By now you’ve committed to the Belgian Waffle Ride. There’s still time to turn back, but not really, because you’ve gravely overestimated your fitness and ability to suffer, and no number of sanctimonious, finger-pointing blog posts will ever penetrate the concrete cast of fantasy surrounding your cycling psyche. The other reason it’s too late is because, even though you know deep down that this will end badly, you’ve told too many people about having earned one of the coveted Hardman invites, and rather than swallow your pride now you’ve elected to have it violently shoved down your throat later.
Several people, a handful, actually, have kept up with the emails and blog posts and concluded that despite having been honored with an invitation, this simply isn’t the ride for them. They aren’t tough enough. They’re the ones who, after being invited to the king’s ball, realize they own no tuxedo and have never eaten with a salad fork, so instead of showing up in jeans and flipflops with a big wooden spoon, they’ve politely declined. They are to be respected, for they, above all others, know and respect the truth.
Everyone else will be a finisher or a quitter.
Out of the estimated 150 riders who will toe the line, most will sit precariously on the border between quitter and finisher. Some few are certain finishers. The rest? Touch-and-goers. What follows is for the touch-and-goers; those who have a chance of finishing but will need every bit of luck, strategy, common sense, multiple diaper changes and divine intervention to do so. DJ, I’m talking to you.
Unlike other hard rides, wanking at the back will not get you to the finish. Not only will freddy freeloading earn you the opprobrium of a purple card, but after a while there will be no more back at which to wank. No one will tow you. You’ll either be doing your share in a beaten down grupetto or you’ll be on your own.
Here are some basic rules you should memorize and follow if you’re a potential quitter. I know I am.
Rules of Survivorship
1. Let the fast people go the moment the hammer drops. Shortly after the neutral zone there will be a massive acceleration, followed by a sprint, followed by a bone jarring, gut-wrenching climb over gravel and dirt. Now is your time to say “good-bye” to these folks. Many of these idiots you will see later, babbling incoherently as they sit on the roadside, sopped in their own sweat, urine, and bloody stool as they mumble pre-recorded phrases like “HTFU” and “Shut up, legs.” Your goal is to finish and to do so without poopy drawers. That will be glory aplenty for this day, or for any day.
2. Play to your weaknesses. If you’re better on the uphills, go easy on the climbs, because the course has mile after mile of rolling terrain. If you’re better on the rollers, don’t make huge efforts there, because the course has over 9,000 feet of climbing, much of it on dirt.
3. Don’t put more than 90 psi in your tires. Steep unpaved climbs and long roads in soft dirt will fuck you up if your tires are too hard. You’ll roll just fine on the asphalt at 90 psi, and still get enough traction in the soft stuff so that you can power through without dismounting. If you are seen pushing your bike, or clumsily tipping over in the sand, you will be the subject of heckling, catcalls, and embarrassing YouTube video posts.
Corollary to #3: Run new tires. This is not the day to try and get an extra 122 miles out of those fucked over, worn out, multi-booted, threadbare pieces of shit that you got third-hand from Adrian. Slap on a pair of heavy duty training tires, use cloth Velox liner, and ride them several times to make sure everything’s copacetic.
4. Start eating on Thursday. The ride is too grueling to be completed with a big dinner the night before, waffles for breakfast the morning of the ride, and a pocketful of candy bars. Eat and eat big. Doesn’t matter what.
5. Do not sit in. If you don’t know what this means, you’re good to go. If you do, pull through when it’s your turn. And it’s always your turn.
6. Don’t take hero pulls. Not even one. If you simply rotate through for eight hours you will still be absolutely crisped. If your M.O. is “macho,” now’s the day to learn moderation. Your finisher’s jersey depends on it.
7. Eat and drink throughout the ride. Ingest food every hour. Drink liberally.
8. Prepare for the 90-mile collapse. At the 90-mile mark there is a nasty, steep little wall called Bandy Canyon. It’s the gateway to the true toughness, technical difficulty, and ball-breaking ascents of the BWR. Continually ask yourself as you try to pace your efforts, “How am I going to feel when all hell breaks loose at 90 miles?” Unless the answer is, “Like Superman,” ease off. Then ease off some more, as there are vicious climbs again at miles 100, 107, 109, and 112.
9. Don’t dream of glory. Dream of honor. The big prizes are for someone else. The coveted King of the Waffle jersey? You don’t have a prayer. Hardman? You’re the jellied donut, he’s the marble slab. Sprint champion? Green has never been your color. All you want is to acquit yourself with honor, which is to say you rode every inch of the ride and you DID YOUR SHARE. That is everything. That is all.
10. Remember that cycling is all about degradation and defeat. When Magic Johnson said, “The goal is winning, of course you want to have fun but we compete to win,” he wasn’t talking about you. He was talking about champions. Ring-wearers. Bearers of the rainbow stripes. Those with the indomitable will to conquer and hoist themselves atop the bloody mound of the vanquished and the dead. You are not Magic Johnson. You couldn’t even carry his peewee jockstrap from elementary school. At best, you’re a marginally successful masters wanker who wins the occasional race against old people. At worst, you can’t even do that. Knowing this, you will be better prepared for the bottomless chasm of hellish agony into which you are about to plunge.
11. Review the ride map over and over. When you’re done, review it again. Imagine it’s the detailed product description for the newest Zipp rim on CompetitiveCyclist.com, or some other cycling blathersite on which you gladly waste hours of your time. Know the course intimately. If you’re unsure, reach out to other victims for information. If you don’t know any of the other riders, give up now.
1. Life insurance premiums current?
2. Next-of-kin information left at the ride sign-in?
3. Significant other knows where you want the organizers to ship the corpse?
4. In the unlikely event you finish, have you reserved two weeks’ worth of sick days beginning March 26?
5. Cab money? There are no cabs, but you may be able to pay for a hitchhike.
6. Recited your prayers?
7. Kissed ass goodbye?
You’re ready to ride!
***Pre-ride course notes
- As of last week, additional challenging sections have been added with steep, shorty, punchy walls and rapid descents.
- Some of these new sections include dirt and gravel, with a particularly nasty section after the Couser Canyon climb.
- After this series of morale crushers, where some will fall off their bikes or grind to a halt as they flailingly try to navigate the uneven surface, there is a new, long component of dirt roads.
- One of the new unpaved sections has a “special surprise.” Remember when you were a kid and you loved surprises? Well, you’re not a kid anymore.
- One of the unpaved sections goes for a while, hits a kicker toward the end that will cause many to flail on and dismount or tip over.