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Griffin Easter - 9th overall
Vice President OpiCure Foundation Pro Gravel Rider for OpiCure Foundation p/b OrangeSeal
“The second stop of the Belgian Waffle Ride Quadruple Crown of Gravel landed us in Hendersonville, North Carolina, aka, “The Hell of the East.” The OpiCure Foundation p/b OrangeSeal Gravel Team was present with racers: VP Griffin Easter and Sponsored Rider Lucie Kayser-Bril; Support Crew: President Cullen Easter and Community Director Sydney Berry.
None of us had raced nor reconned the route. Therefore, collectively we didn’t know what to expect. This stop included 130 miles and nearly 15,000 feet of elevation gain. A mixed terrain spanning unroads of rough gravel roads, luscious lakes, tight rooted single track, fast twisty paved descents, steep pitches (both gravel and paved) and canopied vegetation closing in around every corner.
In short, I finished 9th on the day. But, that doesn’t reveal the necessary blood, sweat and tears required to get there.
The legs were good, I felt strong on the climbs and had made the select front group, which included fellow racers: Peter Stetina, Nathan Hass, Paul Voss, Brent Bookwalter and Kerry Werner, to name a few. After what seemed like a VERY long time hellaciously motoring along we were seven strong. At roughly mile-70, we were descending a fast gravel road that included a number of large rock obstacles. Looking back, as I flowed down, I was too close to the rider ahead’s wheel and in an instant impacted my front wheel directly against those previously mentioned “large rocks.” It was an immediate two holed pinch flat and cracked rim. There was no chance for an on the fly seal, so I stopped and assessed the damage. “Damn, not a quick fix.” After spending that time plugging and refilling my tire, I got back in the saddle and began my day of chasing.
I was very frustrated with my “rider error” bad luck. All the work, all the dedication, all the time again lost due to mechanical mishap. As I rolled along a rider from New Zealand, Josh Burnett, zoomed past. My head quickly snapped back into the present and I glued myself to his wheel. Winning a race is what you always want when you toe the start line. However, more often than not when a streak of bad luck happens, other unlikely opportunities present themselves. Josh Burnett from NZ came along and changed my day for the better. We made it through the big barn aid station at REEB Ranch, where Cullen and Sydney waited. Seeing them only strengthened my flame to chase stronger. My legs started to fire up and as we tackled the 2nd lap we continued to pick up more and more riders who had flown ahead earlier in the day.
At the final REEB Ranch aid station, Cullen said, “Just keep rolling, you are still in the points!” Even though I wasn’t at the pointy end, I realized finishing the best I could was still important for the overall Quadrupel Crown standings. Another boost of energy coursed through my body. Riders would come and go the remainder of the course, including myself. However at the end of the day, I finished and came across the line in 9th place. If you’d have asked me after that first double holed puncture where I'd finish, 9th place would not have been my guess.
All in all, I am happy with how I salvaged my day. I realized too, it’s other people that ultimately help the most during bad times. The gravel community is quirky, but it’s also one of the coolest groups to have the pleasure of battling and making memories with. Even more exciting, Lucie once again showcased her grit and determination finishing 8th place in her age category… showcasing that the bicycle is an incredible tool to help on the road of recovery from opioid use disorder. Great work Lucie! Congrats to everyone else out there, we all conquered, “The Hell of the East.”
Thank you to all our partners who make this project a reality. For now, it’s time to clean up the bikes, rest the legs and start planning for BWR Cedar City, Utah. See you all at the next one!”
8th Place in age category
OpiCure Foundation p/b OrangeSeal Gravel Team Rider
First OpiCure Foundation sponsored rider in recovery from opioid use disorder.
“Saturday evening, we're sitting outside, having what tastes like the best burger and fries in the world. "We" is the OpiCure Foundation Team: Griffin, Cullen, Sydney and me. Someone asks, "What were the happiest, funniest and most peculiar moments of your day?". It doesn't take me too much time to come up with my answers: Afterall, the day started at 4 am, and it's close to 10 pm now!
