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Cedar City 2020: Hardman, Hardwoman, and kUDOs Awards

Cedar City 2020: Hardman, Hardwoman, and kUDOs Awards

Each recipient of these special awards wins a custom-made Winnaars Jersey from Eliel Cycling.

The Hardwoman Award

Kathy Pruitt - Hardwoman Award presented by Monster Hydro

Retired professional mountain biker
Former Junior Downhill World Champion - 2000
Bronze Medal World Mountain Bike Championships – 2009
Winner, vp Endurofest California Enduro Series – 2016
Only person to win every round of the california state series
Singlespeed Cyclocross National Champion - 2010
Kathy had an interesting journey to reach the finish line in second.

Here's Kathy's Canyon BWR CC story...

My alarm on race day couldn’t come soon enough, I was ready to see what I could make of the day ahead. Was I nervous, so much yes as I barely chocked down my plate of delicious pancakes. The only expectations I had was that I would finish in the top five. Beyond that I was excited to be in this arena with these people and have a chance at really pushing myself. I had been looking forward to this event for months. Meanwhile, outside it was in the high 30’s and I wasn’t looking forward to the cold sting in my hands and face when I had to get out and warm up before the start at 7am.

As I stood at the start line with all of the other competitors eagerly waiting for the ride to begin, I noticed that I was feeling a sense of calm. I knew the feeling; I had experienced it many times before sitting at the start gate of a downhill world cup. It was the sense that I was ready and looking to get the ball rolling, or in my case the wheels. As we headed out of the sleepy town and into the outskirts and desert landscape I began to look around and see who was who and try and keep my position near the front. My plan was to attack the first dirt segment, and never look back. With my riding background I tend to look forward to the technical sections of trails, to my luck at mile 25 the course would become more technical and diverse with loose dirt and downhills. I had made it out with the lead group despite three earlier crashes from the peloton which I narrowly missed each time. One of which I found myself riding on the top tube with one foot unclipped desperately trying to steer away from a few poor souls who hit the deck in front of me.

As luck would have it, I crashed hard on a 90-degree pavement to gravel turn right at 20 miles. I swung wide and got pushed out into the deeper gravel, like I was on ice I lost my wheels and slammed into the gravel road with both my knees, shoulder and head. Everything slowed down in my mind as I was sliding across the ground waiting for another rider to crash into me, luckily though I was in the clear and popped right back up looking for my bike. At this point I was now at the tail end of the large lead group and I wanted to get back on my bike and catch up. I took about six pedal strokes and realized my handlebars where too crooked to continue and my derailleur was bent. I had to stop again, straighten the bars out and try and bend back my derailleur. Grabbing my brakes and coming to a stop, I looked behind me to see my boyfriend Rob running in my direction. As fate would have it, I happened to crash right where he was standing off of the course taking pictures. He was the nice person who handed me my bike when I got back up. But I had been so focused I just said, “thank you” and didn’t realize it was him. With a bit of muscle, he was able to fix my handlebars and get them back straight. I was fiddling with my derailleur for about 30 seconds. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would behave for the rest of the day.

With more determination now more than ever and two very bloody knees I began to make my way up and over the first climb and descent. This first KOD was called, Ronde van Rode Heuvels and where I had originally planned to make my gap from the other ladies. When I made it to the first aid station 32 minutes later and had passed back all of the ladies, I knew I needed to find a group and get moving through the next 30 miles of open desert rolling landscape. We were a pack of about 5 and moving pretty quick, I was hopeful I would be able to hold off my competitors who I knew where trying their best to catch up to me. But for how long?

Around mile 50 was going to be a tough but short climb, it was the #2 KOM called Muur Desert Mound with a grade of 4.5% and a bit over 2 miles. I had the chance to pre ride the course and had told myself not to give up any more than 45 seconds on this climb. I watched as Rose Grant increased the distance between us and knew that I just needed to hang on. My legs where screaming, my knees where not cooperating but I just kept on turning the pedals over knowing that a downhill was coming and then more technical terrain where I could catch back up. Up and over, I started to pedal and tuck looking for the group ahead. Just as I entered the next dirt segment, I caught sight of them. I was one steep pitch away and then I would almost make contact with the group and back with Rose. 

Crunch!  

