Heather Jackson (Canyon CLLCTV GRVL) and Russell Finsterwald (Specialized Off-Road) won elite titles Sunday on the long ‘Waffle’ route for the Belgian Waffle Ride California, the second of seven stops on the ‘un-road’, multi-surface endurance series. In the 79-mile Wafer division, Amy Charity won the women’s title and Brian McCulloch won for the men.
A new route for 2023, the Waffle covered 128.7 miles in San Marcos, California, located in the mountains by the same name north of San Diego. While the long route was shorter in distance than last year, it matched the last edition with close to 11,000 feet of elevation gain. A little more than 40% of the course consisted of non-pavement, called “bone grinding roads” by organisers, that provided sandy and rocky paths, arduous climbs and single-track strewn with water crossings and cacti.
For the women, Flavia Oliveira Parks (Excel Sports p/b Specialized) replicated her second-place finish from last year. This time she was almost 10 minutes off the best time set by Jackson, but outdistanced third-placed Paige Onweller (Trek Driftless/ABUS/WTB/HED) by almost 12 minutes.
With only days until Jackson’s 39th birthday, the former track cyclist and triathlete flew under the radar among the favourites. A week ago she put in a solid day as one of the top finishers (there are no official times recorded) at Gosh Darn Gravel in Tennessee alongside Canyon’s Peter Stetina.
“I was so stoked to take the win today. Possibly, the biggest win of my career,” Jackson said, who finished third overall in the 100-mile Mid South Gravel.
For Finsterwald, he improved from a fifth-place at the opening BWR two months ago in Cave Creek, Arizona, which was won by Keegan Swenson, who did not race in California.
Jasper Ockeloen (CANYON/SRAM/Sockeloen) was 2:47 back in second while Alexey Vermeulen (Jukebox) was third, 3:37 back.
The BWR California is also part of the ‘Quadrupel’ crown, a group of four races in the series with an omnium points system that pays an overall prize purse of $25,000 shared equally among the top five men and women. The California and Kansas races are mandatory events for Quad qualification.
Memorial for Moriah
Last year rising gravel star Moriah Wilson won the women’s division in a dominating performance. She was 34 minutes faster than any of her rivals, and finished 27th among all genders in the overall standings.
Ten days later while preparing for another gravel race, Wilson was shot and killed in Austin, Texas. To honour Wilson, organisers of BWR California retired the number 12, which she wore in 2022.
In a statement, the Monuments of Cycling organisation that produces the Belgian Waffle Rides said, “we have decided to retire her #12 for all BWR CAs. We wish to honor Moriah’s memory and lasting legacy by forever celebrating her and this number.”
|2||Flavia Oliveira Parks||0:09:38|
|10||Ian Lopez de San Roman||0:14:28|