Happiest moment: Throughout the day, I had the feeling of being back home, cycling the small roads of the French backcountry, the grass, the trees, the farms... I haven't been back to France in a while, and cycling those windy, country roads.. took me there.
Funniest moment: At the end of the second loop, on the long road climb that maybe has a Flemish name that'd score big in a Scrabble game, I went past a family cheering who shouted at me, "You're the only one we've seen smiling on this climb!" Yes, the BWR, however hard it is, reminds me of how grateful I am for the opportunity that’s been given to me by OpiCure Foundation and their supporting partners, and how lucky I feel to be able to do what I love most in such an awesome setting :)
Most peculiar: After looking up the word, I would say the loop situation, arrows and all! "Where do I go?" "Am I on the first or second loop?" "Does it ever end?" "I'm sure that was the hardest sector - it's gonna get easier - well I guess not just yet!". But as hard and peculiar as those loops were, what was rad was getting to ride for a quick second alongside the best in the sport that were lapping me! How cool is it to see the favorites pass by like rockets? Really awesome if you ask me!
Once again the Belgian Waffle Ride delivered. I found that course harder than the one in San Diego, and I can't wait to see what Utah and Kansas have to offer! Two done, two to go :)
The Black Bibs, Orbea, Fizik, Kenda, Kask / Koo, Xpedo, Flow Formulas
Aim Big, Take risks! While a top 10 at any BWR event is very respectable, I did that already multiple times, so I went to take a chance and my aim was for a podium. With that in mind, I debated a lot on how to best accomplish that. I consider myself one of the top climbers out there so usually a climb is not something I’m too worried about, but unfortunately due to schedule, coming to Asheville straight from Unbound and not wanting to travel with multiple bikes, and some supply and demand issues with equipment, I was going to be a little out geared for that 19% section and would most likely have to do some running and lose some time to the leaders.
My plan for the day was to be aggressive early on and do what I needed to do to get a bit of a head start before the point in the race that would create the biggest selection, that nasty uphill single track section at mile 56, KOD #2, and have the final selection come to me instead of having to go to it, and if for nothing else just to know I had an impact on the race. I set my bike up with some super-fast Kenda Prototypes that may or may not have won BWR San Marcos, to give me that extra speed I would need in the pavement heavy 1st half of the event. From the start, I knew my legs were fairly good and I was comfortable staying near the front. A few of us took some turns keeping the pace high and thinning down our lead group. At around mile-45, there was a little let up in pace and I slipped off the front, got a gap and went for it. I hear 20 seconds, then at the top of the climb I heard “almost a minute,” and then I was shortly joined by one rider just as I was about to go into the selection point at mile-56.
Unfortunately for me, I was right and had to do a bit more hiking than I would have liked and was quickly caught by the leaders around the half way point in that segment. At that point I had been a bit in the red from the previous effort and from keeping up running and found myself in between groups after we hit the valley on the way to Pinnacle Mountain. Chasing, chasing, chasing - going up Pinnacle now, I see an arrow pointing left with the word “Waffle” below it and that’s all I needed to see and followed it. 10 minutes later I started wondering how I had not seen or heard anyone in this single track section, or tire marks, but I didn’t want to turn around and find out I was on course. After catching many people I hadn’t seen before, and at the next aid station I heard multiple people asking “what happened” I knew something was off. I did the single track section that we were only supposed to do on lap 2. I guess reading comprehension when my heart rate is 180 is not good. Fortunately, this didnt add any extra mileage.
At that point my goal for the day was to enjoy being out in the beautiful Kanuga area, cheer for some of the other categories and keep the stoke high. This is my 20th season as a Pro and one thing I know is that I’m in a privileged position that I can call this my job. Results aside, I had a blast, but I’m already thinking about next year!