My chain drifted into my wheel as I shifted into my top gear. I had no choice but to get off and run to the top of the small hill. I got my chain back on the cassette and tried again, but once more the chain went into the wheel. For the last time I gently bent my derailleur and hanger back away from the bike. I made a mental note to avoid the easiest gear unless absolutely necessary from then on. As I settled in with one other racer, we rode together for the next 40 minutes and played catch up on the road segment. We found a small group and sat in trying to get shelter from the wind and resting for a bit. This was around the time that I was joined by a new group which had Heather Jackson and Crystal Anthony in it. 

By the nature of the course, and the wide-open roads, trying to make a “break” for it would most likely lead to being caught again and tiring yourself for no good reason. I knew that the three of us needed to work together if we wanted to try and catch the group ahead. Along with the other men in the group we stuck it out for the next 30-40 miles. My plan was to wait for the last big climb. As I summited the top of Muur van Kanarraberg I knew I was about 5 minutes behind Rose. With only 25 miles left of the race I had to give it my all now. 

Rolling through the finish line I was relived and happy. I would have liked to come in across the line in first, but I won my battles out there and 2nd was well deserved. It’s the adventure of gravel racing that keeps me coming back and wanting more. Maybe next time I’ll avoid sliding across the ground, I bet my knees would thank me for that one. 

The Hardman Award

Brian McCulloch -- Hardman presented by Monster Hydro

Brian is a cycling coach, professional rider, former 2018 Canyon BWR SD Winnaar, a scholar and gentleman with a big heart beneath his vest.

Here's Brian's Canyon BWR Cedar City story...

The Roman Philosopher, Seneca is quoted as saying, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,”. And when it comes to the masochism of the 125-mile route that was BWR Cedar City, preparation was most definitely paramount.

But sometimes, our most diligent preparation and best-laid plans come up short on game-day. Meaning, that grit and determination become our most powerful allies while out on course.

Despite being unable to utilize my preferred method of preparation for major events, (i.e. attending other races to sharpen my fitness) I had prepared well for BWR Cedar City and was looking to race at the front.

Unfortunately, I must report that I found my fitness wanting on the first KOM segment, the Rode Heuvels. The opening miles of BWR Cedar City were “full-on” with lots of mayhem and jockeying for position into, as well as throughout, the first dirt sectors.

At each juncture I worked to find optimal positioning and was thankful that my iRC Tire and Enve wheel equipped BMC URS was up to the task of bashing through dirt sectors at break-neck speeds.

But when the climb steepened and the pace did not relent, I was forced to ride “my pace” on Heuvels. This meant I lost contact with the front seven riders who would become the race-long break-away.

It was humbling and unfortunate, but there was no time to pout, it was time chase like a mad-man to see if my off-road skills could get me back in contact with the front-group.

Fortunately I had ridden the sector of dirt that followed Rode Heuvels multiple times and was confident that I could ride back to the lead-group. And as we rolled throw the majestic Parowan Gap Petroglyphs I did just that, making contact with the lead group along with six (or so) other riders.

This made the lead group approximately 12-13 riders at just 90min. into the bike race...

That’s a rate of attraction that is simply unheard-of and proves BWR Cedar City was all fireworks from the moment the race began.

What followed on the “Rollers For Rouleurs” was simply awesome. Instead of slowing or toning back the pace, the lead group kept the pressure on, which further whittled the lead-group down to about ten riders.

Although I could have benefited from a reduction of pace I was totally stoked to be racing so hard. It reminded me of the day-long break-aways I have been a part of in races like the Tour of Utah and Tour de Taiwan, short-hard pulls, and an unrelenting pace. It was awesome!

As I am sure you have experienced at some point in your time riding, I got caught up in the race, just being in the moment. I was totally focused on the wheel in front of me and taking my pull, but unfortunately that led to me making a critical error, I had yet to eat.

So as we approached the “De Ruige Kale Heuvels Full” sector of dirt that was denoted by a raised cattle-guard, my energy was flagging and I was digging in my pockets for some food!

“WRONG TIMING, BUDDY!” Was what I was thinking as I tried to turn onto the dirt sector still with one hand in my pocket searching for a choice morsel of energy.

This left me at the back of the ten-man group. Immediately when we crossed the cattle- guard the pace picked up and fractures started emerging in our group.

