surviving this moto whoopsies sections, I got to the next type of BWR AZ gravel which were single track with loose sand. This next gravel section were twisty single track gravel. The single track trail was made tricky by the fact that the trails had ruts filled with sand that made them slippery. The constant twists coupled with cactus on the side meant you had to stay alert. Since I rode this section the day before…I made sure to take things easy and try to ride through the sand instead of on the slippery side of the trail. I was doing pretty well and was riding along nicely when I came up upon a rider from San Diego with a mechanical. It seems like she had crashed and managed to get her chain all tangled behind the cassette. After taking off her wheel and untangling her chain…I managed to get her on her way. I then rode up and down a few steep rutted pitches that seemed to be another feature of this section. You had to be careful to pick your line correctly and so that your front wheel doesn’t end up on all of the ruts.

I was doing well and had only had to walk up a couple of hills where folks stopped in front of me. I then came up upon a couple of riders trying to repair a broken chain. After setting them up with a new connecting link… I was on my way to the first aid station.

The aid station was well stocked with bananas, SIS gels, water, electrolytes, pickles, PB&J sandwiches…even pretzels. I stocked up on some gels and water then it was off to the next section. This was the smoother gravel road with some sands and washboards. Since it was downhill, it was good chance to recover. At the end of this section was an asphalt section that was smooth but a little windy. I rode this part mostly alone and got to the second aid station. Again there were lots of water, food, gels and everything to keep you going.

It was back to the road as I rode into the McDowell Regional Park. A little climb and then a left turn onto the trail gets you into the McDowell Preserve. By this time I was halfway into the Wafer and the weather was heating up. This next section was a long slow climb of 3% in the desert. The trail was narrow but it was smoother and without all of the loose sand of the previous section. This section seemed to go on forever as it loop around the valley and had a few tiny hills. Towards the end of this loop, I did come upon a fallen rider. The emergency folks were there and it did not look. I learned later that the rider had a heart attack and passed away at that very spot.

The course then made it way back towards town but via some of the same moto whoopsie that I rode on the way out. This time, I had to ride slightly up hill through these BMX pump tracks…only now it was hotter. After about 15 miles it was a right turn onto pavement again. I had to stop for some food and who should pass me but Floyd Landis! He was with another rider and they waved and asked if I needed help. I waived them off and continued towards the third aid station.

At the third aid station, I filled up with water, electrolytes drinks and try to prepare for the final dirt section. Floyd was sitting at the aid station resting and we chatted for a bit. He used to spend a lot of time in San Diego where I live so knew about all of the local rides. I didn’t know at the time but he was sitting there relaxing as he was cutting his Waffle ride short and heading back to town.

I headed into the last gravel section which was very difficult. I don’t know if it was because I was exhausted but this section was very treacherous. There were plenty of rutted single tracks filled with loose sand and steep rutted pitches. I had to walk quite a few of it…Floyd on the other hand…just rode right through everything like he was on a bike path.

I finally made it through this section to the last aid station. I had a Coke and the folks there told me that I was in the finishing stretch. Next, was back on the twisty gravel of the Maricopa trail. It was the same type of sandy, single track but it wasn’t very long and soon I was back on the pavement.

Once on the pavement…it was a 6 or so miles downhill ride to the finish. Although there was a headwind, it was a great way to end a ride as one could ride over 20 miles and hour without much effort. I rolled into the BWR expo after 7 hours…feeling great and very accomplished. Although it was not a fast finishing time…I was able to enjoy the scenery, helped a few people finish the ride and did not have any mishaps. That is what makes a great ride for me!