Moriah Wilson (Specialized) dominated the 222km Belgian Waffle Ride California yesterday after putting more than 25 minutes into her closest competitor, Flavia Oliveira (Excel Sports).
"I'm so stoked to win this," said 25-year-old Wilson, who recently won the Fuego MTB 80k at the Sea Otter Classic and took the first lead for women in the Life Time Grand Prix off-road series. "Being on the podium last year and taking the top step this year is really awesome, but it's also a building block to Unbound."
Oliveria joins Wilson in the quest for the inaugural title for the Life Time Grand Prix, the second leg coming at Unbound Gravel on June 4. Other series contenders who finished high in the standings at BWR California included Isabel King (Canyon) in sixth, Amber Neben (BaseCamp Cycling) in eighth, Amity Rockwell (Trek/Easton) in 11th and Whitney Allison (Bike Sports) in 13th.
Wilson rode with Oliveira for almost half of the race until the Black Canyon segment, where she pulled away on the climb. "I was feeling pretty good," Wilson said. "I don't think I intended to make a move, but I ended up dropping Flavia on that climb."
Once she made the separation, Wilson connected with various groups of men, building her lead up to more than 25 minutes by the end of the 222km course.
"I think the new course suited me better than previous years," Wilson said. "Just because I have more of a mountain biking background. I really liked the new route. I thought it was safer at the beginning to go up that climb and spread it out - it definitely made it pretty hard - that was pretty spicy at the start.
"At one point, someone said I had a 10-12 minute gap, and I knew I had it. From then on, I was definitely conservative on the gravel sections. I didn't want to puncture or do anything silly. I was still pushing it, but it was nice to have a cushion like that to work with."
The 12th Belgian Waffle Ride included more than 3,352 metres of climbing. Both men and women tackled 23 off-road sectors, totalling 88 km, and this year took the start together.
"I liked the mass start better," Oliveira said after the race. "Mo and I ended up riding together for a fair amount of the course, but the washboards on Black Canyon were rough. I couldn't get traction and was bouncing all over the place. It was brutal. The descent was also pretty gnarly. I was trying to stay with her and following her lines because that's how I learn. It was a privilege for me to follow a rider like Mo."
Wilson and Oliveira aren't strangers to racing gravel together. Both from the Bay Area, they've been lining up for races like the Grasshopper Adventure Series since the start of the season.
"It's becoming a thing where I'm always second to Mo," said Oliveira, who's finding her way in the gravel scene after an extensive career racing on the road. "I don't mind. I'm loving it."
Recently finishing 16th in Paris Roubaix Femmes, Cromwell came across the line 10 minutes behind Oliveira, collapsing from the effort.
"I came from my European block of classics super satisfied," Cromwell said. "My preparation for gravel wasn't perfect because I don't have the time to do the super long hours – it's not beneficial to the road, so I guess that's where I suffer if I do the big events. It's a balance to manage both road and gravel. The team and the sponsors are supportive and always encourage me to do what's best for me as far as gravel distances."
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Moriah Wilson (USA) Specialized//Meteor||7:31:23|
|2||Flavia Oliveira-Parks (BRA) Excel Sports p/b Groove||0:25:29|
|3||Tiffany Cromwell (AUS) Canyon-SRAM||0:33:53|
|4||Sarah Max (USA) Argonaut Cycles||0:33:56|
|5||Caroline Dezendorf (USA) Easton Overland//Cervelo||0:34:54|
|6||Isabel King (USA) Canyon||0:39:14|
|7||Lindsey Stevenson (USA) Ventum Racing||0:47:30|
|8||Amber Neben (USA) BaseCamp Cycling||0:48:23|
|9||Raylyn Nuss (USA) Steve Tilford Foundation Racing||0:50:39|
|10||Maeghan Easler (USA) United Cycling||0:55:34|
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