Everyone was struggling to hold the wheels in the sandy double-track.

A few wheels in front of me a gap opened that no one could close, partly because of legs, but partly because the technical double-track trail left no room to switch from side to side. Once you picked a line, you were stuck unless ‘evasive maneuvers’ were enacted.

So after fighting back to the front, once again I found myself “off the back”. Not the place I imagined I would be, nor wanted to be for that matter.

And this is why I opened up my story with a quote about opportunity...

It was in that moment that I was presented with a choice; I could ease off and use the next 80-miles to concoct a story of my demise that justified my poor performance.

Or, I could “stay in the fight”.

In a former life I was a motocross racer traveling the country racing on the toughest tracks the U.S. had to offer. During those summers I learned a thing or two about grit and what it means to “be relentless”.

Simply put, when you get knocked down, you have to get back up. In bike racing, as in motocross, there are no substitutions, no alternates, no time-outs, and no re-do’s.

Quitting is not an option.

So it was with that mindset that I set about ‘cheer-leading’ my two other “off the back” break-away partners as we set-out to complete what would turn out to be the remaining 4 1/4 hours and 85-miles of racing.

Sharing the pacemaking among three-riders is no picnic, and unfortunately our “OTB” trio became a duo when one young lad was dropped.

This left me and my new buddy Joe Goettl, a runner and gravel convert, to share the pace-making into the windiest and most desolate portions of the Cedar City course.

Again, mindset was key because being off the back, is no fun, but I choose to look at it as I we were in front of what would become a massive chase group, running us down.

For four-hours we were a carrot for that sizable group, but instead of looking back and resigning to being caught, we looked ahead. Always, stay in the fight!

Over our time as two-man OTB break-away Joe and I shared the load when each other are cramping, worked together in what seemed like an endless head-wind, and even offered encouragement to one another when things just seemed hopeless.

Take it from a Coach, never under-estimate the power of some good old-fashioned optimism.

I knew our OTB break-away needed to last to the base of the final KOM on course, the ruthless Muur Von Kanarraberg, which it did.

At that point Joe and I shook hands, and said, “let the best man win”.

Despite getting an early advantage over Joe on the Muur, again I was forced to “ride my own pace” as he caught and passed me on the climb.

Even though I was low on energy and frustrated that, for the second time on the day, I was climbing like a school-bus, I committed to “staying in the fight” in hopes that I could claw back the position.

After all, the race is not over until the finish line, Remember, quitting is not an option!

So, after a long decent, some more headwind, a short climb and then 4-miles of ruthlessly technical single track known as the “Tolweg” I emerged on the road headed for the finish.

To my surprise, there was Joe, I had reeled him in. Could I pass him? And if I did, could I hold him off?

I wasted no time, accelerated with what little legs I had left and charged toward the finish.

I rode the final four-miles solo just hoping that I could stay away from Joe who I knew would be chasing me like a rabbet grey-hound.

So although finishing in 8th place was not what I envisioned when training for BWR Cedar City, I can tell you that I am pleased with the performance.

Why?

Because quitting is still not an option and I got to race my bike, something that not enough have been able to do in 2020.

And with that, I hope you will challenge yourself to line-up for one (or more) editions of BWR in ’21.

I assure you, the experience can be transformative if you allow it to be. Whether you are first, last, or just off the back with a positive attitude every Belgian Waffle Ride is a crucible with few rivals on the gravel calendar.

The kUDOs Award

Scott Sanders -- kUDOs Award Winnaar presented by Eliel Cycling

2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for Scott. Hs training partner for this race, Wade Jacoby, died of a widow maker heart attack while they were out training. Soon after, Scott's father suffered a massive stroke and with the restrictions in place for Covid, Scott was not allowed to visit his father before he succumbed.

Training for the BWR was a therapeutic way for Scott to deal with all the tragedy. 

The kUDOs award is given in honor of our friend, Udo Heinz, who was taken from us a few years ago by a criminally negligent bus driver. Udo was always a joy to ride bikes with and brought the best out of people. This Award is our most important one.

Here's Scott's story...

