2017 Belgian Waffle Ride

One hundred and thirty-two miles instead of one hundred and fifty? Cake walk, pshh… I probably don’t even need to train for BWR this year. Right?

2017 Belgian Waffle ride finish Ryan Steers Giant Ride 100

So very wrong.

Ryan Steers Belgian Waffle Ride start call up 2017 Giant bicycles

This year I was lucky enough to catch a ride down with Jeff Byers from Topical Edge and Jesse Anthony. The traffic on the way down was murder. Word to the wise- never take the 405 South after noon on a Saturday.

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The race had a completely different feel this year. Pro cycling teams like Jelly Belly and current and former Pro Tour riders made the start feel more like a stage of the Tour of California rather than an unsanctioned, sweaty, dusty, beer swigging suffer fest.  It was awesome to get a call up and I tried not to let it go to my head as I couldn’t exactly coast on my laurels for 130 miles. I just wanted to finish. I was also thrilled to be on the new Giant TCR Advanced Disc, which, with 28s ended up being the perfect tool for the job.

2017 Belgian Waffle Ride dirt road bike gravel descent Ryan Steers

The start was controlled and smart. Too controlled and smart. These guys knew what they were doing. No one was going to break. We hit the first dirt section and the bottles began to fly. Word of wisdom- ditch the flimsy, superlight bottle cage and get something that grips. I was right behind Jesse when he went down. He immediately popped back up and began to straighten his bars. No keeping that guy down.

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By mile eighty we hit Black Canyon and the temperatures pushed toward 100 degrees and by the peloton began to separate. Halfway up the climb the lead group of about ten pulled away. Scott Lundy and I fell off the back, pushing our watts to the red with hours to go. It wasn’t worth it. We were caught by a chase group as we neared the top and settled in. No podium today but it became a fight to finish. The legs just weren’t there. Something felt off. We all have those days and unfortunately I pick a long one to be slogging through.

2017 Belgian Waffle ride sand road bike beach

Bottle after bottle came and went and still I couldn’t hydrate. Somewhere near Julian the road became terrifying as jacked up pickup trucks passed within inches, middle fingers out the window and horns blaring. Classy.

Double Peak Belgian Waffle Ride 2017 hot

Endless heat and suffering crept in around mile 100. Double vision. Nausea.

By Double Peak the bike was wobbly. I passed Lundy somewhere around the Oasis as he grabbed his legs and rolled around on the ground screaming from cramps. Brandon Baker and Jon Hornbeck crept into sight ahead. They actually looked like they were enjoying themselves, chatting and smiling. I would have hung out and ridden with them but I was so ready for the ride to be over I pushed through. More pain and suffering. The finish line. Vomiting. Aches and fever. Full blown flu.

2017 Belgian Waffle Ride Finish Ryan Steers Giant

2017 Kenda Cup West #4 Santa Ynez

2017 Kenda Cup West Santa Ynez Endurance Rain Mud Dirt Club

The Dirt Club in Santa Ynez has to be one of the most fun courses and locations of the entire series. Sure, Big Bear is in the mountains and the views and singletrack are amazing but after the second or third trip up there it starts to get repetitive. Being a wine nerd, the Los Olivos area holds a special place in my heart. I have many fond memories of endless wine tasting, racing the road bike up and down Foxen Canyon, and hammering away on the mountain bike in rolling green fields of the Dirt Club (all on separate occasions of course). It’s basically a sunny and warm paradise…or so I’d thought.

The alarm went off at 5:15am and the dawn was just breaking. Plenty of time to load the car and hit the road for the hour and half drive and make the 9am start. It was overcast and freezing for this time of year. Forty eight degrees. I threw in an extra jacket and arm warmers and put on an initial application of Topical Edge before hopping in the car. I picked up Tydeman in Agoura at 6:15 and we started the journey.

By 7am we were in Ventura and the sky grew darker and darker ahead. Mist started to coat the windshield. The wipers flicked on. The outside temp read forty-seven. Not ideal. The mist turned to rain as we approached Summerland and by the time we hit Santa Barbara it was steady. The mountains were shrouded in clouds. Maybe they’re holding back the rain and the valley will be sunny and blue? No such luck. The rain grew harder and by the time we hit Santa Ynez it was pouring. The ground was saturated and there were large puddles in the road. It had been raining for a while. Temecula holds water well, Big Bear is sandy and just fine in the rain, Bonelli wasn’t too bad a few years back, but Santa Ynez? All clay. The trails turn into sticky peanut butter at the slightest hint of moisture. By the time we skidded and slid the car down the muddy farm road and into the Dirt Ranch parking field I wasn’t sure there was going to be a race. I threw on a jacket and ran through the rain to the rain to the registration tent. The organizers had just decided to push the start to 11am and shorten the course to a four mile loop instead of the original seven and a half miles. This cut out a very steep and muddy climb, which was now unrideable, and took advantage of the double track and less saturated trails. Now we’d be doing eight laps instead of six. Mike from the Dirt Club was zipping around on his quad remarking the course. Nap time.

2017 Kenda Cup West Santa Ynez Ryan Steers Giant Co-Factory Off-Road Giant XTC Dirt Club

Ten o’clock came quickly and it was time to kit up. I pounded some water, had a little more food and put on another application of Topical Edge. Lots of Edge. Quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes; I rubbed them all. It was going the be a long damp race and I wanted to make sure I was covered. There wasn’t much point in warming up on the bike. The temp hovered at forty-six degrees and the rain had tapered to a mist and looked like it was about to stop. Riders sped around the course splashing through mud puddles but still looking fairly clean. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad? A few minutes before the start I did a brief circuit around the first mile of the course. The precipitation had stopped and the course, while slick in spots, was starting to pack down. The legs felt awesome.

