By Lindsay Goldman
In 2007, I tried my first bike race, a local mountain bike event. Midway through, I was certain it would be my last – it felt like hot, stressful work and took the enjoyment out of casually enjoying trail riding. Never again, I vowed, and then spent the next 14 years racing.
This brings me to the 132-mile Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego, my first gravel race and the longest ride I’ve ever done. The last time I’d pinned on a number was Gateway Cup 2019, but the plan was never to retire and with BWR happening on local roads, I couldn’t pass up the chance to race. “What a fun adventure! I love to suffer!” I thought naively. Seven hours and 35 minutes of pedalling and questioning my life choices later, I vowed never again, which likely signals the beginning of a long career in gravel racing.
Kidding aside, by the time I drove home from the venue, I’d already started to pick apart the race and where I could have been better, with thoughts of a future attempt.
I’d gone into it hoping to win. It felt like an aggressive goal for a new gravel racer and somebody whose professional cycling palmares include a string of “Most Heroic” and “Most Aggressive” and “Most Likely To Die Alone In The Wind” jerseys and not much else, but I wanted to go for it. My fitness has been good, I’ve taken up permanent residence on hard group rides, and I’ve spent time acclimating to dirt and awkwardly practicing jumps on the bike. It didn’t seem insane to try for victory. In the end, I finished a hard-fought 8th place – not a win, but now that I see what it takes to be competitive in a gravel race, I had a lot to learn and am (semi-)content with where I ended up. There’s always next time.
There’s so much debate each year before BWR-San Diego about equipment choices – gravel or road bike, which wheels to use, and what tires to run. The course is a mix of road, gravel, and rocky singletrack and this year’s version promised to deliver 50 miles of dirt, sand, and rocks, which makes choosing a perfect set-up challenging but critical.
While I deeply love my ONE, that stiff road machine wasn’t a top choice for a long, bumpy day in the saddle. I wasn’t sure if the ViSTA was going to be too burly for a fast, road-heavy event, but it turned out to be perfect. Aero and stiff enough to ride like a bullet train on the asphalt, but solid and stable enough to rip comfortably through rocks and sand.
I paired the ViSTA with Black Inc THIRTY wheels that rolled like champs and survived some absolutely appalling moments of bike handling over big rocks. During the post-race bike wash, I was terrified to inspect the wheels and find that I’d cracked at least one, but they look no worse for the wear. Mounted with slick Challenge Strada Pro 30mm tires, it was a nimble, comfortable setup for tackling a long, hard day and I wouldn’t change a thing for next year. Well, except my fitness.
Next up, outfitting the Vista to take on the 144 high-altitude miles of Steamboat Gravel on August 15.
Discover the ViSTA
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