Lining up next to national champions and pros to take on the Canyon Belgian Waffle Race, one of the most unique and challenging races out there, is a lofty, unlikely dream for weekend warriors like me. But when BWR announced the Tripel Crown of Gravel and added races in Cedar City, UT, and Asheville, NC to their long-running race in San Diego, I realized my chance had come. Cedar City is relatively close to where I live, and I knew the terrain there would make for an extraordinary course. So I marked my calendar, sketched out a training plan, and registered for the BWR Cedar City race. 

One of my early training sessions was a weekend mountain bike trip to Southern Utah. On that trip, my seemingly super healthy 55-year-old friend suffered a widowmaker heart attack. Although I did everything I could and fought to save him, he passed shortly after the life flight helicopter’s arrival. Then a few weeks later, my Dad suffered a massive stroke and spent the next several weeks languishing alone in the hospital under COVID-era restrictions. He had lost his power of speech, rendering well-meaning FaceTimes assisted by exhausted medical personnel into exercises of helpless frustration. A little over a month later, my Dad died alone in the hospital, and I delivered the news to my ailing mother. The consecutive, traumatic losses of a close friend and my father generated a chasm of sorrow that I struggled to traverse. 

Riding BWR Cedar City soon became a way for me to produce something meaningful and positive out of this tragic year– to make the crossing to healing. Long training rides became therapy sessions for my soul. Additionally, knowing that the Cedar City course would push me to my limits kept me riding on the hard days when just getting out of bed seemed like a victory. Weeks of riding over gravel roads and trails, often through the fog of tears, built up my legs and resolve for a strong showing at BWR. 

When the race finally arrived, I was so happy just to be there. BWR courses are a series of challenging segments and include sprints, king/queen of the dirt, and king/queen of the mountain sections. Before the race, I diligently studied the map to know each segment’s characteristics, upgraded to the recommended IRC Boken 40mm tires, and packed my food and tools. I planned to take each section one at a time, try to make friends to help pace the flat segments, and, most importantly, remember to be grateful that I was riding BWR. 

The race’s start was chaotic, but I soon joined a group of riders and gleefully cruised through the race’s first KOM and KOD segments. Around mile 40, I started the De Ruige Kale Heuvels Full sector with its doubletrack trails and elevated cattle crossings. I was cruising and felt strong. I even allowed myself to start thinking about how all the pain and suffering of 2020 was finally paying off. Then at mile 45, there was a pop, the sound of broken metal, and my saddle bouncing off the rocks in the trail. The bolt holding my saddle to the post was sheared in half by the rough terrain. But I had worked too hard and been through too much to stop now. I was determined to finish even if meant riding without a saddle for the last 80 miles. So I picked up the broken pieces of my bike, stuffed my saddle into my jersey, and kept moving.

The next feed zone was a little over five miles away, and I hoped there would be a way to fix my post and saddle there. Unfortunately, to get to the feed zone, I first had to make it through miles of deep sand, more elevated cattle crossings, and up the Als Stroop een Sandheuvel Opduwen(which roughly means “pushing up a sandhill like molasses” in Dutch). Because I had to peddle while standing the whole time, there was no real weight on my rear wheel, and the lack of rear traction caused me to spin out while going uphill and fishtail on descents. For what seemed like endless miles, I was in a constant fight just to keep my bike moving in a straight line. 

When I finally rolled into the second feed zone, my legs were on fire. It was clear that if I couldn’t fix my bike, my race was over. Thankfully BWR deployed well-stocked Velofix vans to the feed zones. A super friendly mechanic replaced the bolt and reattached my saddle. A rider I met in the first section of the race even waited for me, and I rode the rest of the challenging race alongside him in gratitude. 

Since finishing BWR, things have been brighter and more hopeful in my life. Perhaps the emotional weight of 2020 broke with my seat post. I also think there is something transformative about challenges that push you beyond your perceived limits in the context of a supportive community. From the one-legged cyclist playing Reggae music from his wireless speaker (recommended company for at least a few miles) to my new-found trail partner who chose companionship over speed, the opportunities for genuine human connection at BWR were enjoyable and consistent. It was suffering I could savor. 

I expect the organizers of BWR faced many significant hurdles to hosting this race in 2020. I’m grateful they saw it through. Their persistence created the space for me to find and strengthen my resilience when I needed it most. 

BWR community, I will see you at the 2021 BWR in San Diego (I’m signed up and training). And, seat post willing, Cedar City again.

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