November 9, 2019 – San Marcos, CA
45-54 Age Group – 14th – 4:49:35 Elapsed, 4:26:48 Moving
93 miles – 20.7 MPH
When I saw that Peter Sagan was going to be the star of a gran fondo in San Diego in November, I was kind of ho-hum. I figured it would be a crowded sh-t-show with lots of Freds all trying to ride around him trying to get a selfie. Plus, it was over $150. Ouch. Then, I saw that the folks who put on Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) were organizing it…damn. Where do I sign up? I knew that it was going to be stellar event.
The ride was billed as the Sagan Roadie-Oh, and was supposed to be a mix of road, gravel, and punchy hills. The idea was to honor Peter’s style of riding in the Tour de France and Spring Classics. Having done the BWR Wafer before, I wondered what kind of “gravel” they meant. They held the course details close to their chest until just a couple of weeks before the event. A group of us went down to San Diego to preview some of the course once they unveiled it. Well, it was hilly, but the “gravel” really wasn’t anything that couldn’t be ridden on road tires. A little sigh of relief, but there was plenty of climbing!
My plan for the ride was just to do my own thing. I had no plans to get in the lead pack like I would for other gran fondos. I just wanted to enjoy myself and not get near any Peter mayhem (him, not me). We actually got to see Peter (briefly) the afternoon before the ride during packet pick-up. He was busy, so we couldn’t get a photo with him but several of our friends did. For such an accomplished cyclist, he was very accessible and willing to pose for photos. Of course, the ladies were thrilled.
At the start of the actual ride, I just hung back and went with the “peloton”. The first 10 miles or so were flat, and we had a police escort. While it was a “big” event, they didn’t have thousands of cyclists like some fondos do. I think there might have been 1000-1500 people between the various distances vs the 10,000+ riders there were at Flanders and Roubaix in the spring. It was kind of nice to take it easy and just draft.
When we hit the first rolling hills, I took off. This is where groups started to break up and form. I didn’t bother stopping at the first aid station, since I had plenty of water. My plan was to stop at the Mile 56 aid station. I had been keeping a pretty good pace, but honestly didn’t know where I was in the mix of things. I figured Peter and a bunch of the other riders were long gone. So, I pulled into the aid station and who was there…Peter Sagan! He obligated for a photo and I was stoked. I took my time refueling and he took off with some other riders. I didn’t expect to see him again.
My next planned stop was the Mile 76 aid station. I ended up passing a lot of people, who I think were feeling the miles and climbs. When I got to the aid station, I bumped into several of my friends…and Peter again! Wow…that was cool. At this point, many of the guys there were riding with Sagan. I decided to hop on the train and see how long I could hang. Ironically, after a few miles, the pace was a little too slow for me ,so I simply took off on my own. I wasn’t attacking…just wanting to go my own speed. I could sense someone was on my wheel. I turned back and saw it was Sagan. Wow! That’s cool. I guess he was tired of the slower pace as well. He lifted the tempo and sped off with some guys in tow. I just drafted off the group. A bunch of them pulled into the next aid station, while I kept going. The finish was so close that I just wanted to be done with the ride.
There was one last longer climb up San Elijo Rd. followed by a fun 50+ MPH descent into the finish. I ended up finishing 14th in my age group (45-54), which was based on total time, not moving time. Considering I wasn’t really “trying”, I was happy with how I placed. I was pleasantly surprised that we actually got a full post-race meal at Urge Gastro Pub. I also cheered several of my teammates in as they finished. We all had great stories to recount after the ride. The really cool thing for me was when I downloaded my GoPro footage later to see Peter riding my wheel. Here’s a short video I put together of my ride. I look forward to doing this ride again in the future…it was a great event!