We lined up and started quickly. With all categories now starting only a few minutes apart the laps were going to get congested.  I immediately jumped on Stephane Roch’s wheel. We’ve duked it out on more than several occasions. I wanted him to set the pace so I could draft for a bit, but all I got was a full facial of mud and cow pies from his rear wheel. I immediately regretted my decision. I sprinted around and took the lead after a few hundred yards and immediately blew a sharp turn and fell back into second wheel. On the first singletrack climb I made my move again and came around on the right. My legs felt amazing. I put in a little extra effort to see if I could open a gap and it worked. By the top of the short climb I’d opened up about fifty yards. We hit a little twisty descent that dropped us down to a half mile fire road climb and  I decided to try and open up a little bit more of a lead. Again, the legs felt incredible. My heart rate was high and I was breathing heavily but the acceleration felt effortless. No burn in the quads. I watched the field slip away behind me. As I hit the top of the climb I glanced over my shoulder and I was all alone, which is my favorite way to race. The course descended down some slippery double track and then wrapped back on a flat section and through the start again.

Ryan Steers Giant Kenda Cup West Santa Ynez EnduranceBy the time we doubled back again on the second lap I clocked my lead at over a minute and by the second lap it had grown to over two. I relaxed little but kept pushing and my body responded. By now the XC fields had started and the dozens of riders had begun to pack down the trails. The mud was becoming tacky and the trail was getting quicker. The laps got faster. I felt fresh.

A few bottles and bars later and it was already lap six. Two to go. I kept waiting to hit the wall and I never did- I felt better on lap seven than I did on lap two. I’d clocked just over an hour on the first four laps, which was on pace for just over fifteen minutes a lap. I started lap eight at an hour forty-five and change. I felt stronger than ever. My goal became to finish under two hours, which meant my last lap would have to be my fastest. I accelerated and my legs responded. Sprinting the singeltrack, I was floating up the fire road and then suddenly in a blur I was back pounding the flat and headed to the home stretch. Nineteen, twenty, twenty two miles an hour. I kept accelerating, sprinting against the clock and finally crossed the line first; a hair under one hour and fifty-eight minutes. I’d pushed the last lap, made it my fastest, and I still felt great and had gas in the tank. Tydeman wasn’t far behind, winning his field and coming in fourth overall, as a fifteen  year old! As a side note he’s an avid Edge user as well.

Overall it was an amazing race and I had such a fun time. It’s not often we get to race in “weather” in SoCal so it was quite a treat. The organizers did an incredible job of adapting and pulling off a race that could easily have been a disaster. Their diligence and hard work made the entire day possible. Thanks guys!

Kenda Cup West Santa Ynez 2017 Endurance winner Giant XTC

2017 Pedalfest #1

I was able to hit the last race of the series in August so I thought it would be a good idea to make it out to the first one of 2017. This crew does such an amazing job putting together a family friendly, fun race/community vibe. There are fast riders, kids, first time racers and everyone in-between. I found out a couple of the other Giant Co-Factory guys were going so it sounded like fun. My mom’s in town and Ali was working late so we left Reese with a sitter and mom and I took off with Rex and his bike.

Ryan Steers Giant bikes Pedalfest Andrew Doody

Giant crew

The course and location are new this year. It’s at Central Park in Santa Clarita and from the looks of it the crowds were bigger than I remember. We pulled up a little late and the registration line was huge! Shortly after getting the number plate the kids race started and unfortunately Rex was just a little two young. These kids did 2 laps on most of the actual course! Gnarly.

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I was able to pre-ride a bit with Andrew Doody and a lot of the trails are newly made and dusty with lots of sharp turns and little drops. The dirt hasn’t had time to pack down yet so it was hard carry speed. Very CX feeling! There’s one good 300ft climb at the end, whew! Short, sharp, loose courses are not my strong suit. Grueling climbs, yes please! Each lap was 3 miles and we had 4 laps total

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We lined up in the small elite field and set off as the first group. The pace was pretty quick but conversational. I took the lead early and blew one of the turns sending everyone into the sagebrush following behind. Sorry guys! By the time we got to the top of the climb I’d opened a little lead and was feeling good. On the second lap traffic was really heavy and it’s not a very easy course to pass on. I tried to be polite as possible while still maintaining momentum. Sorry if I cut you off! Everyone was super cool and we were able to share the trail. Overall a fun course, great vibe and it was fun to make the top step of the podium and have such a great showing from the other Giant guys! Collarbone felt great. Good to be back. Off to Santa Ynez on Sunday for hours of pain!

 

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2017 Sea Otter Classic

First race back! Let’s just say I didn’t have high hopes in the results department. Pep talk yourself all you want but any time you line up against Nino you know it’s going to be trouble. Oh well, honored to have the chance. Here’s a summary in pictures. Always a fun a bike event and so awesome to get to hang out with the Giant Team!

2017 Sea Otter Classic Pro XC Course view infield

Sea Otter

2017 Sea Otter Men Pro XC UCI HC Start Cross country

And We’re Off

Mckay Giant Factory Sea Otter

Mckay signing posters

High five sea otter

Rex found the otter

Ryan Steers Men pro XC Sea Otter Classic 2017 Giant Co-Factory Factory Cross Country

Towing the line

Eric Bostrom Sea Otter 2017 Zubick Crank Benders cross country

Bike Family